Fighting Fatalism

For the first time, in the past few weeks, I have been experiencing symptoms, not of my treatments, but of the cancer that is progressing while I wait for treatment.  Aside from the fact that my pregnancy belly continues to grow and is now pressing on my diaphragm, leaving me short of breath, I have been having almost daily bouts of nausea, some worse than others.  In some cases, the nausea has lasted rom morning to night, reminding of the lovely days I was on chemo last year.  Mostly, however, it has come late in the day, making my late afternoons or nights miserable.  This has limited what I can do.  Last weekend we cancelled dinner with Jackie and Joel on Friday night at a restaurant we really wanted to try because I was feeling too nauseated to go out, and then, on Saturday, after I got ready to attend my friend Joe’s annual summer party and met Deb and Norm for an early dinner before going to the party, instead, I barely ate dinner and Alan and I turned around and went home.  Since then, I have stayed away from making plans at night. Last night was an exception – I felt pretty good all day and agreed to meet Jackie and Joel for dinner.  Unfortunately, by the time we got to the restaurant I had full blown nausea and could barely sit there and eat.  I realized that, at least for now, I better make plans for lunch, not dinner.  When I feel that way, I hunker down, the couch is very inviting, and I try to be as still as possible.

This has also meant cancelling our trip to Napa and definitely nixing any plans to go to my nephew’s wedding in California.  At the moment, I am in no shape to be drinking wine and eating wonderful dinners, nor can I plan enjoying a night time wedding after the long travel to California.   That does not mean I will not be traveling later this year – I just have to start treatment and start feeling better so that I can count on being able to enjoy the trip.  This does mean that I am resentful at the limitations this is causing in my life. I am used to doing what I want and doing it even if I have discomfort.  Nausea is another thing.  It is debilitating.  It is impossible to enjoy anything or even concentrate much, when you are nauseated.

While this has been going on, I continued the waiting game.  Until yesterday, I had no confirmation when I would start immunotherapy.  We were still waiting to hear from the clinical trials’ sponsor.  On Tuesday, my worse day this week, when I woke up with nausea and went to bed with nausea, in my frustration I actually said to my friend Rena, when she said Karmanos still had not received confirmation that I could go forward with the clinical trial: “Don’t these f**** people realize people’s lives are at stake.  What is taking them so long!”  She told me to go ahead and express that frustration – she felt it too.  Then she suggested I speak with their social worker the next day to deal with the emotional toll this has taken.  The nice thing about that suggestion is that I ended up getting a free massage at Karmanos the next day as a result of the social worker.  That was heavenly.

The emotional toll of the waiting and the increasing symptom is huge. I have, and can, cry in an instant.  This comes from frustration, from anger, from just feeling crummy overall and from the delay, delay and more delay.  It does not take much to get me going.  I am certainly a very strong person but even the strongest person would be tested by these events.  On Monday, Alan and I sat on our couch holding each other and crying together. He is as frustrated as me, and also clearly so worried.  Every time he looks at my belly it reminds him the cancer is progressing.  He researches the reasons, and he knows that the fiberous tissue now growing like spiderwebs around my belly is a symptom of progressing stomach cancer.  I know that too.  I do not read the research, through, because I do not need to.  I can gauge what is happening by the way I feel.  He told me earlier this week that when we promised to love each other in sickness and in health, his thought was that I would take care of him and outlive him in our old age, not the opposite.  I told him I know, and I still plan on being around.

The biggest emotional toll on me has been fighting the sense of fatalism that can take over when I am clearly feeling limited, and not up to the physical strength I expect of myself.  Yes, I am doing yoga, but certainly at a slower and more modified level.  Yes, I take the dogs out, but the walks are short.  Yes, I meet friends for lunch most days and am fine, but I make no plans for long walks, and make no plans for anything approaching evening because I am not sure I can handle it.  I know that I have already beaten the odds with the advanced cancer I have, but that is not enough.  I want, and plan, to continue to beat the odds.  However, over the last few weeks, as I felt my symptoms increasing, I had to fight the feeling that this may be it, that I should not expect a long life, that I was fooling myself.  I thought about family, friends and colleagues I knew who had lost their battle with cancer.  My mother in law, Libby, was only 56 when she died, and was so full of life.  How I wish she had lived to see her grandchildren grow up.  My close friend Sue, whom I loved and whom my children loved, was a beautiful soul. Sue always had a smile for everyone, always saw the best in everyone, and told me every time she saw me that I was beautiful. I also remembered my colleagues and friends, Kathleen L., Dan S., Fred M.  They were vital people, full of life and had so much to give. They died too young.  I also thought of my sister in law Sue, who is one of the strongest persons I know. Sue has survived Hodgkins disease and breast cancer and is now dealing with heart problems caused by the treatment she had over 30 years ago for Hodgkins.  Her attitude, strength and ability to handle adversity are an inspiration to me.

