I guess it depends on what you’re counting. Thirty-six jelly beans? That’s a decent amount. Thirty-six grains of sand? Hardly anything. Thirty-six seconds? Probably already gone since you started reading this.
Time is a funny thing, you know. As I get older, I swear that it moves faster and yet each day itself feels like slogging through quicksand. I look at that number, that 36, and my mind denies it. It cannot be. It can’t be that long, can’t be that many. Thirty-six months.
Thirty-six months of hoping and then having each of those hopes shattered, one by one. How many times can a person have their hopes smashed before they themselves break? Before hope abandons them completely?
Thirty-six months of “trying to conceive.” That’s three whole years. Three quarters of ourmarried life.
In thirty-six months, not once has that damn pair of pink lines appeared. I am disappointed. I am angry. But mostly I feel despair. I feel like an idiot for getting my hopes up for two weeks every single month, only to have them dashed again and again.
My doctors remain positive. I’m still young – at least compared to many other women at the fertility clinic. I’m only thirty years old. The treatments are working, at least on paper. But not working well enough, because I’ve never conceived, not once in my life. “Close” only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades.
A few months ago, my psychiatrist asked me, “What does the future look like?”
I froze. He was asking me to peer right into a dark truth that I’d been avoiding with all my might. A dark truth that coats everything, blurs everything, muffles everything I do.
“That depends,” I managed to whisper, “on whether I ever get pregnant.”
“And if you don’t?” It was a gentle prompt, without malice or indifference.
“If I don’t… I don’t know.” That’s what I said. What I was thinking was: I can’t see that future. I don’t want to see that future, I refuse to look at it. My mind shies away from thinking about it.
I’ve heard stories about the realities of the discovery, but never really internalized them because the journey was never that personal. It was always a distant family member of a friend. The degree of severity was never actually driven home until I became a member of the club.
Now, I have multiple myeloma.
I thought long and hard for about a week about I would, and how to, share the news. My wife and I had to explain it to our teenage kids. We had to explain the realities of my upcoming chemotherapy. We had to explain that “Dad may not be his usual self” for a while. I smiled all through the discussion. After doing so, and studying the varying communities where I chat and play, it occurred to me that a cancer diagnosis is not a widely shared struggle. Most do so surrounded only by the closest of family and friends.
Honestly, that’s just not me.
In a previous life, I was a master karate instructor. I only retired back in 2012. At my prime, I used to tell my students that if I can inspire just one person to keep training and become a black belt, then I’ll feel accomplished at my work. While I left the practice to focus on my family, a lot of black belts now claim me as an early influence.
So, I took the same approach with this cancer diagnosis and started posting about it on Twitter and Facebook. If, in my journey, I can inspire just one person to fight back, then I’ll have contributed. Yes, I’m going to make this personal. Yes, I’m going to push past this and live a long life. Yes, I’m going to take you along for the ride. If you don’t want the details, don’t read my posts, unfollow me on social media; but SOMETHING I say just may light a fire under someone and convince them to not give up.
I used to say that the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life was running a triathlon. Then it was taking my Master’s test in karate. Then it was maintaining a good marriage. Then it was raising two healthy kids.
Today, I realized my whole life has prepared me for the challenge of cancer. Y’all come along for the ride.
Aunt Becky challenged me to write an “I Will” post… Here’s my crack at it:
This is a year of major changes for me. The title is paraphrased from a book by one of my favorite authors, Maeve Binchy, who died a few years ago. One of the lessons I’ve taken from her books is that kindness matters and change is sometimes incremental, but the opportunities to change abound.
First the Goals:
Meet Baby (due end of June)
Complete Probation (October, possibly sooner)
Complete the 12 steps (currently on Step 4, which sucks, but I am finding valuable)
Start School (Sign Language Interpreting Program)
Graduate Treatment (possibly this month?)
Move into my own apartment (hopefully by March)
Stay sober (110 days and counting)
Practice healthy boundaries – especially removing unhealthy and negative people from my life and saying “no” to things that jeopardize my values/goals/self
Re-engage with Church
Learn to manage anger without becoming self-destructive
Stay Present and Enjoy the Journey
Practice Forgiveness – especially of myself
Never Stop Learning
Make good choices (especially financial ones)
Daily Maintenance (this is a concept from NA – aka The Four Simple Things: 1. pray honesty, out loud; 2. talk to another addict, preferably one sponsor or someone else with more clean time, honestly; 3. read literature daily; and 4. do something nice for someone else).
When you comment on my posts that you understand, or you’re sorry, or that you love me? That may be the only positive experience I have that day. I know I SHOULD live for myself, but I can’t. So I live for you. To tell my life experiences. The things that made me who I am.
Dealing with PTSD, childhood sexual abuse, suicide, prematurity, abuse, horrible (now-dead) parents? Is a load of fun. (Sorry, sarcasm is my primary language.) By sharing stories of my mother’s suicide and my own self-hatred, your love and support makes my life a little more bearable. Every single one of you.
The Band, each and every single one of you is awesome, and I love all of y’all!! Thank you for sharing your stories. The ones that we all smile reading. But especially the ones that make us lose our shit. Because you’ve been there, survived, and lived to tell the story. Thank you, Band.
Your love is the only unconditional love I’ve ever received.
I have spent the majority of my life feeling like a living, breathing, science project. I remember spending a good portion of my childhood in the hospital.
My asthma is further compounded by a congenital defect in my bronchial tubes referred to as ‘pig bronchus.” My life-threatening allergic reactions; seriously who the f*ck is allergic to tomatoes of all things? Tomatoes by the way, are in almost EVERYTHING. Or my surgeries, of which I’ve had one surgery per year.
I almost died on three separate occasions – twice coded as an infant before the doctors discovered one of two major congenital birth defects. That one was an anominant artery – my aorta was crossed over my trachea – and once after surgery when I was eleven and Nurse Dumbass gave me too much morphine and put me into respiratory arrest.
Every time it seems like I’m coming out on top, something inevitably drags me back down, reminding me: ‘hey @$$hole, let’s not forget that you’re the bubble girl.’
As hard as it is, though, I’ve decided that no one is allowed to feel bad for me. I’ve had almost thirty years of that, and it really doesn’t accomplish much. I’ve decided that when life pushes me, I’m going to push the f*ck back, because I’m no one’s bitch.
Here from my aforementioned blog is a little gem I call “On The Contrary” written by moi.
Two congenital birth defects
They said ‘She won’t’
Life threatening allergy & exercise induced asthma
They said ‘Never’
I finished two 5K races
19 surgeries in 28 years
Won’t slow me down
Diagnosed with Endometriosis in high school
I was told ‘Unlikely’
Their names are Michael Julien and Mýa Renée
Years of unhealthy and abusive relationships
I was blessed with him
14 years of unhealthy eating, skewed body image and relentless self doubt