I’m a liar

Have you ever wondered about the lies you tell yourself? Can we tell ourselves lies for so long that they become truths? Sometimes we desire an outcome so badly that we make it a truth just to fit this narrative. Or maybe we doubt ourselves so much that a lie becomes a reality.

What are my truths? What are my lies? Why do I feel the need to make a lie out of my truth?

I began saying positive affirmations when I was going through breast cancer.

I am happy.

I am positive.

I am worthy.

I am caring.

I am strong.

I am trusting.

I am fierce.

I am able.

I believe them. I know they are true.

I am beautiful.

I am capable.

I am talented.

I am calm.

I am assertive.

I am whole.

I am focused.

I am loved.

I want to believe them. Some days I do, some days I need reassurance.

My truths and my lies:

I am a positive person. Is this a truth or a lie? This is a truth. I am positive. I see the best in life. This can also be one of my lies. I desperately need to see the positive so much so that I often paint negatives to make them positive.

I am a happy person. That is a truth. I have down days like everyone but I don’t like people to see that part of me. I need to be seen by the outside world as happy all the time. Why? So I will be liked and accepted. If I admit I am not happy all the time – who will like or love me? The rational woman within me knows that people love me for who I am – I took to heart the admonition as a little girl that I should always keep a smile on my face

I am caring. I care about the people around me. Truly care. I love and care for my family. This is a truth.

I had cancer and handled it with strength and a positive attitude. This is a truth. The part of my breast cancer story that is a big, fat, lie is telling people that it was not a big deal; telling people that I was lucky to have only had breast cancer and not some other horrible disease.

Having breast cancer ripped me apart.

Having breast cancer devastated me.

Having breast cancer scared the shit out of me.

I maintained my perky attitude about my diagnosis because I didn’t want to face the reality of cancer. The truth in my cancer journey is that I am now a stronger and more confident person because of cancer.

I am a coward. This was a truth before I had cancer. I do not like confrontation and will avoid it at almost any cost. I avoided to the point of making myself sick. I don’t know why I got breast cancer but I do know that the stress in my marriage during that time did not help my health.

I was a good and trusting wife. This is a truth and a lie. I was an encouraging, and supportive wife. I supported my military husband through all our moves, the deployments, the new jobs, all the required activities and the new locations where we were stationed. I kept a clean, organized and attractive home. I entertained. The lie came when I no longer loved him, when he emotionally abandoned me – I could not trust my ex-husband.

I am able to be focused with my thoughts. You would think this is a truth since I am a yogi. It is very difficult for me to be still. I used to believe it was because I was an active person. When I am still I have time to think and center. Being still is when I am the most creative but it is also when I have time to think about challenges. I have stayed in motion to keep from doing this… see “coward” above. I feel safe and loved now so it is much easier to be silent. I am working hard on being still.

I am beautiful. That is always a hard affirmation for me to say. Does it make me conceited to say I am beautiful? I suppose it would if I believed my outer looks defined who I am. I believe I am beautiful because I see beauty in others.

I am loved. This is so very true. There are so many people that love and care about me. The lie in this is the fact that I did not love myself for a very long time.

It has been a journey to get to a place where I love me.

I love the woman I am now.

That is a truth.

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Route 5

Today as I was editing, revising and creating pieces of my cancer story I looked back a few poems I wrote a couple of years ago. Often I write to just get my story out. When I write for me –  I write poetry.

Here are a couple of poems I wrote during my divorce that made me smile today.  Smiles, Cat

Route 5

She woke up

Got dressed

Walked out the door and no one noticed…

Well, that’s not really true.

Maybe I should have said:

She woke up

Went to the bathroom

Fixed a cup of coffee

Washed her face

Made up her bed

Put on makeup

Made another cup of coffee

Tried on clothes till she found something that fit

Fixed school lunch for her son

Prayed with her sister on the phone

Checked email

Checked Facebook

Tried to write

Let the dog out

Made another cup of coffee

Stopped

Went to the window

E   x      h       a     l      e      d

Exhaled all the stresses and worries

She didn’t want them back

so she didn’t inhale

for

a

long time

She had to >inhale<

eventually

When she did inhale

she inhaled questions

Why?

