Howdy Folks!

Writing to you guys from the chemo suite

Hi everyone! I hope this finds you all doing really well. I am getting my 4th round of the “good stuff” as we speak and am using it as a chance to give everyone a little update. I honestly don’t sit down much, never have, so this is a nice chance to just sit and type! Neil and I just returned from the beach where we celebrated our 5th wedding anniversary and I have posted a couple of photos. We had decided that we would play a little bit while we were down there this time and signed up to go parasailing…yeah, I know, so “Spring Break ‘94”, but I had never been. I’ve been bungee jumping a couple times, done those high ropes courses, etc but for some reason just had never been parasailing. So we acted like tourists for the day and just went. We had some really good laughs and a whole lot of fun. And man, it is SO peaceful up there and such pretty views. At 500 ft, there is such a beautifully open silence that is hard to find much of on land…reading a lot into parasailing I know, but really a neat feeling of sort of resting in a silence that is always there, just above our crazy world. Those birds have a good thing going on!

Anyways, everything is going just great…fantastic actually. To get you up to speed, I have to start by telling you all about the “Healing Highway” I have been on for the last couple of months. As you can imagine, everything shifted on a very grand scale for me and for us back in May when this all started, but to be honest, it took a little while for the haze to clear a bit and for my brain and heart catch up with what was going on. Shock is funny that way…you don’t really know you’re in it until you start to come out of it. And this is where the real adventure began…

The week following chemo became my “Week of Wellness” and I began exploring new areas of health and wellness at lightning speed in an effort to support my body in it’s task of healing in every area and on every level. We’re talking yoga, massage, acupuncture, chiropractor, vision boards, affirmations, meditations, endless books and articles and meetings with people exploring new and different ways to approach this. And this was after starting to work with a nutritionist, medical consultant/advocate and going out to MD Anderson. So basically everything was and is fair game and no stone left unturned. Nothing like the threat of your life to motivate you, right? :)

So I approached this “task” just as I had approached everything in my life…full speed ahead. My natural default has always been to push, push, push myself. If some was good, more was better. How much could I really squeeze into a day? Maybe just one more thing? Ten? And it worked. I’ve always prided myself on going the extra mile and not just doing something a little bit, but throwing myself into EVERYTHING I did. I lived under the context that there wasn’t a whole lot of room for anything grey in life, and certainly not just hang out…I mean, who has the time. Running for me, among other things, was a healthy way of “self-medicating”. A way to expend excess energy and calm me down. But, as I’ve discovered, it was also yet another way to push myself.

So what became apparent in a very big hurry was that this “thing”, this way of living, I had leaned on so securely all these years was not going to work in this situation. At all. I could no longer use my default to “do” this. So now what? How do you “do” this? You completely reinvent yourself and just let go, that’s what you do. I feel like I should hang one of those signs around my neck “Pardon My Progress” just to warn folks. And just as with anything new, and with life in general, it is a process…and not one that is amendable to “pushing”. And you know what? It feels pretty good to just let go. To have to step outside of the “doing” of life and take a look in. Don’t get me wrong, I have made this business of healing my full time job and have been quite busy learning and doing all sorts of cool new stuff but my “busyness” comes from a far different place than ever before.

I have always loved the widely used metaphor of the butterfly. That if, in the natural struggle required to transform from caterpillar to butterfly, a well meaning person sees this struggle and tries to “help” the caterpillar by physically releasing it, it dies. That the struggle is not only necessary but required for a butterfly to be, well a butterfly…I like the idea of that. There is peace in this process, and really any process when you know that. They are simply steps toward exactly what you are meant to be. And that’s different for everyone in so many different contexts and a million different scenarios. And that’s where I feel lucky. I have been given a chance to totally “wake up” in life, to my life. It is truly the gift of a lifetime. To not be given the choice of “getting to it later”, or “Yeah, I should really work on ____ (fill in the blank) area of my life or “Someday…..”. I mean come on, we all do it. And why not, things are busy, who has the time, it’s not that comfortable to look at some things, etc, etc, etc. Believe me, I know. But there in lies the gift. I have to do it anyways. Not even a question. And the true beauty of this and what has been so clear to me from the very beginning is that nothing else could have done that for me but this. Nothing else could have stopped me dead in my tracks, stripped me bare and change the entire course of my life by forced me to completely reinvent myself at lighting speed like this did. Nor could anything else have been capable of creating the space required to do this like. And there in lies the true perfection of all this. I don’t begin to tell you I know what the total picture looks like or how every piece fits from here or for even the shape of the end result, but what I do know is that there is something far larger and more important going on than “cancer”.

As I have said, there is such a sense of calmness and lightness about it all. I feel like I have woken up from a long (and busy) sleep that I didn’t even know I was in. For the first time in awhile, I find myself thirsty for learning new things and excited about the newness/freshness of it all. And I think some of the “lightness” comes from letting go of all the “stuff”. For example, I had a follow up appointment today with my Gyn/Onc (Dr who did my surgery and has been in charge of my chemo) to touch base as we get closer to the first High Dose Chemo/Stem Cell Rescue (they like the term “Mega”, but I don’t like it so much so I stick with High Dose :)). Anyways, he made it a point in the conversation (after asking how I was feeling?, anything new?, etc) to tell Neil and I that he wanted to “clarify” that my response to the medications aka chemo was highly “atypical”. And when we asked him what he meant by that, he went on to say that this was one the toughest regimens they use and, at that, a very high dose of it and that typically the side effects reflected that. Now, I knew up front that they were going to be aggressive with this and yes, I am in medicine and I know what all that means, but have purposely not paid much attention to those details. I just didn’t want to focus on that. So when people see me and tell me “Oh my gosh, you look so good, no one would ever know!” I just assume it’s because they are being nice and haven’t seen me in a while or just didn’t really know what to expect–just as I wouldn’t have prior to this. I’ve just attributed it to advances in modern medicine and the drugs they give to mitigate the side effects. I don’t question it and say a big thank you. Basically, it just confirms to me that something else much bigger than me is going on here. It’s certainly all nice to hear, but the “lightness” comes from not questioning why I feel so good (the prayers are working, by the way ;)) and just being grateful for it and then focusing on what I can control…my head and my heart. But the whole point of even sharing this with you is not to tell you how great I’m doing but how grateful I am for how good I feel. Please don’t miss that and know I checked my ego at the door from the very beginning of all this because it suddenly seemed so superficial and limiting. I sensed that it, along with any pride would only get in the way. There is a lot of freedom in that alone.
And so the journey continues…

I love you all.

With overwhelming gratitude,
Alyssa

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