Holding Space

With Shelly Vaughn

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“Don’t wake me up!”

This is real. This is hard. I guess this is my “woe is me” day. And instead of waiting until it passes and posting something super postive after-the-fact, I’m sharing this today. I was reading another survivor’s blog about her cancer experience and it was totally depressing for me. (not any of you on in this group, don’t worry.) I won’t go into details, but it made me feel like I wasn’t doing enough to take control of some things in my situation. And that I “should” be doing better. And I’ve already been so bummed out with this never-ending cycle of side effects. I realized the other day that I’ve had all but one of the potential side effects from chemo (I do still have my fingernails). And there’s a snowball effect from one to the next and soon you’re lost in a cloud of “ick” and you don’t know where to start to feel better. And sometimes you can do everything under the sun for symptom relief but you just need this chemo out of your system.

So I thought I’d take a relaxing bath and maybe it would help to do some meditating. Well, I guess it prompted a cathartic cry with some deep pondering of faith issues and frustrations. And as my cousin, Toya Groves encouraged me- “keep writing”. So I’m writing it for you all and for myself, because I don’t want to sugarcoat this experience.
I’m ok. I’ll probably be fine again as soon as my silly girls come running in the house after school. But I miss my old self. I miss feeling well. I miss eating and an appetite. I miss hands and feet without neuropathy that can bend without pain. I miss energy. I miss laughing that used to come so frequently and easily. I miss life before January. And as I laid in the bath listening to Jets to Brazil, the song “Cat Heaven” came on. It was on point for the moment.
“So captain please consider me
Let the boats deliver me
When I close my eyes…drive, captain, drive!
It’s time.
For everything to be perfect
For everything to stop hurting
Don’t wake me up!”

And I thought to myself that if I laid still enough- not trying to bend my fingers, my tongue super still to not feel the sores in my mouth, deep breaths and eyes closed, I could create my own daydream. I could go back to last summer in Michigan on a perfect day at the beach where I swam with my kids and relaxed and smiled and laughed for hours. How I’d give anything for one hour of that right now. But it was just a few moments- The song ended. I opened my eyes and saw my bald reflection in the shower spout. I licked my dry lips and felt the ulcers in my mouth again. And as I sat up I felt my swollen fingers desperate to bend again. And, just as everything has perfect timing, a friend texted the perfect response in that moment: “You are stronger than this storm… even at your weakest, you got this.” Thank you, Hannah Springer for the encouragement at that moment.
So I’m here writing about it. Knowing I’ll be ok- because there will be a time when this is over and I can look back on it while I’m laughing with my kids at a beach somewhere. Ahh- now THAT gives me hope.