Why is this how her life is now?

Why isn’t anything easy?

Why can’t she just leave?

For a short time

not forever

leave

She has a book on her coffee table called, “The Most Scenic Drives in America”.

She picked up the book

Opened it to anywhere…

Washington State

Olympia, WA

Route 5

She gets in her car

She drives

To Walmart

Do you exist?

I woke up this morning and felt you thinking about me.

I felt your arms around me.

I felt you kiss my neck.

I woke up this morning and felt you with me.

Did you wake me up? Or did I wake you?

Who are you?

You are not here but I can feel you in my being.

Were you made for me, like I was made for you?

Do you exist or have I just imagined you.

Have I just wanted you to “be” so much that I have created you in my mind?

Are you a fairy tale?

I have searched for you all my life.

I have needed you even when I didn’t know I needed you.

I needed you when I was searching for who I was after my parents divorced.

You could have been the one I leaned on, as my known world was destroyed.

I needed you when I was surrounded by people… but felt alone.

You could have been the person that made me feel accepted.

I needed you when I had breast cancer.

You could have been my support, you could have given me hope, you could have given me love, and you could have told me I would be ok….

You could have dried my tears and held me close.

You could have been my strength when mine was all used up.

Do you exist?

Am I creating you in my heart?

I have wanted you for a long time.

I have wanted you to hear what I have to say.

I have wanted you to warm me when I am cold.

I have wanted you to know who I am, who I really am.

I have wanted you to share my dreams with.

I have wanted you to be mine.

Could you possibly exist?

Could you be searching for me too?

Could you be loving me and not know it?

Did you wake me up this morning?

Or did I wake you?

I Wonder

I wonder what I will be doing in a year from now.

Will I be happy?

I wonder what color my hair would be if I didn’t color it.

I wonder when it will snow again.

I wonder if I could get through the day without hearing your voice.

I wonder if dogs can really understand what we say.

I wonder if I could run a marathon.

I wonder if I am a good person.

I wonder if I can be forgiven.

I wonder if I will finish write my book.

I wonder if I can be loved.

I wonder if I will ever see Scotland.

I wonder if there is anyone that would love me, as I am.

Could I be loved without having to change?

I wonder if anyone, besides my children, will ever get my sense of humor.

I wonder why people don’t feel the magic of Christmas anymore.

I wonder if I will ever own a horse again.

I wonder if there is life on other planets.

I wonder if God loves all of us, no matter what we believe and what we do.

I wonder how I got so lucky to have such wonderful children.

I wonder if I will be alone for the rest of my life.

Would I rather be alone than with someone that doesn’t love me?

I wonder how I was blessed with so many great friends.

I wonder if I will always have to make the coffee.

I wonder why my toes are always cold.

I wonder why the smell of cinnamon makes me happy.

I wonder why I wonder.

Does anyone else sit around and wonder random things?

Am I weird?

I wonder why I got cancer.

I wonder if I will ever feel safe again.

I wonder if I will always wonder.

Bald

January 2007:

They said some people on chemo don’t lose their hair. They also said that chemo patients on Adriamycin and Cytoxan always lose their hair – all their hair. I didn’t want my hair to fall out – who would I be without my hair. My hair had defined me my whole life.

The day after my first chemotherapy I had my long hair cut to shoulder length, then a week later, cut to chin length, then a day later cut into a pixy cut. I wanted some control over how I was going to lose my hair.

