Friday, April 27, 2012

The In-Between. And Before and After Pics.

Since hearing the news that I'm in remission, I feel like I'm living in some kind of in-between space.

I'm present, I'm doing all the same things I always did, but everything feels different.  I'm struggling to find the words to explain it.  

I have turned into an observer of the world, much more so than I ever was.  I exist here in my in-between space and I watch.  And I listen.

I watch the tired looking father snap at his two young girls to just hurry up already as they take their time, asking a million questions at once, getting out of the car at the post office.

I listen to the moms I don't know gossip about another women on the soccer side lines.  It's the worst kind of gossip - she's put on weight hasn't she, what was she thinking wearing that outfit.  She's not twenty anymore.  

I observe my all-too-grown-up nine year old, as she gets herself up in the morning, gets dressed, fixes her own breakfast, packs her own lunch, and calmly reminds me of several upcoming school events I need to  be ready for.

She has become so independent in the last six months.  She looks like a stranger to me in many ways; I can't believe she's mine.

I listen to a woman as she cries to me, spilling her heart out because she just cannot stop drinking, no matter what she has tried.  I tell her what worked for me, offer advice and a huge hug, but I still feel like I'm observing all of this from above, from a place of other.

I wonder if this is normal?  If other people who have had life threatening illnesses or injuries feel this way once they know they are out of the woods, at least for a while?

It's like nothing - and I mean nothing - can touch me, make me irritated or angry or short.  I'm just so grateful to be here.

I have noticed, though, that other emotions are very raw, very real, and they do not exist in the in-between space.  I have been missing my Dad a lot these days.  For those of you who are new to this blog, this is what happened last June.   I've been talking to my Dad a lot through the cancer.  Praying to him, missing him, asking for whatever help he can give me from above.  I want to wrap my arms around him so badly it hurts.  It physically hurts.

I look at my husband with new eyes.  I am so grateful I married a strong, loyal man like him.  You know so little when you pick your mate, you know?  I was all of 25 when I fell in love with him.  We are very different people.  We almost didn't make it, during my drinking, but then we did.  He has been a rock for me, a calming, level-headed and loving presence.  I know he was scared, we all were, but he just loved me, hugged me hard and gave me faith that we would make it through.

I think of my mother, dutifully showing up nearly everyday for radiation or chemo appointments, calmly knitting, asking the questions I was too shell-shocked to ask, folding my laundry, playing with my children.  It felt like every time I looked up, there she was.  How lucky am I?

I guess what all this means is that the trivial stuff has simply dropped away.  Every day feels like such a gift, and I hope I can hang on to that.  I went to the grocery store for the first time yesterday, just to pick up a few things, and I literally stood and blinked with wonder: I'm shopping, just like everyone else.  I'm on the other side of the bad stuff.  

Lastly, I tried to take a pic of me at the end of the journey.  I took this one at the very beginning, last fall:

And I took this one today:

(If you look closely you can see my bad-ass scar on the left side of my neck.)

I miss my hair.  It all fell out from my ears down in the back, because of the radiation, and really thinned everywhere else.  So I have to wear my hair in this silly little ponytail while I wait for it to grow out.  And grow it will.   I lost forty pounds since December, and am a weight I haven't been since junior high.  I will likely put a few pounds on as I can eat more foods, but I kind of like me at this weight.  I feel healthier and look better.

And MAN, am I happier.

I'm in the moment.  All the time.  And it feels really good.


  1. You look awesome! and the scar? Totally bad ass as in "Don't mess with me!" So happy you're happy.

  2. Beautiful post on the in between space. It would be lovely if that feeling could be bottled so we could remember it exactly whenever life became too much.

    You've reminded me to step back. And that's a reminder I very much needed.

  3. What a powerful post, and a powerful story you have. I've never been through something like this, but I have found that trauma, in general, while clearly challenging, also has the ability to shift our perspective in very meaningful ways. Congratulations on your remission. That is wonderful news.

  4. I'm so happy to read that you are in remission. You've come out on the other side with such grace :)

    Your comments on "observing" struck me, because they were talking about "observing" in Oprah's lifeclass on spirituality last week. What really resonated with me was how the body and the mind are just projections of our true self, our soul. Our true self, our soul, is the "observer" of our body, of our thoughts, of our feelings, etc... I can only imagine that going through such an experience as you have would put you into a place of greater spiritual awareness. If you would like to hear what I'm talking about, it's segment six (minute 46) of this video:

    I hope you continue to enjoy the moments :)

  5. You are a fantastic writer and I love to hear your perspective.

  6. So good to "see" you.

    Your smile reflects that lovely place you describe so well.

