Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Post-Traumatic Stress of Cancer

As you guys can tell, I haven't been posting much. I've been trying to soak up as much life as possible. There's so much to see and do and experience. Half the time it's just around my own neighborhood, but also, since I've completed the years of Chlorotoxin, I'm free to eat and drink whenever I want. I don't have to administer medicine every four hours, and it's freeing. It's been weird, and a daze and a miracle and a gift. To feel human again, and "normal".

It took a few weeks to absorb it. I kept withholding food and water because the treatment protocol had been ingrained into my system. To be able to drink water whenever I want, all day every day, has been the most exciting thing. It's not that the treatment protocol was so hard, necessarily, but to go without water for four to five hours a day when dehydration triggers seizures has certainly been a challenge over the past two years. It was debilitating. The only thing that I fear more than a seizure is a recurrence, just to put it in perspective.

Honestly, I'm literally terrified every second of every day. I'm able to shove it off and distract myself and breathe and align myself with gratitude, but that when the night falls, when silence creeps across the threshold, my mind gets louder and louder. The cracks in my brain, the hot spots, the unique headaches, start talking. They nasally laugh and tell me in their jackal voices that I can think I'm winning, but they know something I don't. They scoff and trip my walking mind. They tell me I'm dying, that everyone with this cancer dies.

So I don't sleep well. I read my books, my lids drag down. I turn off the lamp, I sigh that deep sigh, and I start to drift. And just between thoughts and fantasy, my body jerks and tenses. My pores prickle and sweat. My heart races, my head spins with delirium. I think of everything wrong that I've eaten, every supplement I forgot to take that day. I kick myself for not exercising, for not taking my care more seriously. Because the truth is that I'm not as diligent as I used to be. My diet is not on point, I am not the machine I once was. I want to live, but at the same time I want to LIVE.

I don't think I'm alone in the late night self loathing. I don't think I'm alone in the late night overthinking. I wish it was something I could turn off, and boy do I try, but it's in my psyche. It is who I was from the time I was in the womb. It's in my core, and as much as I meditate, as much has I repeat my mantra, "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." It's not enough, this doubt, this overactive mind is on a cellular level.

So I live, and I ride my bike, and go for walks with my walking group. I garden, and laugh with friends, and play with our dog, and snuggle with my cat. I paint, and I continue to be awe of the fortune of my life, my health. But deep down, I continue to be scared. My body has memories of pain, a deep sadness, the fear of death, the throwback of when I was diagnosed, when I was awake and they were cutting into my brain. The flashbacks to the recovery, relearning how to read and use a knife. I feel great, I love my life, but I have post-traumatic stress that I live with, and can't seem to fix. And the fear is that I don't know if I ever will.

Thank you to the sweetheart who anonymously commented on the blog on the 4th of July weekend wishing us a wonderful holiday. It made me feel incredibly special. We went up to Friday Harbor our hometown to spend time with friends and family. It was magical. We even got out on a friend's boat to do some fishing and were surrounded by a pod of Orca whales. It is not lost on me that I was raised on a piece of heaven. Friday Harbor is a panacea to my soul.


6 comments:

  1. Ugh, I wrote a long comment but it didn't post it. Call me if you want to chat because I feel exactly the way you do.

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    1. Crap. It's nice to have camaraderie, but I wish it wasn't such a universal issue for folks. We need to catch up regardless! I'll try and call this next week.

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  2. I wished you a Happy 4th of July and I am so glad it made you feel special. I want to wish you every day be as special as you are.
    My husband is brain tumor survivor. I check your blog almost everyday.
    We keep you & your family in our prayers. You truly are a beautiful young lady in heart & spirit, Jessica. I am so glad to hear you went to Friday Harbor :-)

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    1. Thank you so much! And cheers to your husband, that is fantastic! The fact that you are making the choice to check on me makes me feel so good. Thank you for spreading your love. I will pay it forward to others in your honor. That's the beautiful thing about life, happiness, and kindness leave exponential paths. Sending you guys love!

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  3. I love the people who love you Jessica and whose hearts you hold near and far even if your eyes have never met! This will sound wacky, but just 20 minutes ago I was thinking of you and wondering if you grapple with PTSD after all the you have endured. I knew I needed to check your blog and there were many of the ponderings that were just in my head! I am so sorry that this is a reality for you. I wish, as I always do, that I had powers to change this for you...for everyone. I know fear, in a different way and for different reasons of course, but if can haunt us to our core. I love that your honesty resonates with so many. Not because I want them to ever feel pain, but because you give them a gift of validation and clarity. Your worthiness, compassion and devotion is beyond measure and somehow, you will forever be a part of my life now. I gain so much strength from you and I hope that you know with all of your heart that you never have to be perfect to be forever loved and accepted by me. I wish you more moments of peace and each and every day!
    Much love, Maleka

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    1. Maleka, the fact that you are spending time to read my blog and encourage me is just astounding. You are going through so much and here you are wondering and worrying about me. Your thoughtfulness is unending. I think about you every day. PTSD is a real issue for many people who go through major things. It just didn't really occur to me until I started analyzing the triggers, and the stress levels and stuff. Anyway, thank you for the comment. Sending you so much love!

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