Thursday, March 22, 2012

"This I Can Handle."

Fear has the ability to paralyze you. You want to protect yourself. You don't want to tempt your body into the danger zone. You put yourself into a bubble because you are afraid of what will happen if you pop that bubble. To take yourself away from your safety net? Far too risky.

Fear paralyzes you, emotionally and physically...

Unless you stand up to it.

Today I had the pleasure of working with a woman who is celebrating her 10 year breast Cancer-versary. For the sake of her privacy, let's call her Mary. People with cancer tend to automatically click, this case was no different. This woman knew my story through the grapevine, but I had not heard hers. It is a bit odd how similar our stories are despite our different types of cancer. We actually even had the same surgeon--he specializes in breast cancer and melanoma. Mary and I were discussing our issues following the lymph node dissections and the aftereffects that the surgeries have had on our bodies. Mary asked me if I use my arms in the way that I did Pre-Melanoma. I explained that I ignored my original oncologist and still use my arms and that I am actually going to the gym to try to regain the muscle that I have lost in the past year. I never know how people will respond to someone going against a doctor's orders, but Mary disobeyed her doctor too.

Mary shared an emotional memory with me today. She told me, "I remember going for radiation and the doctor said, "this may hurt. I am going to stretch your arm out but only stretch it as far as you can. It may be painful." Mary stretched her arm to a fully extended position, looked at her doctor, and said, "No. Pain is being told I have cancer. Everything stopped. Everything. That is real pain."

Mary looked at me with tears in her eyes and said, "Now I go to the gym 3 times a week and lift weights. I use those arms. That is not pain to me. I have felt real pain. This? I can handle." 

Fear, if you let it win, has the ability to stump you. It will cause you to stop living life the way that you used to live because you are terrified of jeopardizing your current healthy state. You start to think in terms of the next day, but God knows you don't plan for the next year. You are scared to make permanent plans because you don't know how you are going to feel, you don't know where you are going to be, you don't even know if you will be. Finalizing future plans is a risk because your future is so unknown.

I am talking about myself. Ask me to make a serious permanent decision and I will wiggle my way out of it. It terrifies me. How can I buy a house if I don't know if I am going to be healthy in 3 months? How will I have a baby (far in the future!) if I don't know what the scans will show in 3 months? Should I even have a baby? Why should I sign up to go back to school if there is a chance I may have to drop out because Melanoma shows its face again?

It will keep you up many of nights just thinking about those things!

I shared some of these fears with my friend Max over green beer on Saturday night. He asked one question: "Are you going to live like you are dying?" Max did not ask that question in the Tim McGraw ride-a-bull-&-go-sky-diving type of way. He meant, am I going to live day by day, not making any permanent decisions all because melanoma may show up again?

I tried to defend myself. I blurted out the statistics. I talked about the 2 more years of chemo sessions I have. I dropped names of Molemates who we have lost this year. Again, Max asked, "Are you going to live your life or are you going to live like you are dying?"

Am I?

I have felt real pain. I have had, like Mary shared, my world come to a halt. I know what it is like to actually have to face the fact that I may not survive this. I also know that I have opportunities that some of my cancer friends no longer have. I have the opportunity to not only exist, but I have the opportunity to live.

It is time to stop holding myself back just because I am scared of the future.

"I have felt real pain. This? I can handle."



valerie said...

Amazing strength for such a young woman. What a special friend you have in Max. Thank you for continuing to teach us.

Darryll said...

Chelsea, all I can say is Wow! You hit the nail on the head. I have tried not to limit myself with the excuse that I may not be around that long and thought I was doing pretty good. After reading your latest entry though I may have to rethink that. I tend to qualify commitments with "Provided nothing changes".
Thanks for sharing.

Rich McDonald said...

A short term case of "lifus interruptus" is perfectly normal and entirely rational during the year you've had, so cut yourself some slack. I'm sure you will get on with those longer term plans all in due time. Take care.

julie said...

I asked the same question of my mom - are you going to sit around and wait for the melanoma to come back or are you going to live your life? She is stage 4 in her brain. Thanks for sharing yoru story. and pictures. I pray that you it doesn't return.

RBS said...

it is so interesting that so many of us with cancer have very similar thoughts, perspectives and fears. I love reading your blog. I'm just finishing PT for lymphedema and fibrosis in my leg and groin and am amazed at how much i've improved. a month ago i thought to myself, is this as good as it's going to be ? I'm pretty active and finishing a 65 Barracuda for racing... out of the blue my radiation oncologist called and asked me how i was doing, ahh synchronicity.. I told him and he referred me to the ONE PT person in our town who knew what to do with lower extremities. and I've regained full range of motion in my leg and my strength is returning.

My 3 kids and 2 grandkids reminds me with their love that I've still got a lot of living to do. Chelsea and i went to the pistol range last friday and had a great time. no talk of cancer, death or any of those other topics that bring in the clouds.

my challenge is to look ahead and not down where i think i'm going to trip over a rock. I hope you are doing very well. thanks for all you share. "the other Chelsea's dad"

Brittney said...

I am a frequent reader of your blog, having stumbled upon it about 8months ago, give or take. Once I started reading, I just couldn't stop. I'm 25 years old and for awhile before I started reading your blog I had felt the need to stop tanning. I never was a big "tanner", only tanning for special occasions and such, but I still felt like that was too much. Once I did start reading your blog, I promised myself that I would never step foot in a tanning bed ever again and I am proud to say that I haven't:) I'm an avid "spray tanner" now:) I also have started watching my skin a lot more than I used to and making sure that I apply sunscreen when necessary to myself and especially to my little girl. Thank you for being so open with your life and sharing your story. You have definitely touched my life and helped me make the decision to stop tanning that I made. I have prayed for you often and will continue to do so:)

RBS said...

had to tell someone tonight.

we return to my medical oncologist on Friday. I was diagnosed via chest xrays with mets to my lungs this afternoon. i'll know Friday what round 4 looks like. in the meantime i'm really struggling with how to tell our adult children. I always find your blog supportive and inspiring so I'll probably frequent it more often. Here's hoping all of us get to spend long long periods of time with NED.

Chelsea said...

Oh no. I am so sorry. I don't even know what to say. What can you say to someone else in a time like this? I can understand why you would struggle with how to tell your children. I don't know them, but from what you've shared with me, I have faith they will be your best cheerleaders. My thoughts and prayers are with you. I will send extra thoughts tomorrow, friend. SENDING YOU A HUG.

RBS said...

Thanks Chels. I have the BRAF mutation of our beast so my oncologist is starting me on Zeboraf a week from this coming Monday. we are lucky to have great oncologists and both Nina (my wife) and I have health insurance so I'm double covered. Thanks for the hug and the good thoughts. Sunday is the day we'll tell the kids.

Al said...

As I've heard before and try to remind my kids every days..."make it your best day." It doesn't have to be your favorite day, but it can still be your best day!