  7. Ellie,
    You look terrific! Also, happier in the after picture! So glad to know you, your such an inspiration!! xo
    Annie A

  8. Your eyes, Ellie! Wow!
    'Before' says, "I dare you, bring it."
    'After' is fierce! "I've been through the fire. I am here and you are gone!"
    And yet ...
    'Before' has a hint of doubt, of searching, of wondering. "Will I make it? Will my family still have me around?"
    'After' shouts Peace. Patience. Confidence. Hope. Joy.

    You were always impressive. And you are breathtaking.
    I barely noticed the battle scars. But when I did focus on them, they only completed the package for me. I am so proud and privileged to know you, Ellie. Thank you for allowing that through your writings.

  9. Ellie, I haven't checked in for quite awhile!! Your post made me cry. You are a remarkable woman.....still. xoxo

  10. Thank you for sharing! You are so brave! You wear your scar proudly! Remember scars are tattoos with interesting stories! You, my dear, have been telling one Hell of a story! Good luck and good health!

  11. This made me cry. I've been crying a lot today. I think I'm hearing and seeing things that I'm supposed to see and hear and your post was one of them. I can't tell you how grateful I am for your recovery and for all your sharing during the most difficult times of your life. You teach me so much. Just...thank you. And I love you. xo

  12. Your eyes look so happy! You look radiant and beautiful. I don't know you so it's weird to say that I am proud of you. Maybe I am proud FOR you and so inspired by you. I have read every one of your posts and every time I did, I also saw my own world with new eyes. I know what you mean about the in-between. We move every two years and while it's NOT CANCER, I get to be in a brand-new place and be an observer. It's a good place to be. In this world but not of it ... Much much love to you and I am so thrilled for you and for all of us that you are healing!!!

  13. Ellie....

    You are a gift, a true gift to all of us out here. So don't ever forget that. You bring alot....ALOT to the party.

    Thank you for your honesty through your cancer struggle and taking the time to blog about it. I've said it before, but I am a little less lonely out here because you blog.

    Hugs and love,
    Atomic Momma

  14. Oh Ellie, you are a warrior, and your scar makes you one tough girl! Who wants to be normal anyway? Dull, bland, a cookie cutter of a soccer Mom? You look just the same to be as before in your pictures, but now I see one heck of a momma!

  15. You. Are. Stunning. And I love that bad ass badge of honor you're sporting on your neck. God made your hair fall out that way so everyone would see how strong and beautiful you are...and bad ass...totally bad ass.

  16. I'm just filled with gratitude that you're well--and here you are SHINING.


  17. i like all my scars, physical and emotional. although, i must admit, it's easier to brag about the physical ones. the mental ones are mostly known by my good friends

  18. Tankini it tis my dear and you will rock that with your bad ass scar! I'm so glad you are doing better. I work my yurt necklace throughout the entire shoot of my web series. Gave me a lot of strength.

    You look great and it's so good to hear you happy.

  19. I didn't care much for my throat (tonsil) cancer, but I love what cancer did to my life... 2 1/2 years later... I am still at my ideal weight, I appreciate lots of small things... I am more patient...have more empathy...I only have to shave the left side of my neck...(don't worry, I have all the hair on my head)... and I get to read your blog and nod with a knowing "been there" and amazement that you can put into words so many of the feelings that I hadn't been able to describe. I also get to anticipate all the happiness and joy you will discover and re-discover in the coming months and years. That makes me so happy. How blessed you and I and others who have made this journey, there and back, are. How I grieve for those less fortunate. How precious today is, in all it's fullness!

  20. So so so so so happy to see your lovely face.

  21. you make me smile. like that big can't close your mouth smile. I'm so happy you are in this space.

  22. Great post to read on a Monday morning! Yep, that's totally a "don't-mess-with-me-or-I'll-smile-you-to-death" smile! (if that makes sense). Bet the people in the grocery store wondered who the crazy woman was who was having so much fun grocery shoppping!
    Lee Ann

  23. You do look fantastic and that is one badass scar!

  24. You look great! The happiness comes forth from your eyes. And yes, everyone with near death experiences feels like you are feeling. It's nearly impossible not to view the world differently.

  25. You look great, Ellie! And you sound great, too! Glad you are in this good place now. Carry on!

  26. You look beautiful! I am so happy that you are in remission and that you have a new outlook on life!

  27. I concur with the mommy psychologist's comment above - your eyes shine with happiness. And in a way that has nothing to do with weight or anything else, that happy-eyed look makes you super-beautiful.

  28. You look beautiful and I don't even know you yet.