Breathless

I stood in the store aisle

Pondering which holiday tablecloth piqued my interest the most–

Red with white snowflakes,

White with silver trees,

Or the rustic reindeer.

My hands fumbled,

Attempting to match fabric napkins

With each design.

People came and went,

Bumping into my cart,

As I still contemplated.

On one such occasion,

I managed to drop some of the tablecloths,

And bending down–

a little too quickly perhaps

My body protested the sudden movement

And pain seared throughout

Leaving me teary-eyed,

Winded,

Dizzy,

Breathless.

Happiness

  • Morning kisses from Mosha
  • When mom sings “You are my sunshine” to me
  • Chocolate smoothies
  • Random check-in calls from Pops
  • Good books
  • Dailies with the Nerd Herd
  • Taking pictures
  • Sunday night Walking Dead with Mosha
  • Christmas time (the trees, lights, baking, decorations, music and time with family)
  • Milo’s floppy ears and Leesi’s nap time snuggles
  • Late night shenanigans with the Rara
  • Mosha’s smile
  • Boba tea
  • Trips to the bookstore and Michaels
  • Watercolor painting
  • Writing
  • Giving others gifts
  • Snuggling under a blanket, watching movies on a rainy day
  • Learning new things
  • Road trips with Mosha
  • Disneyland
  • Seeing the ocean
  • Planting flowers
  • Dancing to my favorite songs

A/N: These are not in order of importance.

Today

When your reality turns out to be fantasy, mind tricks if you will, it can be an earth-shattering, scary thing.

I suspected that the fleeting shadows were figments of my imagination. Sometimes you look from the left to the right too quickly and you think you see something that in reality isn’t there at all. So I ignored them. But today, there was no ignoring you.

I heard the dishes first, early this morning. I knew Mosha wasn’t home, and it piqued my interest enough that I roused from bed and headed to the kitchen–the very empty kitchen. It’s damning because I know what I heard, but I also know what I saw, and they were two very contradicting things. I blamed lack of sleep and new medications as I meandered back to my bed.

I spent time messaging B, and in the midst of that, you appeared, walking alongside my bed, bringing me soup, chastising me for not taking care of myself. Who are you? I had never seen you before today. I didn’t have any sense of familiarity. Just as I began to sit up, you were gone, as quickly as you appeared. Yet you were so very real.

The next logical step would have been to get ahold of my oncologist, to raise the alarm to my medical team, but instead I retreated because of fear and unfamiliarity. I forced myself to sleep, a sleep from which I didn’t wake up from until late evening. Since I woke up, I’ve had a tingling sensation across my head (this is not new, but it has been a while since I’ve experienced it). I ate, plopped on the couch until now, desperately trying to distract myself from today’s happenings. Were they imagined? All evidence points to yes.

After a little prying, Mosha got it out of me, and we decided that first thing, I need to call my medical team. I’m not fearful in the sense that I feel there is a demonic presence in our home, and I don’t believe in ghosts, so that’s not it either. No, I am fairly certain that this is directly related to Lyle or the medications somehow. Best to deal with it sooner rather than later because I can’t imagine living life the way I had to live it today. It isn’t living at all.

Doors.

Doors. I never knew how scary they could be.

I’m currently sitting in a small medical office, waiting for my doctor to knock on the door before he enters to go over my lab results — results that I already know aren’t positive. I’m not being pessimistic. If you pay attention to your body, you’ll know when things aren’t right. My body has been screaming at me for a long time now, but the cancer had always overridden the diabetes and fibromyalgia. But, as Dr. S. said last week, “it’s time.” Time to get it all under control. Time to stop neglecting the rest of my problems in lieu of the greater ones.

I can hear voices outside the door: other patients and medical staff. Focusing on them does little to calm my anxiety. I don’t want to be here. I want to walk out of the door and not come back. But that would be the irresponsible thing to do. The adult and rational part of me knows that I have to stay. I have to wait for that inevitable knock and the news that is to follow.

Note to Self

You need to toss the ashes of your burned memories away. You’ve kept them for far too long. It’s time to utter out loud the things that you’ve locked away, hoarding them deep within yourself. It’s time to share the things you’ve only shared with those whose hearts are safe and true, those who you have trusted not to twist your pain to serve themselves. Be cautious, still. Proceed carefully. Keep believing in your own healing, and in the work you have been called to do.

Anhedonia

Arguably some of the most touchy subjects to tackle from a Christian perspective are depression and anxiety. It’s bad enough that depression and anxiety are in and of themselves complex illnesses, but there are varying perspectives within the church about them. Sometimes some of these views are from people who try to genuinely understand depression from a biblical perspective, while other people just have incorrect information regarding mental illnesses. However, in my experience, there are things that even the most well-meaning Christians get wrong.

