ULTIMATELY CHANGING BAD FOR GOOD

Yesterday was the sixth anniversary of my sexual assault.

And while I still feel the need to acknowledge it, I can say in all honesty that 24 September 2011 is no longer the worst day of my life.  Unfortunately that title now goes to 7 August 2017.  That is the day I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Neither of these events are things it ever occurred to me that I would have to deal with in my life.  Ever! And yet both have found their way into my experience.  The really weird thing is there are so many similarities between the two: neither were expected; I was/am fighting for my life; my body was/is in total shock; I had to/I have to now learn a new way to be, figure out a new ‘normal.’  Also, my startle response, which has never gone completely away, is back with a vengeance.  All I can think is, how did I not learn these lessons after my attack and why do I have to go through it all again, albeit from a completely different event?

What I really would like to do now, though, is change my mindset around my current situation.  To me, this means thinking about it in completely different terms.  For example, I am refraining from calling the chemotherapy that is running through my body as poison.  Instead, I think of it as the sweet elixir of life that is shrinking my tumor away to nothing.  Instead of lamenting that I cannot walk as far or play tennis for as long, I am doing my best to enjoy being able to rest during this time.  I know when it is all over, my strength and stamina will return.  I’ve always been more of a go-go-go-all-the-time kind of person, so this is simply as opportunity to relax and slow down.  Instead of wondering what I did wrong or what I may have done to deserve this, I am learning to accept that I did nothing wrong nor did I do anything to deserve this, it just happens and, unfortunately, it happens to millions of people.  All the care that I’ve taken up to this point most likely has saved me from far worse diseases, and will play a huge role in my beating and defeating the cancer I do have.

I am very fortunate.  I have a loving, supportive husband. I have great doctors and nurses and all kinds of support from family and friends.  I have people sending prayers and positive, healing energy to me from all around the world (thanks Facebook!)  So as much as I hate what I am going through, as hard as it has been on my body and will most likely continue to be, I am actually very, very lucky.

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NEVER A DULL MOMENT IN MY LIFE

Is this a good thing?  Well, at times it can be very exciting.  At others, not so much.  It seems I barely get through one thing and another rears its not-so-pretty head.  I do believe that everything happens for a reason, and that whatever it is, it moves us along our path.  Take my sexual assault–I knew right from the moment it happened that it would teach me many things, that it was, in fact, necessary to get me to the next phase of my life.  And as difficult as it was, I was okay with it.  Truth be told, though I am 98% healed from that whole ordeal, I still have certain triggers that set me off and either make me cry or really piss me off.  I am beginning to realize this may be a life-long thing, that I will never be 100% over it.  This, too, is okay.

For what is happening now in my life, however, I am definitely not seeing the big picture yet.  I know I am still in shock, and it still does not seem real.  Two weeks ago I was diagnosed with breast cancer.  This is something I never, ever, ever thought would happen in my life.  I have no family history of any type of cancer.  I am super active and have been my entire life; I mostly eat very cleanly, though I definitely have a serious sugar addiction, which I fight sometimes more successfully than others.  Still, overall, as my wonderful husband put it the other day, “You look too beautiful and too healthy to be sick.”

Currently I am being biopsied and ultrasounded and MRId and PET scanned and poked and prodded to make sure I am, in fact, as healthy as I look.  The type of breast cancer I have is very rare; I am triple positive, which as I understand it means that estrogen, progesterone and a hormone called Her2 are over-expressing and have caused a tumor to form.  As of right now, I begin chemo on Tuesday.

I have told very few people of my diagnosis, until this very moment, that is.  I am still getting used to it and talking about it makes it more real, which I don’t want it to be.  My reason for sharing this with all of you is I am asking for your prayers.  I do know that prayer is powerful and I need all the help I can get.  Thank you in advance.

So begins another journey I do not wish to be on.

