Chapter 3: I’m not that strong.

When I was first pregnant with Ginny… maybe 3 months in… I was so excited to set up her crib. My parents had brought it over when they helped us move into our apartment, and it had sat in pieces. One day while Brandan was at work I decided I would put it together. And I did. I made lots of mistakes too. I used the wrong screws in the wrong holes, I put a side on backwards and had to take the whole thing apart again before I could put it together again. The crib belongs to my parents. They used it with their youngest two children, and it has traveled the world. The instructions are long gone, but I updated the latch protectors that my parents got, but never put on. By the end of that 4 hour adventure I had constructed a very stable crib, killed the battery in my electric drill, and accomplished something on my list. It felt great. I felt strong. It doesn’t matter that Ginny slept less than 12 hours of her entire life in that crib. I did that. I did that on purpose, with purpose. I worked hard and I accomplished my goal.

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But right now I am not strong. It seems to be an adjective people like to use. It’s a compliment – a way of describing how they see me. But it is not how I feel. I’ve found that shoe metaphors seem to work really well with cancer. So I’ll go that route again.

 

If the person you love more than anything is on the other end of the field, will you walk to them? What if the field is full of spiders? Jumping spiders. Yeah… that sounds awful. Let’s make them big too. So a football field of jumping spiders. And you need to get across it. The people who matter to you are on the other end. Or maybe cake. Whatever suits you. I don’t think cake is strong enough to pull people across a field of giant jumping spiders… but okay.

 

Crossing this field would be easy. It’s still easy. Literally all you have to do is walk. It would be much easier to walk if you’re covered in some sort of anti-giant-jumping-spider suit, but unfortunately you’ve arrived in a t-shirt and some yoga pants. But you still have to go. You have to go, and you don’t get to wear shoes. So how do you get there? I believe the answer is obvious: run. Run like the wind, and hope those damn spiders keep to themselves.

 

I feel like I’m in the middle of that field. A few spiders caught in my hair already, and Brandan and Ginny are waiting at the other end. And I just have to keep running. I don’t get to stop. I don’t get to say “Oh, I’m tired, let’s just rest a while”, because there are giant spiders everywhere. I’m not running because I am strong. And running does not make me strong. It makes me human. It means I want to live, and that I won’t let these spiders control my life. I’d like to get past them as soon as possible, with as much grace as I can muster, but at the end of the day I’m doing what I have to do, no different from what I was doing two months ago. Except for I’m now surrounded by giant jumping spiders.

 

I consider myself a realist. With people congratulating me on being so strong I find it difficult to reconcile my actual emotions. If you were in my shoes… or rather… in my field of giant jumping spiders without shoes… you would do the same thing. But I appreciate the sentiment. It is not lost on me, and I treasure the support I have received over the last few days.

 

I’m tired. It’s after 4am and I can’t sleep. I took a percocet and I still can’t sleep. The stress is starting to get to me.

 

I’m scared. And I’m allowed to be. I’m not a betting kind of person. I’m a play-it-safe-at-all-times kind of person. With my specific diagnosis my “prognosis” is actually 60% likely to be cured, and 40% likely that it will not be cured. If it is not cured the first time around, it is more likely that it is “incurable”. I have an aggressive form of cancer. It’s growing every day. I can’t let my mind wander in these places.

 

I’m worried about my daughter. This isn’t fair to her, and it’s going to suck more than it already does and I hate that I can’t give her what I want to give her.

 

I’m surrounded by wonderful people who have reached out to help me. I would be a lot more depressed if it weren’t for the messages I’ve been getting. My brain is a bit foggy lately, but know that I’ve read and appreciate each instance of caring sent my way.

 

I’m anxious. We have an appointment with the new doctor tomorrow. I’m ready to start treating this and to just get it out of me. I feel like my body has betrayed me, and there is nothing I can do on my own. My only option is to literally wage way on my entire body, in hopes of killing off the rogue cells.

 

I can’t be alone with my thoughts. The brain is really an incredible thing. Depression, infatuation, forgetting most of childbirth… my brain has been all over the map in the last 6 years. But I had gotten to a really good mental place. I’m determined to stay there. Some times my mind wanders down a road and at the end I die, 26 (I assume I’ll make it to March) with a daughter and husband left behind. I hate these roads. But when it gets too quiet, or by some accidental slip I end up meandering into these thoughts I can almost feel my brain reeling in disgust. Like I’m betraying myself. Like most of my brain is determined to get through the spiders, and there is a small tiny part that would rather just give up. It’s a terrifying feeling when you can’t trust yourself. My body has betrayed me, and my mind is all I control now.

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It’s that melting feeling. Like when you worked all night on that essay, then arrived to class and realized you were empty handed. Like when your Mom called and said Grandpa had a heart attack. Like those ten minutes when the new nurse couldn’t find Ginny’s heartbeat. Like heat washing over your chest, melting into your spine. I feel that every time I think. I’m not as strong as I appear. But I don’t have to be. I have cancer.

 

4 Comments to “Chapter 3: I’m not that strong.”

  1. You don’t know me, but I’ve been reading your blog since I found it via another blog that we both read (or used to read?), so I hope that this isn’t weird… I actually live in the DMV area too (but on the Maryland side).

    Anyway, I just wanted to let you know that even though we don’t know each other, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I can’t imagine what you’re going through, but I hope that knowing that there are people (strangers even!) rooting for you helps you find strength.

  2. But you don’t have to run across that field alone. You have people who love you who will lift you over those spiders and help you fly.

  3. Thinking of you, Jessica!
    -L+S

  4. There really isn’t anything I can say to make you feel better, but I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers. I hope the treatments work for you.

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