In the middle of the night with cancer

I’m lying in bed, unable to slow my brain down enough to sleep. Funny, since I’ve spent the day unable to muster the energy to do anything at all, mostly just lying on the sofa or my bed.

I’m scared. That’s what it all comes down to. I feel unsettled and scared, just like I felt after my diagnosis 10 months ago.

I’m not scared of dying, not really. Ultimately it is just a process, and when my body is done and my consciousness fades away, I’ll be alright. Null. It won’t matter to me anymore.

But I am afraid of not living. Of missing out. Mostly on my children’s lives. I had put those fears aside for a while and just focused on living. And did a good job of it.

Pazopanib can work for some people for many years. But not for me. And now the timeline has all moved forward. And I suddenly feel a sense of urgency to get done the oddball things I feel need to be done. All this on a day when the new medication has kicked my ass. Keeping busy is one of the best ways I know of staying in the present, and not dwelling on cancer. And I’m just too exhausted to do anything.

I want to work on my quilts. I want to clean out my closets. I want to frame and hang artwork that’s been sitting on shelves for years. I want to make sure I have a cozy nest of a room so that when days like this hit, I’ll be able to pamper myself a little. I want to plan a trip for the family, but don’t have the brain power to make the decisions necessary.

If you’re local and want to drop by at some point and help me do some of the things I want to get done, I’d love to see you.  I’ll even try to make sure I’ve showered.


Colors and Money

After more than a month of no payments, I finally received a deposit onto my state disability debit card.  (I’ve taken to calling it my cancer card, as in, “Honey, let’s let the cancer card take care of dinner tonight.”)  One of the first things I did upon noticing this belated windfall was make an appointment at the local tattoo parlor for a small bracelet tattoo.

I’ve been wanting a tattoo on my hand/wrist for quite a while, but it’s never seemed like the right time.  Getting this tattoo is partly a result of my 80 year old self getting loaded off of tequila shots and screaming “Let’s Party!” at the top of her lungs.  (Figuratively, people, figuratively.)  But I’m off the pazopanib (which slows healing) for a while, and there’s money burning a hole in my pocket.

I haven’t always made the best financial decisions, but I’ve generally tried to do the right thing financially.  The responsible thing.  The 45 year old me thing.  Seven years ago we dug ourselves out of $100,000 of debt (from school, cars, a bit of credit card debt, and some of those not the best financial decisions), and we have tried to keep in the black since then.  We save for retirement.  We pay cash.  We’ve put off certain luxuries for later.  Always later.

But now that we’re faced with the prospect that later might be sooner, some of my feelings about money have changed.  And, again, the 45 and 80 year olds in me are duking it out.  Do we pull money out of the house to finance a trip to Iceland?  – Something that once seemed frivolous, but now seems more reasonably like a family bonding experience and adventure.  How do we balance saving for retirement and the kids’ college needs, which were going to be partly funded by having me go back to work full time, with paying for the things, the experiences, we want to share with our kids now.

As interesting, fun or exciting as they might be, I still see these possible experiences in the same light as presents showered upon a child by their absentee parent after a divorce.  Something to assuage the parent’s guilt, but which never quite makes up for the loss the child feels.  A consolation prize.

And yet, what else can I give them but time with me now?

Not that a tattoo is time with me, or even something that my kids will find meaningful or at all related to them.  Because, of course, this for me, about me, only me.  My consolation prize for having to deal with cancer, the annoying side effects that require I stop my meds, and having to change my entire view of what the rest of my life will be.

And maybe it’s the prize I get for toiling through the emotional weeds, for reaching a bit of emotional solid ground, where I’ll be able to re-plan our life and our finances with all this new information.

Or maybe it’s just pretty and I wanted it.


Differing Selves

In therapy, I am learning that I am experiencing two different developmental stages right now, and that trying to balance the needs and responsibilities of one with the other is part of the unrest I feel.  On the one hand, I’m a 45 year old woman, a wife, a mother, someone who is used to working, supporting myself (with varying amounts of success.)  On the other hand, I’m like an 80 year old, coming to terms with end of life issues.  Both of these stages are valid and need to be honored, but at times, their needs require compromise.

One more place in my life where I have to attempt balance.  Dammit.

Part of me would like to give in to the 80 year old.  Just say “Fuck it,” put down my 45 year old responsibilities and do only what I want.  Give strangers on the sidewalk a piece of my mind?  Check.  Hire someone to take care of the house and meals?  Check.  Play pinochle and dominos with my friends?  Check.  Sort of.

And then I wake up and remember that I have two kids who need me, a husband who needs me, bills to be paid, college funds to be saved, a living room that needs vacuuming, and laundry to be folded.

It’s not that I don’t want to tend to these parts of my life (though I could easily do without the vacuuming and bill paying.)  A few months ago, all of this felt normal, exactly where I was supposed to be and what I was supposed to be doing.  And I felt content.  Sometimes things were a drudge (hello, pairing socks) but there wasn’t conflict.

And now?  Forget the whole cliche of battling cancer.  The real battle in me is between the 45 year old self and the 80 year old self.  The 80 year old leaves household chores undone, while the 45 year old feels guilty for the mess or angst about not setting a good example for the kids.  The 45 year old runs the kids to camp and takes care of some errands, leaving the 80 year old feeling neglected and wanting to spend the day painting.

Sometimes the 80 year old feels like a tantrumming toddler, and others, the 45 year old seems to be way too much of a nag.

And somewhere, inside myself, I have to find room for both of them.  Oh joy.