I quit thinking about “bad hair days” 10 days ago. The day I had chemo for the first time. The day they told me my hair would fall out on day 10. It was day 10 as I sat on the side of the bathtub; looking at myself and my hair in the mirror. I looked the same. Maybe tired and worried but outwardly, I looked the same. On the inside, that is where I had changed. I had aged. I had lost the belief that everything would always be ok. I knew what it was like to fear death. I knew what it felt like to hear that you had a disease that everyone associated with death. I knew how it felt to acknowledge your own mortality. I never wanted to have that knowledge. I wanted to retain that purity – that innocence. I sat on the side of the bathtub looking at myself in the mirror and contemplated my next move. If I took a shower and washed my hair I knew I would lose a lot more hair. If I only took a bath and tried not to touch my hair very much – maybe I would have hair for another day. Every time I touched my hair, hair fell out. When I woke this morning there was hair on my pillow. There was hair on my shoulders throughout the day. It had begun slowly falling out 3 days ago.

I sat on the side of the bathtub trying to decide if I wanted to just do it or delay it.

It was going to happen.

I was going to lose my hair.

I was going to be bald.

I could not stop my hair from falling out. I could not make the follicles stay anchored in place.   I could control when, where, and how I would lose my hair. I could control who would be with me when I lost my hair. Now was the only time I was strong enough to do it. I stood up; turned on the shower. I made the water hot, scorching hot. I needed to feel my body and know I was alive. I stood in the shower looking at the showerhead, knowing I was alive.

My chest lifted and lowered with my breath. Then I got my head wet. I could feel the water running down my back. I could feel my hair failing to the drain. I looked down at the floor of the shower. I stopped breathing. Within 30 seconds the floor was covered with hair.

My hair. What people had always admired about me. My hair. My shield from criticism because my hair was a part of me that usually didn’t bring criticism. My hair…on the floor…not on my head. I slowly reached up to see if it was all gone. I still had hair! Maybe only some of it fell out. Maybe I would still look the same, the same with only thinner hair. I grabbed the shampoo quickly. Washed the hair that remained. I couldn’t wait to get out of the shower to see if I looked the same. Maybe I would be the exception. Maybe I wouldn’t lose all of my hair. I grabbed a towel for my head. I slowly walked to the mirror. I took the towel off my head.

I screamed.

I quickly covered my head again. My daughter came running into my bathroom. She looked at me and hugged me tight. She held me like a crying baby. She rubbed my back and said, “It’s ok Mommy”. She was 16 years old. We switched roles at that point. She was the mother, I was the child. She held me until I quit shaking. She told me I was strong. She told me I was beautiful. She told me I was her hero. She told me she would always be there.

Slowly I stood up. Samantha was taller than I. She said, “Mommy, let me see”. We took the towel off my head. She looked at me, started crying too and said, “It’s just hair Mommy.   You are still my beautiful Mommy”.

I looked in the mirror at my eyes. Was I still there? There was only hair in a few places now on my head. Most of it was on the shower floor. I went to scoop it up. She said, “stop Mommy, I’ll do it later”.

I looked back at my eyes. I was still there. I thought I would see hopelessness. What I saw shocked me – I saw strength and the desire to remain strong. I had to be strong. I couldn’t fall apart or I would die. I sat down on a stool in the bathroom. Samantha shaved off the last scraggly strands.

We were both crying.

Van Halen

He left me.

He came with me.

He got me checked in for surgery at 6 a.m.

He took the kids to school.

He went to open our store.

He said he’d be back after the store was closed at 6pm.

I told him I was scared of possibly needing a mastectomy; he said don’t worry about that. If you need one, we’ll get you some hooker boobs.

Who says that to their wife when she has breast cancer?

I am scared.

Why am I here – alone?

I’d rather be alone than with him – today.

But I am scared.

Scared of the hospital.

Scared of the surgery.

Scared of the unknown.

I want to know that I will be ok.

I don’t want to know that I won’t be ok.

The surgeon plays Van Halen during the surgery.

What does that mean?

