The transition from spring to summer in Los Angeles is notorious for gray days. Many of them, all piled up neatly in a row somewhere between the beginning of May through, let's be honest if you live on the west side, maybe mid July. It is referred to mostly as 'June Gloom' but when occurring in May I hear it most frequently called 'May Gray.' And I LOVE a gray day. I love the fog off the ocean. I love the smell in the air that inevitably happens when this fog-or marine layer, as it is referred to out here, rolls in. It reminds me of my childhood; many days spent on Cape Cod beaches watching the Chatham fog roll in. Getting my hoodie and eating a turkey sandwich with some Cape Cod chips-SO COZY!
So, we have established I love a gray day (my bedroom has been recently painted this lovely fog gray.) What I DO NOT LOVE is living in the gray. I am HORRIBLE at it. If you don't know what I'm referring to here (because you're not a control freak like moi), the whole living in the gray thing is about NOT being black and white. I like things definitive. I like answers. I like yes or no. This situation I'm in is all about the gray. I am working on it every day, and I think I'm getting the hang of it, but that old patience problem I have rears it's ugly head a WHOLE lot. I have to say I owe my lack of patience a WHOLE lot too though, my life even. It has driven me forward through INTENSE frustration, through INTENSE exhaustion, through INTENSE emotional pain. Because I never had the patience with myself to live whatever negative way I was feeling, I didn't want to sit in it. It doesn't mean we can always control that. I am stubborn as a mule, so if I get a feeling it does not like to leave me. It likes to marinate and stew around, especially the negative feelings. They have a way of doing that. But also sometimes you NEED to sit in it to process it, not just intellectualize it away (I happen to be particularly good at this one).
Here's the deal with Stage IV Metastatic Breast Cancer, and this is a big one that I feel most people don't understand so I am going to give it some space here:
STAGE IV METASTATIC BREAST CANCER IS AN INCURABLE DISEASE.
As of now.
It doesn't mean I don't hold out hope for the future. My current treatments seem to be doing their job. Between the chemo and all the holistic work I do, my cancer, in the words of my N.P. is "melting like butter." So why the trouble with living in the gray? Let's take out the fact that just in general I am not great at it. So it's a skill I'm learning and am in process of (aren't we all). But with my recent good news I have felt a pressure to feel intensely happy and celebratory. Not necessarily an external pressure, but when people ask or mention it I feel like I SHOULD be happier about it. But then I remember the above statement, and you know that this disease can rear it's ugly head at ANY time. I truly truly believe I can control this disease for a good long time, but that doesn't mean when you see a statistic about your disease it doesn't make your stomach turn. Or when another girl you know who has the same disease you do has either passed away or has a scan with more progression. I was the girl with the scary scan results in January and the AMAZING scan results in May. That can be kind of a-excuse my language here (sorry Gram) MIND FUCK. To say the least. I feel as if I've been in this pretty intense transitional period. I made my helpers back off a bit so I could test my limits and find a new routine for myself. One in which I feel like I have some sort of control over my own life. This disease strips so much of that from you, the CONTROL. I do not subscribe to the idea that I was ever really in control of everything but you have a certain amount of control over your daily life when you're healthy. Yes we all have situations in which we get "stuck" but coming from my personal experience the "stuck" I felt very intensely for years went away when I made a choice to change my life. That choice came about because I got CANCER. I do not take my reason for my life change lightly. It CATAPULTED me forward because I felt my choice got taken away from me and this was something I could do to help. But I can't help the fact that I will always have a Stage IV diagnosis. That doesn't go away. So how do I live with it if I can't change it? Or control it?
So yes, I have all these lovely thoughts about moving forward, and releasing control and changing my life, etc. And they're real. I really do feel them. I really do thank cancer for the positive changes it brought to my life. I thank it and then ask it to kindly keep "melting like butter" (read; fucking off). But how do I live in that day in and day out without my FEAR being the driving force. I still have to endure treatments which aren't fun. Yesterday my little angel of a band mate, Angela came and hung out with me for 8 hours to get two chemotherapy drugs infused into me, along with steroids, allergy meds, etc. We also had to sit for a blood transfusion because my hemoglobin refuses to come up (no matter how many grass fed steaks I grill myself!) So there's that factor, there's the factor that 90% gone doesn't mean 100% gone so I still DO have active cancer in my body. And I am on treatments for them and those treatments greatly impair my ability to participate in day to day activities out in the world. Within a 22 day cycle I have about 4-5 days that I feel good enough to take care of most of my home stuff and possibly make it out twice for more than a quick dinner. And I try to take advantage when I feel good but then fear and guilt rear their ugly heads and I wonder if it's what I SHOULD be doing. Living in the gray is about deleting that word, that SHOULD word. What I should be doing is enjoying every minute I am alive! And I do try! And I am thankful every day. But when you feel so weak and tired and almost faint several times (sometimes in one day) and worry about bathroom breaks and bone pain and doctors calls and forgotten appointments, and your brain is FRIED from the drugs they give you (chemo brain and hormone therapy F your memory up) it's HARD to see the POSITIVE and know that today really truly is, TEMPORARY. Especially when you're on your 10th day in a row feeling crappy.
I am thankful every day. I'm in a bad situation but I know I'm incredibly lucky within that bad situation. I have lots of friends and family that donate their time and money to help me. I am on a treatment plan that is currently working, which means I get to be here longer than I thought I would be a few months ago! These are all positive things. I hope my brain can catch up at some point and stop living in the "Fight or Flight" mode and move nicely into the gray zone. Let's be honest, was anything ever really black and white in the first place?