Trying to spread my wings a bit

We’re planning a trip to Los Angeles. This isn’t something that seems like a big deal, but it’s going to be the first time I’ve gotten on an airplane since my diagnosis. One thing that nobody told me about having cancer is that I would have fear. Fear fear fear. It’s like the side effect that keeps on giving.

So my birthday is coming up, and so is my love’s. And it’ll be our dating anniversary. We’re committed to celebrating lavishly since we’ve mostly been, you know, at home and getting chemo every two weeks. Still, it makes me worry.

My world feels smaller now that I have cancer. I worry a lot. I worry about leaving the apartment. I worry about getting from point A to point B and back again. I worry about money. And health insurance. I worry about slavery and colonialism. A lot. I worry about earthquakes.  I worry about this trip to Los Angeles.

Let’s all agree that getting a metastatic cancer diagnosis is a trauma; I worry about another trauma. How will I cope if something else happens? Some of my worries (e.g., earthquakes) are founded. Some of them are a little more far flung.

I’ve been trying to work with my fear and worry. In therapy, it’s a primary point of discussion. I’m trying to invite the fear in and make it a welcome part of my emotional landscape, rather than fight against it. I’m trying to remember that my diagnosis isn’t that old yet. It’s only four months old. Four months of fear. Well, one month of being really fucking sick. And then three months of fear.

I’m hopeful that I’ll grow out of the fear. That it’s part of this “phase,” whatever that means. I want to get out more. Take in more delight. I want to live in the bigger world.

 

Melancholy days

Some days, like today, I find it hard to find delight. Some days, like today, I’m in the middle of a 48-hour chemo infusion, it’s raining, I’m kind of tired, and my face is rosy red from treatment. I’m feeling pretty down.

I listened to a guided meditation by Tara Brach yesterday. The Yes Meditation. It’s been helpful to think about today. To remember that even the melancholy days are to be embraced with a Yes instead of turned away with a No. Or at least acknowledged, if the Yes is too much to get to. My friend Karen sent me a few cartoons about inviting your fear in for tea and crumpets. Here’s one of them:

tea with fear
You can’t get rid of your fears, but you can learn to live with them

I have a lot of fear. And I’m trying to sit with the acceptance of where I am. It’s both easy and hard. And then I’ll go to acupuncture. You know. Friday afternoon.

I remembered recently how much I can find delight in what I like to call “accidental expanses of time”–those two-hour or more chunks of time that sometimes make themselves available. And so I wrote a list of things that I love to do when those expanses appear and it’s been helpful. I had a couple of hours in between things the other day so I made a vision board. It felt great. Other things on my list include reading, writing letters, going to a museum. Things like that.

What I’m less good at are the smaller chunks of time. The 30 minutes between finishing a task and my next appointment. Maybe I need a list for that, too.

On delight…and spoon covers

Spoon cover: Enjoy Your Meal
Enjoy Your Meal

“What is this,” you ask. It’s a spoon cover. It covers this spoon and also tells me to enjoy my meal (which I DID!). Also? It’s so cute. This spoon seems so much more special than it otherwise would have, don’t you think?

Why the spoon? Let’s all agree that multiple cutlery covers would be too much. But why not the fork? Why not a long knife cover, or a cover for the chopsticks? I don’t know, but I think the spoon choice was the right one.

And why am I writing about this spoon cover exactly? Well I find it utterly delightful, weird capitalization and all. (I can’t not comment on the capitalization. The editor in me can’t just let it go.) The spoon cover made me slow down and enjoy my meal a little bit more than I would have otherwise. It made me forget my circumstances for just a moment and smile.

What are my circumstances? Good question.

Well, in November 2016 I was diagnosed with stage 4 gastroesophageal cancer. Stage 4 meaning it’s metastasized (specifically to my liver, pancreas, and some lymph nodes). Gastroesophageal meaning the primary tumor site is right at the junction between the esophagus and the stomach. Stage 4 meaning that it is allegedly incurable. Stage 4 meaning, holy shit.

So I think about cancer a lot. There are a lot of tears. And I don’t want that to be everything there is to my emotional landscape. I want to be sure that I’m using this time of healing to reconnect to those things that bring me great joy. Which, thankfully for me, is a lot of things. I believe that I can use delight as part of my healing process — along with the chemo and the acupuncture and the herbs and the rest of my treatment plan.

I am a delighter. I find great delight in small things. I’m going to share that delight with you. I hope it delights you, too.