When I met my surgeon and my lumpectomy was scheduled, I asked him what music he listened to when he was operating. He was caught off guard. He was a nice but reserved man. I could tell he didn’t open up to others easily or at least not to his patients. When I asked about his music, he looked nervously around the room as his nurse laughed. I looked at him and said “don’t tell me you play head banger music or hard rock when you are doing surgery!” His nurse smiled and told me he listens to Van Halen, I looked at him, laughed and said; “well…you better bring me a shirt before we do this.”

He did. The morning of my surgery, he walked in and threw me a Van Halen shirt.

The day of the surgery was long. There were delays. I wanted to get it over with, but I knew they would get to me as soon as they could. I worried about me and I worried about the patient they were operating on that kept me delayed.

I remember the waiting.

I remember being alone.

I remember feeling like I didn’t matter.

I remember crying because he left me alone. I remember thinking how he could have closed the store for just that one day… for me. I remember knowing that he never would.

I remember being cold.
I remember the pain of the all the things that must be done before the lumpectomy.  I remember the IV insertion, I remember the placement of the locator needle in my breast and I remember the pain of the injection of the dye. No one warned me until I got in there of the searing pain of the procedure. They had to inject dye into me to find the sentinel node. I remember having to lie still as they did this procedure. I remember tears streaming down my face as I fought to hold still. I remember feeling scared and so very alone.

I remember needing to go pee all the time. I always have to go pee when it isn’t convenient to go pee. Lying in the hospital bed, in that gown, with an IV. All I can think about is I have to go pee. I just went. I have to go again. What if I pee when I am having surgery and I embarrass myself? Does that happen?

My surgery was supposed to be at 7:30 a.m. It is 11a.m. I am still alone. They were not expecting the delay so they did not have a place to put me. I am in a makeshift hospital room with a big needle sticking out of my breast. In this gown.

That is where Carol and Michele find me.

I had never been so glad to see anyone in my life.

My two dear friends – Carol the nurse and Michele the yogi.

Carol, the practical one that tells me to chill out, I’ll be fine.

I can see in her eyes that she is scared for me.

Michele is the mothering, crazy-fun one that cries with me.

She is scared for me too.

They are here.

I am not alone.

They make me laugh.

“Why do you have a wire sticking out of your boob?”

“Why do you keep going to pee? You just went.”

They hug me.

I’m not alone now.

They are coming for me.

They are rolling me towards surgery.

The nurse is smiling at me and telling me how lucky I am to have Dr. Frasier for my surgeon, he is the best.

The room is so cold.

Why is it so bright?

I don’t hear Van Halen. I guess he waits until I am out before he turns on the music.

There are so many people in here.

The anesthesiologist is telling me to count backwards from ten.

I wonder if I need to go to the bathroom one more time.

In The Fog

Standing in a thick fog.
​Feeling uncertain where to turn.
​Knowing there is something scary in the fog with you.
But not being able to move
​out of the fog.

Chemo was my fog.
I was in the fog for three months.
They call is chemo brain.
You don’t feel bad
​just not right.

Chemo every three weeks.
As soon as I would begin to see the fog lift
More chemo
​more fog.

In the fog
​you feel out of sorts.
​Disoriented.
In the fog
​you feel almost drunk.
​not that falling down drunk.
​that disoriented drunk, right after tipsy.
In the fog
​you just exist.
​waiting for it to lift.
​knowing it will return.
In the fog
​you can be sheltered from painful memories.
In the fog
​you feel the love and prayers pouring into you.
​you don’t remember the words.
In the fog
​there is a sick, kind of calm.
This is fear’s home.

