Finding Peace

Once upon a time, I thought that I would fight cancer, do the chemo, do the surgery, do the radiation, and then either be fine … or not be fine.  What I didn’t expect was all this in-between.  I’ve been surprised by the number of days post-surgery and post-radiation and post-NED status that I just really don’t feel like myself.  My swollen arm (from the lymphedema) and bruised back (from the subluxed ribs that keep falling out of place, now that the heavy tumor is gone) make me feel crabby, and I don’t like that at all.

It’s been a real struggle for me to find peace about all this.  To find a reason.  To come up with the “oh, but now I’m a better person” tagline.  I still don’t accept it.  Heck, I often have trouble realizing what I’ve been through this year, much less accepting it.  It’s been a crazy ride.

But slowly, slowly I am finding my way back to normal.  My daily walks are helping me get stronger in so many ways.  Physically, mentally, socially … for walking with friends is a lovely luxury, and I’m really enjoying that part.  Little Bear is growing into a happy, smiling kid, always ready to play ball or trucks, and when he started walking last week (!) I was the happiest mother for a brief, shining second.  He is getting really good at it now, and Toddler Planet has a toddling boy once again.  Widget is luxuriating in a frenzy of playdates, cousins, and grandparents, and being a wonderfully social boy.  This is a child who calls everyone “friend” and will only go out to play when everyone is ready.  We call it, “leave no kid behind,” and we are having a great time working as a team.  Daddy is relaxing too, now that we’re further away from the diagnosis and completion of treatment.  He’s as relieved as anyone that the fight is over.  And it seems to be.

But still, when I walk by myself in the evening, I often find myself struggling, trying to outrun the demons and the shadows of cancer.  I look for peace behind every bush and tree, and still, I cannot find it.

24 Responses to Finding Peace

  1. Stimey says:

    You have had such a life-changing experience this year. One that continues. It will totally take time for you to relax, find that peace, and stop peeking at shadows. It may not ever completely end, but you are such an amazing person with such an amazing family, that I believe you all will get there.

    I wish I could see Little Bear toddling. I wish I could be with you right now. I hope to see you soon.

  2. Heather says:

    I think living life means living it all. The moments of doubt, feeling unsure, that’s all part of it. It’s all still fresh, still new. So much change in so little time. Long walks, long drives, long showers —always times of introspection for me. I did a meditation w/ my chiro a few weeks back about breathing in peace, light, love and breathing out that which isn’t serving you. It helps. I still need reminders. We all do.
    Thank you for being real and honest. …..nothing cuter than newly walking babes! Here’s to little bear running to keep up w/ widget in no time!

  3. christine says:

    i hope that peace finds you soon and that you can breathe in the fresh air with a renewed sense of hope.

  4. lauriekw says:

    Between my first and second children, I had a miscarriage. Due to some complications, it was especially traumatic, physically as well as emotionally (which it would have been, regardless). When I thought I was ready, I returned to work, only to be hit by the emotional fallout several months later.

    Finishing cancer treatment is kind of like that (and
    I know many women for whom this has been the case). When you are in treatment, you are in active battle mode. When it stops is when the post-traumatic stress tends to hit…and then, too, there are the scars (I have lymphedema, too) that keep the memories fresh.

    Enough war analogizing.

    You are obviously doing the things you need to be well. It’s just hard that for so many of us some of the struggles begin at the point that some may think we should be moving on…

  5. Dawn says:

    Obviously, I have no idea what you’re going through. I just hope that you can find that peace soon. Enjoy that toddling little boy, as I’m enjoying mine – sometimes, he’s the only thing that brings a smile to my face, but at least there’s something that still does.

    My best wishes for you, truly.

  6. Heather says:

    It’s a lonely road we walk. Yours is a special burden. When I waited to be checked in the Cancer Institute I averted my eyes from the mothers with children in strollers. It killed me to see them. But pleae believe that my heart is with you.
    Much love
    Heather

  7. Joie says:

    I have been checking in on you periodically and praying for you. Great article in Health! What a difference you are making in the lives of women everywhere. Thank you! I found you because, last summer, I had symptoms similar to IBC and was nursing but it turned out to be eczema from my pump. I am a giant lurker – sorry. I have one question for clarification and education — I thought that with IBC there were no tumors. I must be wrong but would you be able to explain it, please?

  8. canape says:

    Made you a better person? Cancer?