TIME CHANGE

Most everyone set their clocks back an hour this past Sunday.  It is my favorite day of the year.  Whenever I tell people this, they look at me like I’ve lost my mind.  The reason it’s my favorite day is the day seems endless.  Or at least it used to when I’d wake up at my usual time, but instead of it being 5a, it was now 4a, and I’d get up and walk for 2 hours, which is 8 or so miles, and when I’d get it home, it was only 6a.  The entire day would go like that.  It would seem so much later and it would only be, like 10:30a.  Now, though, because I don’t really walk in the dark anymore, when I wake up super early, I don’t want to get up, because, really, what am I going to do?  This last Sunday, I woke up and realized I couldn’t get up and walk, not because of the darkness, though it wouldn’t be that way for long, but because I have beach yoga on Sunday mornings at 9:30 and I walk to it, which is about 2 miles.  And then afterwards I walk home.  So I am getting a nice walk and yoga, and a 4-6 mile walk before that seemed silly.  So I went back to pretend sleep.  Pretend sleep is what I do when I don’t want to get out of bed because it’s either dark or cold or both.  I’m beginning to think I was a bear in a past life, and that’s why all I want to do these days is hibernate.

It is very strange, but before the time changes, and before we have nighttime temps in the 50s, I have no problem getting up.  Now, it’s a completely different story.  I so do not want to get out of bed because it’s cold, freezing actually, in my house.  It doesn’t help that I have to sleep with my ceiling fan on to help with my stupid hot flashes, so not only is the house cold (no insulation, typical in old California houses) because it’s cold outside, I have the extra breeziness from my fan making it even colder.  In past years, I used to sleep with my workout clothes on so that all I had to do on our chilly mornings was put my shoes on, that way avoiding being naked to get dressed.  If I tried that now, I would cook myself, even without the electric blanket because of those stupid hot flashes I already mentioned.  It is quite a dilemma.

I also realize that any of you reading this while living someplace other than Southern California, someplace where it is actually cold, will probably be rolling your eyes and saying this isn’t cold.  I’ll be the first to agree that it isn’t cold, but I am the world’s biggest wimp when it comes to being cold.  Besides, it’s all relative.  I lived in Chicago for 10 years, so I definitely know cold, and this is, of course, nothing even close to that.  However, it’s cold for here and especially after the really hot weather we have had since we began May with 2 separate heat waves.  And this week it is hot again.  I know, I know, poor us, right?  Well, if you lived here, you’d understand.  This picture I found on Facebook might help explain it a little better:

Screen Shot 2014-11-04 at 7.18.03 AM

And I am not afraid to say I did this on Tuesday.  And I wore two jackets to beach yoga.  Of course, once I got over to the beach and into the sunshine, it was warmer. Clearly,  it doesn’t bother me to look like a dork.  I would have worn my slippers, but I don’t want to get sand in or on them.

I digress…back to the time changing…I’ve decided that it may no longer be my favorite day of the year.  I love that it is light earlier, but I do not like that it is dark by 5:30p and that will only get worse until we reach 21 December, which by the way is not the shortest day of the year.  It may be the day with the least amount of daylight, but every day is 24 hours, regardless of the light or lack thereof.  Anyway, getting up when it is dark and cold is just too much for me.  And I do it anyway.  Just this morning (and Tuesday) I met a friend to walk at 5a.  According to my phone it was 61 degrees, though my thermometer said it was about 10 degrees colder.  I didn’t look at it until I got back though, so thinking it was above 60, I wore a skort.  I was fine because we walk fast.  Now, though, I am trying to decide if I can keep it on or if I should put yoga pants on; not long pants, mind you, because it isn’t that cold…yet.   I am sitting here, wrapped in a blanket, freezing, while writing this, but it is sunny outside and going up into the high 80s again today, so even if it is little chilly on my bike ride over to the beach, the actual beach should be warm enough.  I know I have tough decisions to make, but someone has to live here and deal with this kind of stuff on a daily basis!

ONGOING ISSUES

In November, there was an article in MORE Magazine called, “A Hidden Cause of Chronic Illness,” written by Alexia Jetter.  It was about the long-term effects of domestic abuse.  I was not, nor have I ever been physically abused by a partner, BUT the information was enlightening to me.  Ever since my attack I have had one physical thing after another come up.  At first it made sense, sort of, that this was happening.  While I was in therapy and was in quite a lot of physical pain, not to mention the psychological and emotional turmoil I was experiencing, it was at least understandable that I would have stuff come up.  And, really, for the most part, my body did remarkably well, considering all I was dealing with.  The truth is, until cockroach boy was sentenced to prison, I did not get sick.  Not even when my boyfriend did get sick (now I know it was my attack that caused this) and stayed that way for close to 2 months, and even with all the time I was spending with him then, I never got sick.  So when I did get sick after the court date (just a cold, but annoying nonetheless, especially because it was summer,) it made perfect sense that the entire 9 months before, my body was, essentially, keeping me where I needed to be to get myself healed.  And if you’ll remember, 5 days after my therapy was finished, my back went out and I spent 96 hours not being able to move at all.  Again, I realized that my body had been holding onto the physical trauma until I was through the emotional work and could then deal with another aspect of the entire process.  I got through that, and then about 2 months later, my boyfriend broke up with me, which resulted in more trauma, both emotional and physical.  In this case, my emotional sadness and heartache manifested itself into my foot, resulting in a neuroma in my right foot.