January 2007

Chemo

Chemotherapy. That’s poison. You have to pump poison into my body? That is the best drug you have now to make sure all the cancer is gone? Poison … can heal me? I have to have more surgery to have a port, a permanent IV port, inserted into my body. Why does the surgery for the port hurt worse than the lumpectomy did? When do I start chemo? Can I wait until after Christmas?
I don’t want to ruin Christmas for my kids.
January 4th.
Why is this the only treatment? Why isn’t there a cure for cancer? Are the pharmaceutical companies hiding the cure so they can continue to make money on chemo drugs? I walk slowly down the hall towards the larger chemo room, A room with recliners and TV’s attached to each recliner. I don’t want to be in the big room. In the big room, there is group fear I guess that is like group therapy only more desperate. In the big room there is commiseration, people shooting up chemo drugs, talking about dry mouth, where to find the best knit caps, what their last chemo was like, how long they were sick after it. “Cathleen, you could help comfort them,” the nurses tell me. I don’t want to. I want to be alone… alone with my fear…alone with my anxiety.
As I walk down the hall, I notice the meditation room on the right, an oasis on the way to the chemo room. I never go into the meditation room for fear it would mean all of my hope was gone but I am glad the room is there, I get peace and calm just by passing it on the way to the poison. The door to the chemo room is ahead of me. I have to be buzzed in. Why? Are they trying to keep people in or out? Out I guess. I don’t have to be buzzed out. I slowly reach my hand out towards the door. I hear the buzz. I don’t want to walk in. Do I have to? Why did today have to get here so fast? Will it hurt? Why is my husband so indifferent? Why isn’t he holding my hand? Is he scared or does he just not care?
It is 7:30 in the morning. I asked to be first. There are private rooms around the sides of the chemo room. Private rooms are on a first-come basis. I want to be alone. I don’t know what to expect. I didn’t ask. They would have told me if it was painful, right? A nurse greets me. Her name is Maria. She starts walking me towards the recliners. “Can I please have a private room?” I ask. She holds my hand and says I can be wherever I feel the most comfortable. The room is nice, recliner for me, a recliner for my caregiver, and a TV on the wall. Maria asks me to sit down. I have to have two different kinds of chemo. She begins the Cytoxan first. I watch as it moves down the clear IV tube into my port. I can’t take my eyes off of it. Maria tells me they are giving me some steroids to help with the nausea and I would be getting a prescription for Zofran to help with nausea at home. I am not really listening to her. I am watching as the clear poison makes its way towards me.
I glance out the window. There is a parking lot full of cars. Where are the people going. Are they going on with their lives while I am having chemo? My husband is reading a book and watching Fox News. Why isn’t he holding my hand? The poison is now in my body. I don’t feel different yet. I’m not nauseous yet. Why is this happening to me? What if I die? Who will love my kids if I die? Will there be anyone to remind them how much I loved them? I sit there in silence. On the outside I’m still. On the inside I’m screaming, I’m scared and I’m defeated. I am holding a book. I can’t read. I can’t pretend this is a normal day. I don’t remember how long it took for the chemo bag to empty. I thought both drugs would be in the same bag. Maria came back in to remove the IV bag. She said she would be back with the Adriamycin. I didn’t understand that there was a difference. She came back with a huge syringe. It was bright red. It looked like death, bright red, poison that could eat away my skin if it got on me. I asked her why she wasn’t going to hook it up like the Cytoxan. She had to manually, slowly administer the Adriamycin. I watched her for a few minutes. She sat beside me, with the poison. I had to look away. I looked at my husband, across the room. He looked up and said, “What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing,” I choked out. I laid my head back and looked out the window. Why am I crying? It doesn’t hurt. Why are the tears rolling down my face? Normally, I would have been chastising myself for crying. Today…in the cancer center…in the chemo room…in the recliner…I let the tears flow. They flowed with fear. Fear for my own life. Fear for my children.
I silently let the tears flow. I didn’t want to be noticed. I cried. After a few minutes I noticed Maria. She had stopped administering the chemo. I looked up at her face. She was crying with me. She held my hand and told me to let her know when I wanted her to begin again. I waited. There were no more tears – for now. Maria smiled at me and finished her work. The cancer center was such a scary place but people like Maria eased the fear. As she finished
Samantha came running into the room. She took off from school to come check on me. She took one look at my face and hugged me. She squeezed herself into the recliner with me.
Another thing they don’t tell you – when you go to the bathroom after having Adriamycin – you pee red.