Saturday, July 28, 2012

The Fighter

I had an appointment with my radiology team this past week; my first follow-up with them since the end of my treatment.

I've come to expect long waits in the waiting room, so it no longer irritates me.  But waiting in the radiology area is a different experience.  I'm just there for a check-up, but all around me are people in various stages of active radiation.  It brought me back to my own treatment, and, as usual, I think:  how on earth did I do that?

I talk a lot on this blog about surrender. I practice surrender actively, when I meditate, when anxiety hits, when I wake up at night and the hamster gets on the wheel of doubt and fear.  I've gotten really good at it.   And there is no doubt that surrender helps; trying to deny my new normal, wish it away, or feel sorry for myself gets me exactly nowhere.

But something has shifted in me, and while it sounds like a move away from surrender, I think it is actually surrender's feisty cousin:  the fighter.  I'm tired of anxiety and fear, and sometimes the passivity of surrender just isn't enough.

There is a song by Gym Class Heroes called "The Fighter".  It's on my iPod (under a playlist I ironically named, years ago, Keep Coming Back) and I find myself singing it at the top of my lungs, or cranking the treadmill up faster and faster as I work out when I listen to this song.  It's about a young boxer, but the lyrics apply to anyone fighting any kind of adversary:

Until the referee rings the bell
Until both your eyes start to swell
Until the crowd goes home
What we gonna do ya'll?

Give em hell, turn their heads
Gonna live life 'til we're dead.
Give me scars, give me pain
Then they'll say to me, say to me, say to me
There goes the fighter, there goes the fighter
Here comes the fighter

Anxiety, fear and the paralysis of coming to terms with the ordeal I've been through for the past year (because, I'm learning, that's a huge part of it) robs me not just of my own peace of mind, but it steals me from my kids.  I'm there-but-not-there, absorbed in my own subconscious stream of thoughts:   that hip pain, does that mean something? I wonder how my appointment will go this week, why is my voice still so scratchy?  The doctor said 80% chance the cancer will never come back; that means is comes back for one in five...

I'm thinking this way as we play games, hang out at the beach cottage, drive to and from soccer camp.  It's exhausting and I'm sick of it.  I'm done.

And if I can last thirty rounds
There's no reason you should ever have your head down

It's gonna take a couple right hooks, a few left jabs
For you to recognize you really ain't got it bad

Because they know, the kids do, when you're not really there for them. Greta asked me the other day if I was tired, or mad at her.  

That stopped me in my tracks. I was honest; I told her I was struggling with anxiety, but that I'm getting help (she sees me heading out to group meetings, to yoga, etc.) and that I was going to be okay.  I want to set the example that it's okay to not be perfect, okay to ask for help.  Okay to fight back, but not at the people you love, or through self-hatred or guilt, but through action and surrender.

If you fall pick yourself up off the floor (get up)
And when your bones can't take no more (c'mon)

Just remember what you're here for

I picture fighting back, when I get those thoughts, like the old batman cartoons?  Remember those?  The big cartoonish letters "BAM!"  "ZAP"  "KA-POW!"  I picture my fist punching through the fear, the uncertainty, the doubt.

Some of us do it for the females
And others do it for the retail

But I do it for the kids, life threw the towel in on
Every time you fall it's only making your chin strong
And I'll be in your corner like Mick, baby, 'til the end
Or when you hear a song from that big lady


Last night we sat together as a family as the sun sank below the horizon and the stars popped out, one by one.  We started talking about those topics everyone talks about when staring at unfathomable distances, asking unanswerable questions: What's out there? the kids wanted to know.  Do you ever wonder, why am I here? said Finn.  Maybe there is an alien looking down on us, and to him we looks like bugs, said Greta.

We were quiet for a moment, contemplating all this, when Finn - out of nowhere - stands up, throws his arms out, and walks up to me, grinning.  

"Momma?  Gimme some sugar!" he said, throwing his arms around my neck.




To view the video for "The Fighter", go here:


  1. Wow Ellie! I am humbled to read what you write. I need to learn to be honest with my kids and let them know when Mom is having a hard time. And that it is ok to not feel Happy all the time as that is my role in my family.

    Thank you

  2. Good for you. It's good to be a fighter sometimes! ( ah... but it's also just fine that sometimes you rest from the fight, sometimes you hide, and sometimes you gotta put your arms around that big ol' enemy and give it a hug, and discover it ain't so fierce, after all... sweet surrender). Your kids sound amazing. It must be so great to have them in your corner!