Sunday, September 30, 2012

You Mean It's Not All About Me??



Ugh...wouldn't it be nice if our brain came with a shut off switch? Or, when things get really bad, a shutdown system like power plants have. If I had one of those, sirens would have blared like 3 Mile Island last weekend.

Joe surprised me with a puppy last Saturday. This dog could melt anyone's heart; small and sweet with huge brown eyes and a fluffy white coat. He had us at hello. Watching Sean cuddle and play with him made me imagine how he would be with his own children and that thought was enough to open the flood gates of fear. All weekend my mind was stuck in 'what if' mode. What if this treatment doesn't work...what if the next scan shows something new...what if I'm not around to see Sean grow up? I constantly felt like I was 10 seconds away from a total meltdown. I tried talking to my friends about it but when a few of them said, "I feel the same fear about my own kids" my mind screamed, "NO YOU DON'T! YOU DON'T HAVE A FUCKING CLUE HOW THIS FEELS!!" I became enraged, sick of people trying to relate to my problems, sick of hearing people complain about their bullshit issues. So I did what I always do when I'm feeling down and sorry for myself; I went shopping.

Still wallowing in my own misery, I walked around the store hoping for something to grab my attention and get me out of this funk. Out of the corner of my eye I noticed an extraordinarily handsome man. Umm...ok he's not the pair of shoes I was hoping for but I'll indulge myself for a moment. As he stepped out from behind the table I noticed he had a titanium prosthetic leg. We locked eyes briefly and smiled at each other. I began to wonder what happened to him. Is he a veteran? Was it an accident? Was it cancer? Then I understood. Ok God, you got me again. Everyone has something going on in their lives which makes them fearful or angry or deeply sad. Cancer doesn't trump everything. I was so wrapped up in my own self that I forgot about others. I had forgotten my pre-diagnosis life when I still had problems that devastated me and they had nothing to do with cancer.

Yesterday showed me another example of how we never know what someone is going through. While out to breakfast with friends, a woman walked in kind of stumbling and dragging her right leg. As she sat down to eat with her friend she began nodding off a bit and was slurring somewhat. My friend made a comment about how she was possibly on drugs. Having been in her shoes several times, I said, "She may be on medication for whatever is causing her leg to drag." Many times I have been out to lunch with Joe a little too soon after treatment and have nodded off at the table and needed his assistance to walk. You can never, ever know for sure what is going on in someone's life just by looking at them. I've been guilty of it myself many times.

I have judged people too quickly without stepping back and wondering why. Why is the person on line so short tempered? Well, maybe she has an ill child at home she needs to tend to. Why did that person cut me off in traffic? Maybe he was rushing home to his wife, like Joe does for me on chemo days. Not saying this is always the case; sometimes a person is just an asshole. But, I'm going to keep these things in mind as I go about my day. Maybe you can try it too. That person walking slowly in front of you when you're in a hurry might just be me on a bad treatment week.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

And The Award Goes To...My Friends

I promised to use this blog to not just document the rollercoaster ride that is cancer but to also highlight the wonderful people in my life who have gone above and beyond for me. I would like to acknowledge the kindness and generosity of a few folks who have, in recent weeks, made me realize how extraordinarily blessed I am. 

My people at Atlantic Records. I can't believe one company has so many outstanding individuals working there:
Erica and Aryanna- Thank you for helping Sean realize his dream, for making me feel so special and for being two of the kindest, funniest chicks I know. I can't imagine getting kicked out of a bar with finer people. 
Michele and Chris- You never forget a chemo week and will rearrange your schedules to sit with me and make me forget where I am. The amount of laughing we do in the waiting area is insane and probably puts a lot of people off but I don't care. If laughter is a form of medicine, you guys are healing me in profound ways. 
Dawn, Pia and Corey- Thank you for recognizing my amazing dance skills and my ability to accessorize the hell out of an outfit. You always make me feel like a rock star. Please know that I smile each time you check in with me. I miss dancing past your offices. 
Cathy- What can I say? You have talked me down from the ledge almost as many times as my sister. You have served as an inspiration, a source of info and a source of strength. Thank you for being all that you are. 

Now on to a few others:
Marcelline- I am in awe of your spirit. I love the days we spend together. You are my Broadway loving, Anthro shopping kindred soul. You have boundless energy and radiate sunshine. Being around you just makes me happy. 
Nicole- My old friend who holds a new space in my heart. You get me. You never give me "crazy eyes" when I talk about the evolution of the soul or aligning my chakras. You have permanent squatter's rights in my Den of Zen.
Jen- You are a triple threat of beauty, intelligence and charm and have always been way cooler than I could ever hope to be. Seems like we've been friends forever. Our memories are some of my most cherished. Thanks for never letting me down and always having my back.
Brett- You have a whirlwind of things going on right now and yet always take the time to see how I'm doing. You bring out a side of me that no one else does. Thank you for seeing that in me.
Trish- It takes me some time, but I get there eventually. Thanks for being there when I am ready to learn. The lake house is waiting for those chairs...

Finally, to my cousin Jen- You're so much like your parents; warm and loving and thoughtful. Thank you for your letters and the beautiful gift you sent. I can't fully express how grateful I am. Your support pushes me on and always seems to come right when I need it.

Thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

Much Love,

Leen


Sunday, September 2, 2012

Closer To Free...

I've never been to jail; although I can't imagine it's much different from what I've experienced this last year. Often, I feel imprisoned by my own body, trapped and unable to break free. I count down the days until I can feel the sun on my face again, feel the ocean breeze or simply walk without being carefully watched by others. The portable chemo I take home serves as a constant reminder of my limitations. Each appointment with my doctors is a parole meeting of sorts. Will I be free soon or will I be given more time to serve? I suppose I should just be grateful for the week I get of freedom but I can't. See, the thought of going back to prison the next week hangs over me like the sword of Damocles and sometimes it makes gratitude damn near impossible. But I try. 

Why am I so melancholy today? Well, I happen to be looking at a bunch of pictures I took to chronicle this experience and I'm realizing just how much I've been through. Yep, it has finally started to hit. 56 weeks and 20 treatments which means almost half of those weeks were spent in bed, miserable and sick. Yes, that is very 'glass half empty' and a more positive approach would be to focus on those weeks that were rockin'; the ones where I was living life to the fullest. I get it. But, I'm not there right now. Right now I'm looking at images of myself when I had my port put in, when I had my first chemo treatment and others that show the physical manifestations of chemo such as hair loss, weight loss and the lack of color in my face. I realized after my 7th treatment I stopped taking pictures. I didn't want to see myself anymore. 

I'm scheduled for another treatment this Wednesday which also happens to be my son's 17th birthday. How ironic. 17 years to the day I gave my son life, I will continue to fight for my own. Maybe it will also be the day when my doctor tells me I will soon be released from the confinements of chemo. If not, I will just continue doing my time and fighting until I'm finally free.