It is funny how you can go into a dark place when you are feeling terrible, and helpless.  I refuse to stay in that dark place because it does me no good and does not help me survive.  Fatalism gets me nowhere.  I truly believe that if you believe that you are going to die within a certain period of time, that you have no chance and that those beliefs will come true.  I refuse to so believe.  I refuse to give in to that darkness.  There are no guarantees, but that goes both ways. The odds may be terrible, but I have beaten and will continue to beat the odds.  I will not concede that there is a specific time I am allotted and that is it.  Instead, even if I cannot plan going out at night right now, I will continue to live each day.  The treatment is starting and that has taken away most of the frustration I have felt.  Other than my now 8-9 months pregnant belly, I look fine, and I feel vital (except when I am miserable with nausea).  People who see me say they cannot tell there is anything going on with me and even as I modify greatly my yoga practice, I was told the other day by a newer student in my yoga class: “You must have been practicing yoga for a long time.”   She did not see me as limiting my practice.  She saw me as the long practicing yogi I am and have been.  So, instead of focusing on my limitations, I will focus on what I can do and will continue to do.

My plan is to go somewhere with Alan in a month or two where we can enjoy each other, to go to Utah at the beginning of September to hike and then at Christmas to ski, to go back to enjoying dinners with friends, and to go to South Beach, again, in February, with my daughter.  I also plan to spend time in Florida visiting Judy and Deb who will be there all February.  Fatalism has no place in my plan to live life.  I will not only survive, I will live and focus on the good in life.  Now, I plan to go outside and enjoy my garden and this beautiful afternoon.

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10 thoughts on “Fighting Fatalism

  1. Judy O'Neill says:

    My dearest Marilyn. You are strong. Your will is unstoppable. Remember that. I want in on Utah in September!!!

  2. Karen Peters says:

    You are such a great writer, I can feel your frustration with each delay in your treatment! I feel so bad for the way you are feeling. Live each day to the fullest and keep up your GREAT Fight. Live my favorite song ‘Fight Song’ says, you still have a lot of fight left in you.

  3. Maud Gosse says:

    You are indeed such a great writer and an excellent blogger. I have been waiting for your post for the last couple of days…sorry you weren’t well enough to attend all the events you had planned but I feel sure that will come. I am fighting right beside you sending you peace, hope and lots of love to embrace your fighting spirit. You continue to be my inspiration every step of the way. To Alan “Grow old along with me…the best is yet to be”. I’m sure your garden is a very peaceful and healing place to be on a beautiful day, as is mine….the gentle breeze,the fluttering butterfly. The busy bees, the perferectly formed flowers, shrubs, and trees, Ahh I love my garden also such peace and mindfulness that someone greater than us is in charge of such perfection. Look forward to your next post and wishing everything good for you Marilyn! Lots of love, peace and hope❤️❤️❤️Onward and Upward xxxx

  4. Susan Steinberg says:

    I continue to admire your courage and your total honesty In your blogs . My heart goes out to you and I Wish I could take a day for you to make you feel better. Keep up your positive thoughts. You are in my prayers.

  5. My Dearest Sister– I really don’t have the words to express how I feel it’s heart breaking ! We will miss you, Alan Sara and Alex at the wedding but you need to take care of yourself now and not worry about others there will be more weddings in your future, Please remember how Aunt Jo, Dad , Mom and Aunt Emily how they battled all those years Aunt Jo since she was 19 and remember what she would tell us ” DON’T WORRY BE HAPPY GOD LOVES YOU AND SO DO I AND ALL OF US.I know you are a believer and it now time for you to summit yourself to the Holy Spirit and ask for God to help heal you if you believe and trust in him it will happen ! Call on our cousin St Maron whom healed 1000’s in the past . I’m praying for you and so are all our friends you never meet but know all about my great sister who always helped her only brother -you saved my first store when Uncle George tried to take it away, so brave to take on our powerful Uncle and lent me money when I was down you care for Mom when I was away and so much more! You forgave me for not trusting you and you understand my mental health problems when the rest of the Family just won’t talk about it or recognize it !
    I’m one lucky Man/ Brother to have such a wonderful sister like you I only wish we where closer but I lived away so long now 36 years it was hard both of us working hard and raising our Families ! Love you and May God bring his light upon you and heal you now! Love, Philip

  6. Tricia Moakler says:

    Dear Friend,
    Your writing moves me in ways I can’t put into words. You have a real gift of communicating your feelings and what it means to have Cancer. I keep you in my prayers always and ask God for healing and strength for you as well as wisdom for the doctors who are treating you. Your courage and determination are inspiring. You always were a determined person as I remember and it has served you well throughout your life and especially now. Keep fighting Marilyn! Love, Tricia

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