So I have spent the last 10 or so months having acupuncture to heal my foot.  Some people choose to have surgery to deal with this type of injury, but I opted for the alternative route.  Besides not wanting to pay for surgery, and already knowing how my body responds to surgery, there was no way I was putting myself through another traumatic experience when there was another option.  Being injured proved very challenging for me.  After my attack and the sharp decrease of my physical activity, I had had to learn how to, basically, walk again.  As I mentioned in the story of the day of my actual attack, I went from walking 60-90 miles a week to zero.  That was a huge loss.  My walking was not only my physical exercise, but it was also my praying/meditating/me time. Even after I was able to walk again on a somewhat regular basis, it was just not the same.  And then my injury occurred and I was once again sidelined.  I was still doing yoga, at least to the best of my ability, modified to allow me to practice in spite of my hurt foot.  But, at least for me, yoga will never be enough exercise for my body.  I started getting depressed again with the lack of ‘moving.’  Luckily, I realized what was going on and looked for other ways to move my body without walking.  I rode my bike to the store or uptown to the book store or library, activities I normally walked to do.  I joined the gym again, and rode my bike there, as well.  I sometimes just rode my (beach) bike around the island, though that was a more leisurely activity than anything else.  And I kept going to acupuncture each week.

After my attack, with the loss of my ability to exercise in the way I was used to, I gained ten pounds.  I was pretty much able to limit my weight gain (in that year and a half) by walking, in time, as much as was possible.  Then when Bill broke up with me almost a year ago, I gained ten more.  You have to understand that when I was attacked, I weighed 135 pounds, and at 5’10” that was thin.  So I eventually ended up at 155 (maybe even a little more, but as I do not have a scale, I am not exactly sure) which really isn’t too much for my height, but it is too much for me.  My clothes did not fit and I was not comfortable in my own body.  For me, exercise and moving my body is as necessary as food and water.  Without that outlet, I am not happy.  Something had to change.  I was still self-soothing and it was definitely taking a toll on me.  In the summer and fall it wasn’t so bad when my clothes did not fit; but once it got colder and I needed to be wearing something besides loose dresses or yoga pants, I had to make a choice to stop what was clearly not working and do something different.

What I did was a whole food cleanse with Elizabeth Hirsh and Charlette Preslar.  It was 14 days and it changed my attitude about food and my body.  I cannot say that I am exactly where I’d like to be, but I am more accepting of where I am.  Although the cleanse was not a weight loss program per se, I did lose some weight.  And I am happy to say that my jeans fit me again.  I learned a new way to eat, and though I am not 100% good, I definitely have incorporated the recipes we used on the cleanse.

Back to the article about the hidden and long-term  effects of domestic abuse…although I do not know of any studies that have been done about the hidden effects of sexual assault on our bodies, I KNOW this is the case.  Since my attack I have had more things happen and I been sick more than I have in the last 20 years.  I have no way of knowing if and when this will stop.  I am ever hopeful that, in time, these things will at least lessen.  It is very frustrating not knowing what else may come up.  All I can do is continue to put one foot in front of the other, literally and figuratively,  and believe that it is possible to completely heal.  Clearly, I am not there yet.

On 3 January this is what I wrote in my journal:  “Not sure why I am surprised that I am still healing from my attack.  Matt (this is my acupuncturist) pointed this out to me this morning. I guess I think I should be all better by now.  The mistake I seem to have made was in thinking I would be finished when my therapy was done.  Ha!  Joke’s on me, except it isn’t so funny.  I suppose the best thing I can do for myself and my state of mind/sanity is to just let go of all and any preconceived notions I’ve had or continue to have around how long or exactly the path my healing will take/is taking.  I keep thinking I’m done/it’s done and clearly this is not the case.  So, I’ll say again, I am not sure why any of this comes as a surprise.  It will take as long as it takes and no amount of wishing it were different seems to be working.  Well, rats!”