    You were already the best person before it. There must be some other realization out there for you.

  9. Just Me says:

    Wanted to encourage you today. I taught a lesson in Sunday School this morning about being sick and how we sometimes wonder if God still really cares when we go through these times. Yes, He knows, He understands, but sometimes He allows sickness so that He might be glorified through it. There is a silver lining in your walk through cancer. The key is learning to trust God through it. I’m not in your shoes, but I firmly believe that our Lord is so big that many times we do not give Him the credit He deserves because we think in earthly terms. His thoughts and plans are not like ours (Isaiah 55:8-9) and I believe He is doing a work in your illness. What have you learned already in this experience ? What do you think you may learn in the days ahead ? His love surrounds you in many ways. People he puts in your life and nature are just a couple of evidences that He loves you. Praying for you here in the Bayou state.
    Just Me

  10. Froggy Baby says:

    I have been reading your blog since seeing your article in Health magazine. This entry made me want to respond.

    I have had a rare vascular tumor cancer for 23 years (although I’ve only known it is cancer since Oct. 06). Recurrances have come several times for me and I currently have 14 tumors. However, I am “healthy” and have been told not to take action right now. The hardest part of cancer for me, is the “between.” When my next appointment isn’t for 6 months who do I ask if this or that pain is OK? How do I know the shadow isn’t getting bigger without me knowing it? Auther Bernie Seigel wrote a book How to Live Between Office Visits and that helped me through some time.
    I do know that for me those questions never go, but they do get quieter after awhile, and I’ve learned to weed them out much better over the years. The shadows will always be with me, I just see them less intensly.
    Time will also help you “see the reasons”. My Aunt drove my mom and myself to appointments when I started in my teens and she always said “God will not give you more than you can handle”. I still wish God did not think I was so strong!
    I think having young children (I have three) makes the cancer fight harder and more intense. I’m so glad you are reaching out and have such a great support system. Your boys will forever be loved by you and so many more.
    For me, “normal” changed, but that’s ok!

    I recently read a quote
    Cancer didn’t make life uncertain, it simply exposed the uncertainty of life.

    You stay strong…I don’t think it will all fall into place at once… It may not be “Your Place”, but it will!

    Thanks for reaching out and loving your boys with all your heart!

  11. flutter says:

    Peace will find you, love.

  12. Robin says:

    I don’t think there are any reasons, or any explanations, but that doesn’t mean you can’t eventually reach a place of peace. I haven’t had cancer, but I have survived my own life-changing never be the same again oh god why me event. I found that I had to stop looking for answers, there simply aren’t any. At least not for me, maybe you’ll be luckier in that respect.

    I’m going to be reviewing Jerry White’s (Survivor Corps) new book “I Will Not Be Broken: Five Steps to Overcoming a Life Crisis” on my blog soon (my review copy is on the fedex truck on its way here as we speak). What really strikes me from the sample chapters I’ve read so far is his basic premise – bad things DO happen to people. Given that, how to we pick ourselves up and keep going? Since I’ve never been able to depend on faith or any type of higher power to explain the *why*, I’m very interested in something that instead explains the *how*.

    Hang in there Susan, peace will come in time.

  13. Little Bear is walking!!! W00T! How exciting🙂

    You have lived a lifetime in a year babe. A rollercoaster, a whirlwind.

    It will take time for your feet to find the ground permanently.
    ❤ babe, you are amazing.

  14. Becky says:

    During your struggle, WM, you turned what surely was anger, sadness, grief, uncertainty, and fear, into a blog that has become a resource to so many – you turned fear into hope, by sharing details of your struggle you shed more light on IBC and raised awareness that will surely turn to action to fight this monster.

    your intensely personal struggle has had a transforming effect not only on you, but on those who have walked beside you on this journey.

    Personal peace will come. It will come.

  15. deb says:

    I don’t have cancer but I do have depression. It never goes away, it just rests. Even on my good days, I see it there, waiting for me, always. It’s not something I can forget about, ever. I know it’s not the same but your words touched me and I feel the same way, often.

    “But still, when I walk by myself in the evening, I often find myself struggling, trying to outrun the demons and the shadows of cancer. I look for peace behind every bush and tree, and still, I cannot find it.”

    Take care sweetie.

