The part that no one talks about

I went to a new therapist today. I think the appointment went well and I’m doing my best to have hope that she can help me. I try so hard to be strong and “better” but the truth is inside I am broken. I’ve come to accept just how bad it is and that I cannot help myself out of this one. That is hard for me because I feel like the general population, and myself included, have a poor opinion of mental health issues. It shows weakness, it is unattractive and it’s all about failure. Prior to cancer, I had not experienced mental health issues. Of course I thought I had hard times, I thought I had struggled and knew myself well. But the past year and a half have shown me an entire new universe. This one has tested me in ways that I never knew. It is common for cancer patients to have some of their worst times after treatment is finished and I’m finding this to be the case for me.

There are really too many things to even describe, but a large part of it is my certainty that the cancer is coming back. There is not a fiber of my being that doesn’t believe it’s coming back and it is really hard to move onto anything with that in my head. I had such an amazing week on the First Descents trip to Jackson and I vividly remember coming home and trying to capture the goodness I felt. Feeling it start to slip away almost as soon as I returned home. It’s only been 4 months since that trip and I can’t even recall the feeling now. I remember that it felt like “me” and now I feel that I am gone again. I remember feeling so good and I am now keenly aware that it’s gone. I have what I refer to as “episodes” where I basically become a hermit for weeks at a time. I will stack up dozens of voice mails, not respond to emails, and not be in contact with people in any way other than required activities (taking the kids to school, etc.). During these times, I do not feel depressed in the way that I am familiar – I don’t feel sad or cry or anything, I just want to be alone. I feel numb. Aware of the world outside my window, but with absolutely no desire to be a part of it. Unfortunately I feel that these episodes are becoming more common. I’ve been making an effort to get out and hang out with friends whenever I can. I feel good when I do that so I try to force myself to take part. I’ve also been taking a pool kayak class once a week. This is really the only time when I don’t think about cancer. I love being in the water, and the pool classes are teaching me to be a lot more comfortable under the water which is important. I’m also learning to roll the kayak which is something I was terrified of so that is awesome. Last week we started doing an initial roll (called a C to C roll) and I had a lot of pain from my chest incisions. The instructor said that happens with anyone who has had chest surgery but I want to find a way to make it work. I don’t want to be held back by my physical restrictions.

I think the hardest thing for me to deal with right now is that I am so aware of the struggle but at the same time I am unable to stop it. Even when I’m having an episode, I can feel it coming, I can feel myself settling in, and I don’t want to be in it, but I can’t stop it. I feel like I’m in an ocean treading water and all I can do is keep my head high enough to breathe. I am exhausted. My arms are tired. I want to stop. I want to be better again.

I can only afford to go to the therapist every couple weeks for now, but I figure that will be better than nothing. We are still in a crazy amount of debt from my treatments. My therapist would like to see me a few times before making an official diagnosis but it sounds like I most likely have PTSD. She said there is a ton of trauma and gave me information on EMDR therapy which she thinks I will be a good candidate for. I’ve talked to a few people about it this evening and it sounds like it would be a good thing for me. PTSD is really common after cancer and I am not alone. So, for now I will continue to tread water.

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7 Responses to The part that no one talks about

  1. Jill says:

    Praying for you to feel all the support Jenn. It takes strength to get help and your life will be richer and deeper because you are getting that help. Much love to you! There is no right/wrong way to walk your path; there is only your way.

  2. Hugs!! Stop thinking that C is coming back. I have so many stories that I can tell you, where I have experienced the GRACE of GOD working in my life!!! I should, and have often said, that I should compile a book of my experiences! I would like to recommend a dose of inspiration, just for you: I just read the best book I’ve ever read. PROOF OF HEAVEN, written by a neurosurgeon… if you have not read it, and even if you already believe in Heaven, you will be riveted by this book. Very uplifting and inspirational, and is the neurosurgeon’s OWN story. I’m telling you, I could not put it down, and ever since I read it, it has planted a seed of hope, and a deeper faith in God.