Basically, depression is not what the church can sometimes make it out to be.

Recently, I’ve learned that depression and anxiety are not character defects, spiritual disorders or emotional dysfunctions, and even more importantly, they are not a choice. Mental illness is just as important as physical illness, and asking someone to try not being depressed is like asking a wounded person not to bleed. But yet so many Christians are so quick to express their opinions and judgments, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I have heard the phrase, “if only you had enough faith.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I of course believe that God is all-powerful, and yes, it is important to pray, have faith and believe that we can be healed because His Word says that we can be. Faith in His ability to heal is tremendously important, and it does help to ease the burden of depression and anxiety. But again, to deny someone medical care for mental illness is not any different from denying medical care to a physically ill person. The only difference between mental illness and physical illness is that we cannot visibly see mental illness in most cases.

I do also believe that there is a spiritual element to depression, but medical science has also proven that major depressive disorder is real and has many causes.

I have only recently come to accept my own depression and anxiety, and I’ve begun to seek treatment for both, both medically and spiritually. I have only opened up to a few people at this point, mainly because of the responses that I’m sure will inevitable occur, such as:

  • “But you look so good!”
  • “You always seem so happy!”
  • “You have so much faith!”

I have learned that many depressed people like myself are extremely good at hiding their symptoms because of the stigma that is associated with mental illness. Many churches don’t even address mental illness, which only gives us as believers who are going through depression/anxiety even more incentive to hide it. Also, as a good friend of mine said to me the other day, depression isn’t always about “feeling sad.” It can manifest in many ways such as apathy, lethargy, low self-esteem, guilt, fatigue, crying spells, or even difficulty making decisions.

So, I think it is important for us as believers (and non-believers alike) and as people to begin to show more compassion to those around us who might be suffering. Screw the stigma. Let us be people who are willing to offer support and encouragement rather than condemning them or passing judgment on their level of faith. Remember that our God is mighty, and His ability to heal is NOT determined by us, our actions, or lack of faith.

I am: Terminally Fierce.

I suppose the next logical step in my journey was to start a video diary of my cancer experience, especially now that I am unable to write as often as I use to. I’m sure all my non-reading friends/family/strangers prefer videos as well. So here is my first video. [I promise, the other videos shouldn’t be as long as this one.]

Be Kind to One Another

Sometimes, more than others, I am weary of life. There are different reasons why I feel this way, various contributing factors, but a lot of the time people have a lot to do with it. Often, we have encounters with others that are unpleasant, and I have come to realize that even as someone who is battling terminal cancer, I am not suddenly immune from being the victim of other people’s attitude’s or problems. No matter what role you play in life, even if you are the sweetest, most giving person in the world — at some point people are going to crap on you, even when you’ve done absolutely nothing to deserve it.

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Chapter III

Skull Valley, La Noscea, 1568

Vyne glanced up and down several times, looking between the strange terrain around her–vibrant formations of crystal and rock with senseless, clashing textures and colors assaulting her eyesight and making her cringe–back down to the map clutched in her gloved hands. She had studied and read plenty of maps, but actually following one was something entirely new. She had rarely been far from home, and even then she usually had her parents or an escort of some variety to accompany her.

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Regaining independence, one step at a time

Well after having numerous emotional breakdowns over the past few weeks, we (My medical team, Mosha and my parents) have decided that its best for me to try to regain some independence. Relying on other people for every little thing has taken a toll on me in many ways, and while I cannot control other things, such as how I may feel physically, I can control how much help I receive from others. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not on an ego trip nor do I plan on being unwise when it comes to asking for help; I know my limits and when I need to reach out. However, constantly having someone who needs to sacrifice aspects of their life to be my caretaker has never sat well with me. In the end, it ultimately adds more stress to my life, which makes me sicker than I already am.

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Horticulture therapy

After yesterday’s emotional ups and downs, my mom and dad suggested that each day I do something positive each day, like crafting, drawing, writing, reading, etc. Today, I did just that, and decided to start getting my garden ready for planting season. I also decided that I wanted to move my hanging planters from the backyard to the front yard, where they would get more sun and add to the overall look of the house that I’m trying to achieve with all the vines and plants. Continue reading

Radiotherapy, Day One

Today was day one of radiotherapy. For those of you who don’t know, radiotherapy uses radiation, such as x-rays, gamma rays, electron beams or protons, to kill or damage cancer cells and stop them from growing/multiplying. It’s a localized treatment, so it only affects the area where they direct the radiation. Unfortunately for me, the leukemia is so widespread and near so many of my vital organs that directing the rays can get difficult. You definitely don’t want the rays to hit your kidneys or liver or other important organs.