  16. JoC says:

    You are walking lots now and now Little Bear is walking too! 🙂 I believe, like others have mentioned above, that you are describing elements of Post traumatic stress. Your recovery continues. The rehab phase is very frustrating for a lot of people. Mentally and physically very challenging even though it seems easire than what you have been through already.

    Warm fuzzies and cheers from Vancouver BC

  17. bcjenster says:

    Boy do I get this! As you know, I’m 3 years post diagnosis and 2.5 years post treatment. Just now am I able to say I’m back to normal – but it’s a new normal and not my old normal. I can never go back to the way it was – physically, emotionally, spiritually – there’s no going back.

    And I also agree it’s PTS. We are battle warriors, after all.

  18. Bon says:

    i don’t know that i have anything to add that others closer to the experience haven’t already said better, but i’ll still throw in that any huge life change and struggle leaves you in a place where you almost have to redefine peace…because the image of it leftover in your mind is from you before, and…you never really get to be you before again. you’re right, eventually the whole deal probably will make you a “better person” – not that you had any need of becoming one – but that person will take time to emerge, will not just pop out of the chrysalis whole and unmarked and unhaunted.

    all that to say, i think looking behind the bushes may always be a part of who you are from here on in…and if it is, well, i like that sort of person. they tend to be far more comfortable and humane to be around.:)

    and yay to your beautiful boys, the walker and the friend to all.

  19. Robin says:

    I think it’s pretty normal to feel the way you are. After all, you are ALIVE!!! And part of being alive is experiencing a spectrum of emotions🙂

    And WOOT for Little Bear!

  20. tori says:

    I found the “after” part to be every bit as scary as the during part. So many things are different now, and everyone expects everything to be “normal” now. I totally get your posts, as you know.

  21. Dear Whymommy, I just wanted to say thankyou to you for sharing your story online like this. I am crying as I type this because I have been so very sad lately, sad and afraid and lonely. I do not know one other mother with cancer or even one other young (ish) person battling cancer which I guess I should be happy about in one way but it makes it so hard not having anyone else to help support and talk to with about this, that is actually going through it. The days I go to chemo the room is filled with elderly people and I just can’t relate to them like I could to someone my age with children who has to face leaving them and the fear that that entails. I came here to visit and I felt better for reading how you got through and how positive you were and strong. I don’t have the support of a husband or even family support. I have my Mother who doesn’t like my child so you can imagine how difficult that is I just felt so alone with this until I came here and I hate that other people have to go through it but if they do then I think we should stick together and support each other as much as possible which is why I think this new blog idea is so wonderful. Anyway I know I am quite miserable in this post but that is what happens sometimes when you are so exhausted and so sick of pain and so afraid for your children. Thanks again just for being here and caring. Love and healing to you, Jen B.

  22. b*babbler says:

    It’s a hard road, this…

    My cousin, at 30, had a double lung transplant last year after an unexpected illness that started less than a year earlier and quickly sucked her into the vortex of life-changing decisions and ultimately, surgery. Not a smoker, and as healthy as you can imagine (marathons and triathalons). Although she’s mostly better now, it’s the shock of the past year, the realization of what the hell she’d been through and slowly absorbing it, and the realization that although she’s better, life will NOT be the same. Good? Yes. Healthy? For now, yes. But different? Most definitely yes. And coming to terms with what that means.

    But I have faith that both you and her will find your ways, in this new reality.

    (And the grouchiness? Perfectly acceptable.)

  23. Susan says:

    Two years ago, my best friend fought off melanoma despite the fact that the statistics were not in her favor. She went through life-threatening treatments that saved her but almost killed her. Once she had started to physically regain her strength, she was left to deal with all the emotions that she hadn’t had the time or the energy to cope with during treatment. She started to see a counselor who used the term PTS, and started to change her thinking from “Why did I have to go through this?” to “Why did I survive? What is my purpose supposed to be?” So far, she has changed her career. Like you, she is an activist for cancer awareness. And she is working on adopting a child since the treatment has left her infertile. She often doesn’t give herself enough credit for having survived, having coped with (and still coping with) the body-altering treatments. She was so strong and cheerful through that year – she had a right to fall apart after it once she was on the other side. Your blog reminds me of her and that being a cancer survivor means more than just simply successfully removing cancer cells from your body. The soul needs more time to heal.

  24. […] maybe I brought along a care or two.  But it was a beautiful place to rest and gather strength, and to celebrate with many friends […]

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