Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Words to Live By...

Sometimes I'm lucky enough to come across something that really resonates with me & lately I have been loving the work of Mary Oliver, who is an incredible American poet.

- Mary Oliver
(PART 3)

I know, you never intended to be in this world.
But you’re in it all the same.

So why not get started immediately.

I mean, belonging to it.
There is so much to admire, to weep over.

And to write music or poems about.

Bless the feet that take you to and fro.
Bless the eyes and the listening ears.
Bless the tongue, the marvel of taste.
Bless touching.

You could live a hundred years, it’s happened.
Or not.
I am speaking from the fortunate platform
of many years,
none of which, I think, I ever wasted.
Do you need a prod?
Do you need a little darkness to get you going?
Let me be as urgent as a knife, then,
and remind you of Keats,
so single of purpose and thinking, for a while,
he had a lifetime.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015


     I've been debating back-&-forth with myself for quite awhiiiiiiile trying to make a decision as to whether or not to tackle this specific topic & it all came down to 1 thing: the promise I made myself after diagnosis to share my entire story - both good & bad - with anyone who would be interested in hearing/reading about it. So, in keeping with that promise I want to talk about a place I found myself once I was out of the malignant-zone & entering the fight after the fight. It's life post-cancer & it can be full of what I like to call "remissues" {remission + issues}. 
Before I begin,  please remember that these are solely MY opinions, MY experiences, & MY thoughts and that they - by no means - reflect any other person in the cancer survivor community...just little ol' me. 