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Something I didn’t want to hear

The worst feeling is when your doctor suggests that your parents aren’t suited to be your caregivers. Its not for lack of willingness, but because mum herself is ill, and I worry for her health. I get stressed about her well-being and feel guilty when I know she isn’t feeling well but is slaving away to make sure that I’m fed and looked after. Continue reading

Even tough people crack

Everyone has an idea of what makes them them, and for me, I have always been someone who likes to think of themselves as strong. When faced with adversity, I choose to state at it emotionless, in the face. Sure, I might be terrified, but I don’t like to show it. I feel the need to be “strong” despite however I might feel inside. But sometimes, I don’t have the energy to be strong.

Writing because I have to

I’m having a hard time finding the will to write. Sometimes I don’t feel physically able and other times its because I feel like I have changed. When I pick up my pen or laptop, I find myself unable to put anything of substance down. Nowadays, not a lot matters. The days just pass me by. I wonder when I will be on the other side of this. When will I begin to look like myself again?

A moment of emo-ness

My pain has grown so much over the last few weeks. I mostly stay at home now, doped up so I can make it through the day. I barely have any interest in anything. I don’t have an appetite most days. I feel a lump perpetually in my throat. I tend to dread going to bed. I’m almost always exhausted, but lying in bed in the dark means there isn’t anything to distract me from the pain and my overarching situation. I get angry, frustrated and exasperated easily. I’m waiting for the day when it all gets better.

Renewed vigor, for the moment

So its been apparent to me that I’ve been a little more angry than usual. I feel like it was bound to happen at some point. Although the drugs account for a large portion of my mood swings, I also have to take ownership for my lack of patience and increased resentment over the past few weeks. I mean, I’ve been pretty good at controlling my emotions regarding cancer, but as of late its been tougher to do so. But today…today I woke up with a renewed vigor. I am determined to conquer this — not just cancer in general, but all of the nasty stuff no one every sees or talks about. I won’t let it change who I am, not today, not tomorrow, not ever.

Patient X

In the patient restroom located on the second floor at the Cancer Treatment Center of America (CTCA), I saw an alarming amount of dried blood on paper towels in the waste basket. The sight made me experience a wide range of emotions, from sadness to anger to relief. It makes me wonder what that patient was experiencing to make them bleed like that, and how scary that must have been. I haven’t personally had an experience like that, losing blood from anywhere (other than good ol’ reliable Aunt Flow), hence my feelings of relief that it wasn’t me.

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Dear Cancer, Part II

I am disgusted, saddened and angry that you impact so many lives, every second, every minute of every day you are being introduced to someone new. “Hi, my name is Cancer, and I’m going to put your life on hold for an unspecified amount of time; So please mark your diary as ‘full for the unforeseeable future.'”

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Stem Cell Transplant — Complete!

An update for everyone —

I received my stem cell transplant today. It was a rather grueling day: seven straight hours hooked up to various machines getting pumped full of different medicines and eventually, someone else’s blood. But, thankfully, it is over, and procedurally, everything went well. Now we wait to see if my body takes the donor’s cells as my own, which can take anywhere between a few weeks to a year, but hopefully we will begin to see something within a month and a half to two months. For now, I am being watched for the next 48 hours around the clock, and I have daily checkups with my cancer team until further notice.

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That odd sensation

I wish I knew how to describe how this feels. Each time is different, and I think that’s part of what makes this horrible. You never know how it will make you feel. They do their best to anticipate what will happen so before they ever even administer the chemo drugs they pump you full of saline, pain meds, antihistamines, antinausea meds hoping that one or all will minimize the negative effects of the chemo, but it’s never the case. You still end up feeling some odd, surreal feeling.

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Almost asleep

I hate sitting in my room, in the lap of luxury. I look around and it’s like the walls are eating me, it’s like some disease and I can’t scratch it off my skin. I drag my nails over goosebumps and hate being here. I shake and cry cold and silent tears in a too big house and wish that I could just have a crawl space where the ceiling didn’t tower above me like the sky and the walls didn’t echo their emptiness. I’m not claustrophobic. I want the stagnant air to close in on me, and I want the city to burn…burn the black creeping into my room always. There’s just no lamp big enough to light the shadows and make my empty bed seem like home.

Moments.

Ever had a moment when you just don’t know how you do it? How you keep going? How you made it this far? Ever looked back and cringed at all the years taken from you by depression and thought, oh god, it’s no wonder I don’t know how to function. I didn’t for so long, I’m still getting back on my feet. And that’s okay, it doesn’t make me incompetent and it doesn’t make you weak to have relearn how to live after spending so long not wanting to.