Tag Archives: cancer

135Journals Blog Health Corner: What It Feels Like When You Feel Like Crap

11 Jun
Welcome to my Microbiome (altered art journal pages by Alexandra Hanson-Harding )

Welcome to my Microbiome (altered art journal pages by Alexandra Hanson-Harding )

Did you ever wonder what it was like to feel like crap? Probably not. If you’re like most people, i.e., everyone, you’ve probably felt like crap. And if you aren’t feeling like crap, you probably don’t want to remember it. But have I not seen eight million motivational infographics on the importance of living in the moment? Well, friends, if one if going to live in the moment, one is not always going to be doing meditation by the ocean and feeling full of vibrant life energy. Sometimes the moment is being in a sucky meeting where some halfwit is publicly berating you for a typo on a meaningless report. Sometimes the moment is yes, that is YOUR screaming brat on the overstuffed airplane. Sometimes the moment is when you’re desperately searching around on the laptop for an amusing viral video to watch with one hand while you’re holding your syringe filled with methotrexate in the other, getting the nerve up to jam it into your leg. Sometimes the moment is that moment when you actually do jam it into your leg and it actually hurts and you say “OW!” and think DAMN it, and feel mad at yourself because why are you being such a goddamned wimp. It shouldn’t hurt that much. It only hurts that much if I hurt in too many other ways. Right now, some of the vertebrae in my neck are sore and swollen, and my feet hurt, and my tongue is sore, strangely enough, and I’m very tired, and when that many things confuse my senses, I have less resilience against small irritations like a tiny needle.

Today I am feeling like crap because I had two main things I wanted to do: go to a new acupuncturist and go to visit a friend who is very charming and smart and who has terminal cancer. That, and of course, having an inflammatory autoimmune disease. But I digress. This morning I woke up at 4:00 a.m. feeling very sick to my stomach. After 8:30, I fell asleep for an hour in my kitchen reading nook, but had were strange, disturbed dreams. I also had a sore throat and shivers, as I often do these days. And I was still sick to my stomach. I have been lying in my nook looking at the windows that I have decorated with hundreds of strands of woven yarn (compulsive art project), looking at the green trees beyond, and up at the hemlock tree that I can see through the skylight. I see a brass bell I bought at a castle in Germany. I see a vase full of small glass beads that I want to string, and a glass of water that looks too tiring to drink. I see the phone. I want to call my friend but it  feels too tiring to talk to anyone. I would only whine anyway. It took me hours to tell the acupuncturist I couldn’t come. He was nice. He said, “Try drinking coke. If you still feel sick later, you could try chewing Juicy Fruit gum and swallowing it. It’s very binding.” I laughed. “That’s the best Alternative Medical advice I ever heard,” I said. “I’m definitely trying that.” Said it sounded better than a kale smoothie. “You DEFINITELY do not need a kale smoothie right now.”

I feel guilty for not seeing the acupuncturist and my friend. But I don’t want to spread my germs. And I can’t imagine summoning the energy to get into a car and driving it. I’m sweating and shivering. My stomach is a knot of pain. My eyes are half-closed and gravity feels as if it’s crushing me onto the cushion. My neck is throbbing. All around me, grown-ups are doing useful things. I’m just living in the moment. The crappy, but real, moment.

Writing Prompt: Do you ever have times when you feel like crap? Go ahead. WHINE.

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Waiting for the biopsy results

26 Feb Some things are too scary for words. And can be found at Home Depot. (photo by Alexandra HH)
Some things are too scary for words. And can be found at Home Depot. (photo by Alexandra HH)

Some things are too scary for words. And can be found at Home Depot. (photo by Alexandra HH)

It is 12:56. And I am waiting to find out the results of my latest biopsy. This is such a familiar feeling. Unfortunately. What is it like out to find out if your future will be scrambled? At this point, I have had so many biopsies that haven’t been actual cancer (though a number have yielded results dangerous enough to require surgery and I am permanently in a high risk zone) that I have developed certain coping skills that get me through the waiting periods and the painful tests without too much emotional scarring. I have cultivated a certain pleasant blankness that includes focusing on the moment I’m living in and doing whatever little task I have at hand, and cutting myself off from making long range plans. It is only sometimes, at unexpected moments, when the darkness completely eclipses the light and I start to sob and shake so hard that I don’t even know what I’m afraid of—is it the helplessness? is it the pain? Is it death? Or is it being tortured to death? I sob and my poor husband stands by, thinking he’s not being helpful when really, he is. By not running away, by witnessing my sadness, he most definitely is. And then, I stop, and we watch Downton Abbey, and try to figure out if Lady Mary is enigmatic or just kind of a bitch.

 

No biopsy will ever be as bad as the first one—until I get the one, which I no doubt will, which will let me know that the game is up and cancer is here. The first biopsy was the worst because my children were young. I could not get over the terror that I was about to betray them by dying. I felt myself not to be an individual so much as a figurehead. I was Mother. And I felt that I could not let them be un-Mothered. They needed to trust that I would be, at very least, alive. I remember so clearly feeling as if I were behind glass, watching the rest of the world go through its busy motions. Sounds felt muffled. Even my beloved husband could not reach me. Other people were alive and I was somewhere between alive and dead, in a very special zone that normal people didn’t belong to and should never see.

 

It is 2:00 now. The results are supposed to be here, I’m supposed to get a call. I’ve been calm. I’ve been busy. I made phone calls and emails. But now, the sky feels heavy, as if it’s crushing down on me with extra gravity. Ring, phone. Just tell me. Just tell me what my future is going to be. I’ve waited long enough. Just tell me now.

Writing Prompt: How have you learned to cope with potentially scary news?

July is Journaling Month #12: Mind Mapping

20 Jul

 

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Mind mapping is one way to let your right brain harvest some of its richness as your left brain is busy with an important organzing task. I enclose this rather crappily photographed photograph of how I put together my ideas for the essay I wrote about the book “Farewell Fred Voodoo” for the Magnificentnose.wordpress.com blog. (At least I cropped out my toes, which you could see on the original as I stood on the table above it taking the picture.) I have given journaling workshops where I’ve had people make mind maps for five minutes around a simple word, sometimes my choice, sometimes theirs. I’ll give you five suggestions, and then, on a blank piece of paper, write the word in the center, and let the ideas burst from them. After that, you can write something that contains something of that imagery. I will never forget a poem that a former student wrote, Marian Kwartler, a longtime cancer patient, about the color red. It started with the red door of Gilda’s House, the cancer organization, and ended with the red hills of Israel at sunset. It was plainly one of her most enduring memories of happiness and freedom, and reading her poem was like a journey. So: 5 random words, or pick your own!

1. red; 2. house; 3. unfair; 4. winter; 5. fingers

Writing prompt: Make a mind map. Use it to write something else–a memory, a poem, a list.