     In my opinion, being a cancer survivor can be a tricky title to hold; I'm so, so very grateful, blessed, & down-right-lucky to be alive. Not a day goes by that I don't recognize how incredibly fortunate I am & have been over the past 5 years. However, on the other side of the post-cancer spectrum, I am an entirely different person than I was up until the very second before I received my diagnosis. Suddenly I went from being a "normal" mid-20's woman to a full-time cancer patient fighting for my life & facing less than a 25% survival expectancy. Life quickly became all about appointments, treatments, side-effects, surgeries, healing, fighting, & meds - lots & lots of meds. Two years after initially being diagnosed I heard the most beautiful of all words: remission. To be definitive, remission is described as "a decrease in or disappearance of signs & symptoms of cancer" (source). Before I became a member of the cancer club I always imagined the term "remission" as almost an abracadabra word. Like at the very second someone hears that word, POOF!!! Cue the happy music, unicorns, fireworks, & all-things-sunshine! I thought the word "remission" must instantaneously make everything magical & that one's life would, undoubtedly, return back to how it was pre-diagnosis. Insert self forehead-smack here because I was completely & utterly, all-sorts of incorrect. 
     One last time, please let me reiterate how appreciative I am to be in remission & to have been given another chance in this life; however that appreciation doesn't mean I'm not allowed to have other issues in my life...& these, my friends, are what I like to call "remissues" {remission + issues = remissues}. 
     For me, my remissues can range anywhere from survivor's guilt, identity confusion, & figuring out how to manage my countless physical side-effects to anxiety, post-cancer depression, mood swings, menopause, & pretty much any & every emotion in between. I think what I have discovered is that when you're actually "in" the midst of your battle, you're in an entirely different least I know I was. I was in warrior mode - I was ready & willing to do anything necessary to save my life. That meant that any surgery or treatment that was suggested or recommended I was ABSOLUTELY game for - no questions asked or eff's given. I have to carry around a fanny-pack attached to a chemo pump which then attaches to my port 24/7, 5 days a week for 6 weeks? Done! Rectal resection, permanent colostomy, & pelvic radiation that will leave me sterile at age 26? Hell yeah! Complete hysterectomy by 27? Sign me up! You want to removal my tumor, lymph nodes, coccyx, & vaginal canal in the same surgery...rad, let's do it. No possibility of internal pelvic reconstruction for at least 5 years? big deal, I'm in. You want to take my right arm & attach it to my big toe? What are we waiting for?! OK, maybe that last scenario is a bit of a stretch but I think you know what I'm getting at. When you're battling & fighting for your life, you will do whatever you have to do to make it to tomorrow. You don't have the luxury to sit back & think "I wonder when I look back on this how I will react or how it will make me feel 1, 2, 3 or more years from now" because with cancer you can never get comfortable enough to envision 1, 2, 3 or more years from your now. So, for me, after the initial remission fairy dust finally settled I found myself at a standstill. I was all possible ways a person can be lost. I didn't - & sometimes still don't - know what to do with my days. For years, my life was carefully mapped out by radiation & chemo appointments or constructed around visits to the cancer center for blood work, visits with Dr. K, or varying maintenance scans. It seemed like the next surgery was always looming right around the corner. I got as comfortable as I could in a completely uncomfortable situation. I knew how chemo was going to make me feel, I knew how much surgery would kick my ass, & I knew how to fight - this had become my "normal". So when all that disappeared I found myself saying "OK, awesome...but now what???". I knew I couldn't just return back to the life I had before cancer because that wasn't my life anymore & I wasn't that version of me anymore. I was - mentally & physically - a very different Lisa than the one who had once lived that prior life. The "new" Lisa was a 2x cancer survivor who had spent the last 2 years fighting hell on Earth...but that was pretty much all I knew about her & that was an incredibly scary realization.
     Since then, I've spent the last 3 years trying to figure out who I am, where, & exactly why I belong in this world. This constant struggle of trying to re-find myself & what to do in & with my life post-cancer is something that can quickly snowball & often begins to bleed into other aspects of my survivor's guilt (SG) & survivor's pressure (SP). SG is actually relatively common in cancer survivors, especially young adults. It may sound crazy to some that cancer survivors can & do experience SG because that is term usually associated with war or another significant tragedy but if you really think about it, both of those terms describe life in the cancersphere. We are fighting our own type of war & our own type of tragedy. For me, when it comes down to it, I have no idea why I am here & other warriors who faced my same diagnosis aren''s something that is always on my mind but it's also something that I know I will never have the answer to - so all I can do is try to live my best life, not only for myself but for those who are no longer here &, honestly, that - in itself - can be a fairly daunting expectation that I place on myself. 
     Next I have what I like to refer to as "survivor's pressure", which has it's own range of various emotional aspects attached to it. Referring back to knowing that I - for whatever reason - survived this disease is completely awesome but also completely overwhelming at the same time. I can't tell you how many times I've had someone (with only good intentions) say to me "you survived, just think of all the great things you can do now!" but - honestly - all those instances fail in comparison to the amount of times I've said to myself "you survived, think of all the great things you should be doing now!"...then I look down & see myself binge watching Netflix all damn day & end up feeling like a wasteful schmuck. I absolutely put a lot of SP on myself because I don't want to waste this extra chance I have been given; it's just a matter of figuring out exactly how & what I'm going to do with it, but I suppose that is all part of anyone's life - we all, at some point or another, search for where we belong in this world. 
     When it all comes down to it, I'm still learning to understand, accept, & deal with my remissues. I would be lying if I said I know exactly who I am because I don't. It's still an everyday struggle for me & I'm sure that it will continue to be a learning process, which I will happily participate in.
     To other survivor's who may be dealing with their own remissues - remember that our psychological, mental, & emotional fights doesn't necessarily stop when our physical fight does. Handle life at your own pace & be patient with yourself. Do whatever it is you need to do while you get to know the new you. We have experienced something that no human should ever have experience & yet here we are...& I think that is pretty fantastic. 

- LISA -

Sunday, July 12, 2015


UPDATE: It was, indeed, my motherboard but I am having my laptop fixed so hopefully she'll be back in my loving arms soon!

Just a little update..."Remissues" is still coming - my laptop decided to blow-up {internally I mean - fingers crossed that it's, somehow, fixable} & that spiraled me into a horrible mood that past few days SO until that is resolved I figure it's best to steer clear of anything too emotional. I know, I know...I shouldn't let something so little get to me as much as it has, but I'm only human...& my novel is on there along with all my pictures, videos, & music. 

Hopefully I'll be seeing you very soon.

- LISA -