Fifteen radiation treatments started July 20, two months after surgery and after a month of a life that felt pretty darn normal. This has been the most emotionally challenging step thus far which is weird since it’s a pretty easy ride in terms of the physical parts. It feels like I had my life back….then had to step back again. Two steps forward, one step back as the saying goes.
I am struggling to maintain a positive mental outlook right now. Don’t confuse that with “struggling to be happy”, it’s a whole different thing. If you’re interested in learning more about this philosophy (and why I have a “It’s not time to be tired” tattoo), start with googling “positive mental attitude + survival”. Also, I’d recommend Deep Survival by Laurence Gonzales and Scott Carney’s book The Wedge. Both have been quite pivotal for me over the years.
Like many others I struggle to tell people when am feeling low but am realizing that it’s better to reach out than to flail about in the negative whirlpool of thoughts that fill my head. I seriously have the best friends. These are just some of the responses I got when I posted the above photos on my Instagram story about how I was feeling. Past-Janet would have seen communicating about my vulnerabilities to a wider audience an eye-rolling ego-driven call for validation of my self worth. Present-Janet understands that sometimes I just need to lean on people other than my very closest friends and family.
One of the best things I’ve done in the past few weeks (besides watching Carly and Brad get married!) was going surfing on the west coast. It used to be something that was big part of my life but in the past 7-8 years I’ve developed a weird anxiety about it. I tried to get into the water a few years ago but struggled getting my winter wetsuit on, then once I was in the water couldn’t shake the feeling that I lacked the ability to read the ocean and didn’t belong out there. Paddled in without catching one wave and fought tears as I wrestled with my wetsuit again.
The week leading up to radiation was quite anxiety ridden so I took advantage of time on the west coast for C&B’s wedding to attempt getting in the water again. The first day was drizzly and grey (I actually love this weather), with messy, wind-blown surf. After a long dog walk on the beach with a good friend I sat in the back of my truck for several hours at Incinerator parking lot just watching and listening. For those of you who have done this, you know how one can just_sit for hours like this. It’s honestly one of the most relaxing things I know how to do. A couple of friends popped by and we continued to sit on the tailgate talking, catching up, just sitting. I spent almost all day there with no expectations to get into the water since it was so messy. It was so good for my soul.
On day three, with the encouragement of a good friend from my surfing days (thanks Mikey) I finally got into the water and had a fabulous summer-small-wave-vibe session at Flo that left me with a big grin and a lighter heart. I had a really positive interaction while I was standing at the Flo lookout trying to convince myself to get in the water… a woman came to check out the surf and we stood side-by-each for about 10 minutes without talking. She started with a little bit of small talk (“Sure would be nice if those trees weren’t there so we could check out the break behind it hey?”) which I responded to with an irritated smile and nod. More watching the water in silence. I mentioned that I used to like to stand on the log before those trees were big enough to block the view, and that I hadn’t been in at Flo in probably eight years. She turned to me with a big smile and said “It seems like a perfect day to get back in the water. I’ll buddy up with you if that would make it easier for you.” When I smiled and thanked her she said “you can do this” and walked back to her truck.
It ended up taking me quite awhile to get into the water so by the time I was heading down the stairs she was on her way back up. I thanked her for her encouragement and she said that I had looked stressed and that it always helps her to know that someone is watching her back in the water. She even offered to turn around and go back in with me. I declined but this interaction made a big impact on me. So many people are just so….good. I don’t know who she is but I sure hope one day I can return the favour.
August 10. That’s my last day of radiation and the last of my “formal” cancer treatments. There’s many months ahead of adjusting the meds I’ll be on for the next TEN YEARS (gah) but trying hard to focus on one step at a time. I would seriously appreciate some cooler days and rain if anyone has those superpowers…