  3. Kristi Mladenovic says:

    I sure have missed you at the gym. Looking forward to your return šŸ™‚

  4. Jayna says:

    Jenn,
    I wish for you a blessing of Faith in knowing that God has great plans for you! Start a journal of gratitude… I’m not saying that you’re not grateful, cuz I know you are very grateful! Go to bookstore & buy a ‘gratefulness journal’ or just a notebook. Each day write 3 things at first it will feel silly…of course you’re grateful for you kids, family, friends, becoming a survivor, etc. But soon you will see the world in new ways & you will write about how water transforms you or that the sun glinting off the snow looks like glitter!
    And… Yes, the book ‘Proof of Heaven’ is an amazing book written by a Neuro Surgeon who was brain dead & his family was about to ‘pull the plug’ & then he awoke & tells you where he went & who he met!
    And… Please know that you are not alone my dear! Ashley went into a spiral downward of PTSD. She is getting EMDR & it is helping! Never be ashamed of your journey! xoxo

  5. Sharon Larsen says:

    Jenn, I’m new to your blog (still reading it from the beginning) and while I’m not a BC patient or survivor, I get it! I have stage IV carcinoid cancer and while it is usually slow-growing, the not knowing (what it is doing) is the toughest part. You can’t help but to worry that your cancer is going to come back. Give yourself permission to feel that way. I’m glad you are seeing someone to help you work through this. I hope it helps. I’ve thought about seeing someone myself.. thank you for sharing your story with us. The kayak class sounds fun!

  6. Kristina Provinsal says:

    Hugs Jenn! Be easy on yourself, take the time you need sweet lady. I’m glad you planned a few outings and getting some help. Here is to a year of more recovery. Just because you are in the clear we all know you have to be still healing from this. Love you and your family and you are always on my mind even in your quiet corner. ā¤ ā¤ ā¤

  7. Tonya Gambin says:

    Hello from afar,
    Hello Jenn, you don’t know me, my name is Tonya. My grandmother found out on Friday that she has breast cancer. My grandmother is my life line, she raised me when my parents divorced when I was 5. My father a teacher, by all accounts an upstanding man from the outside, didn’t want to be bothered raising my brother and I, and has never been in my life (though I lived in the same house with him and his new wife from the age of 6-18, he never spoke to me, & his wife was more abusive then you can ever imagine! Just the tip of the iceburg of what has been the miracle that I am still alive). My mother was/is an alcoholic (but has never admitted it or gotten help) and didn’t have the ability to raise us. So my grandmother was literally my life line. When my step-mother would lock me outside in the winter for days, my grandmother gave me a warm place to stay, she showed me the love I had never known. After 12 years of abuse day in and day out from my father and step-mother, 7 years of abuse from my first husband, I am only now at 37 beginning my life. I have been through hell on earth for so long I never believed a happy day would be possible for me, it simply wasn’t in the cards. But she showed me how to pick up the pieces and begin again.
    Last Saturday I came across your blog. I have to admit, I didn’t know much about cancer before this weekend, but it has always been a fear in my mind. Since I received the call from my aunt on friday about my grandmother I’ve been in a dazy, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, I can’t concentrate, I can’t think. Its killing me that I can’t help her. She saved me life and I can’t do anything to help her. She is in Newfoundland and I am in Ontario, (the equilivent of her being in ME and me in OH you could say). When I hung up the phone I began researching on the internet. Yes I am very sorry to say I am/was one of the people that never really knew much about cancer, I am ashamed by that fact but there it is. Upon finding your blog on Saturday morning I have read every entry from beginning to end, cried countless times, and called home more times then I can count. You have opened my eyes and I wanted to say thank you for the privilage to read what you went through and are dealing with every day. I just wanted to say what an inspiration you are, and to thank you for opening up my world. You are an amazing person. Thank you for letting people learn from your experience, and I wish you all the best.
    Big Hugs!
    Tonya

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