Right out of the gate I will admit that this post will not be easy to write, nor will I be able to express all that I want to in a single entry. I do know I need to provide a bit of back story for emotional context.
I have always been a very independent person; not necessarily by design, rather by necessity. My parents were divorced and mom died when I was 11. I moved around a lot, lived with my dad several times, family members, friends, etc. There were a lot of different households I lived in before I turned 18, and a lot of abuse. None of the specifics of any of those years hold relevance today, other than they allowed me the opportunity to grow strong, independent, and resilient. I found ways to protect myself and learned to cope most frequently through a process of dissociation. It is a practice I carried with me into adulthood, and it served me well on several occasions. You see, it is a good way to escape the present moment until the present moment is acceptable. However, it also works well to demand isolation from everyone who is emotionally close. For me, this technique was always easy, I never had anyone to lose, as I was single into my 40s.
At 42, I met the man who is now my husband, partner, best friend and #1 fan, most certainly not the person I ever want to push away. He is the reason I am doing all I can to learn new coping mechanisms and healthy outlets for emotional catharsis. I never realized how often the feeling of being overwhelmed would wash over me or how easily it would be triggered. Today I went to a clothing store to look at a chemo bag to carry to my treatments (starting a week from Friday) and some scarves, to prepare for my soon to be bald head. Something is needed, winter is COLD and blustery here in South Dakota! I found a really ugly bag on the clearance rack that had all the organizational compartments needed (who cares if it is ugly, right?) to keep all the items I will need during chemo at my fingertips. Then I saw the price tag, $67.50 on clearance. Time to keep looking. So I decided to focus on scarves. Walking through the aisles of endless scarves, all “on sale” and still ridiculously priced, I knew I was in over my head (pun intended) and my heart sank and I left the store in tears. I don’t wear hats or scarves, never have, I have no idea how to wear them, tie them, wear them together, none of that. And the prices? Sheesh. Cancer hit during the only time in my adult life that I am not employed full time with group health insurance, so when I saw a tag of $67.50 for an ugly bag (it really was a horrid color) and $38 for scarf it frustrated me beyond measure.
I pulled myself together after leaving the store, reminded myself who I am, and made a new plan. I was not going to be beaten by an ugly bag or an overpriced piece of fabric that You-Tube will eventually instruct me how to tie into a nifty turban or similar style. I found a consignment store and purchased 9 scarves and a nice leather bag for less than $40. Yay me.
The point of elaborating on this morning’s shopping events is just to identify how even the smallest of elements can make me want to turn tail and run. I don’t have to be a genius to know that what lay ahead of me will not, by any stretch of the imagination, be small or trivial. And running is no longer an option. I believe my biggest fear in this entire ordeal is not losing my hair or even my breast, but losing the man I love by trying to save myself. He is so supportive of me and goes way beyond to make me feel loved and cared for (he has already shaved his head in solidarity) that I know my fears are unfounded in current reality. I told him my thoughts and feelings in regard to emotional escapism and he says I can go wherever I need to go, he will be here for me when I get back.
That is a good man, and I’m still afraid of what lies ahead of us.
One bite at a time, this will be a big elephant…