Posts Tagged ‘life’

Vulnerability. Submission. Trust.

July 1, 2010

Vulnerability.  Submission. Trust.

Those are the messages my little rescue foster dog is sending when she lays on her back and shows her tummy.  And I am gentle and I smile and I rub her tummy and tell her she is a good girl.  And she is rewarded for her trust.

How different I felt  thinking about lying on my back and showing my tummy when I was schedule for abdominal surgery for cancer.  Vulnerable, yes.  Submissive, yes.  Trusting–kind of. About to be violated–totally.

Even after spending many years working in the operating room, it felt so uncomfortable and scary to know it was my turn.  It’s not like I wear a two piece swim suit or show off my abdomen, so just having it exposed is a little embarrassing.  But, then to have it cut open, to have all the things that are supposed to be inside taken out and evaluated and handled, and some of it removed, and then everything put back in just felt scary and, more than vulnerable, it felt violating.  Strangers would know more about me, would have seen more of me, than those closest to me–than even ME!  There would be no hiding behind clothing to look better, no masks to wear or stories to tell.  These people would be able to see me to my very core.  And, it wasn’t that I didn’t trust the doctors and the team to know what they were doing.  I did.  But, I wouldn’t be there to see if they accepted my offer of submission, if they could accept my tummy with a smile and a message that I am ok.

And, it has affected me since the surgery.  The part of me that read the operative report and saw the words “obese”, the part that recognized the extra steps necessary during surgery to make sure I was ok in spite of complicating factors– all those parts of me just wanted to know that I was ok, that I was a “good girl”, that my trust was rewarded with caring and acceptance.

And then, this past week I came across a wonderful book that documents  a woman’s journey with abdominal cancer that required major abdominal surgery.  A passage in that book so moved me and so opened the door to understanding the vulnerability and reward that goes with the trust, that it brought tears to my eyes and heart.

On page 131 in Between Me and the River: Living Beyond Cancer: A Memoir by Carrie Host, she writes:

“I’m telling him, ‘I’m just really scared, I feel like they’re just going to slice me open like a fish.  It will be so violating, in every way.  My solar plexus…well..I’ll just be lying there, cut wide open, totally exposed in the worst way.’…As usual Dr. Gottlieb is not in a hurry to rush for words… Calmly, he proceeds to describe surgery for me, as only he could.

‘Actually, during a surgery where they are working to save a person’s life, it can be spiritual in many ways.  The operating room itself is bright, clean and quiet.  There is light everywhere. Your body will be meticulously draped to cover everything but the area that they will be working on.  Every tool and necessary object is in its place, waiting to be used.  The doctors and nurses are standing in a kind of circle around you, with the anesthesiologist at your head, all focused on the same goal.  It is a powerful and moving sight.  I invite you to imagine that when Dr. Nagorney opens your abdomen, it will then be flooded with light.  Then still more lights will be added to that.  I have observed a number of surgeries and many of them are really beautiful.'”

And I remembered my experiences working in the operating room.  How reverent and non-judgemental we felt, how focused on making things right we were.  It really is a healing circle, bringing in healing light.

I have come to realize that I was vulnerable and I trusted that I would be safe at a time I couldn’t trust my own body to keep me safe.  And, I got the smile and  tummy rub and  “good girl”.  My surgeons created a way for light to enter my body—healing bright white light.  What a gift.  So, thank you to the surgeons and surgical teams that understand the power of bringing light to those vulnerable areas shrouded in darkness, to smile and rub our tummy and let us know we sere safe in our vulnerability, that is was right to trust.

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It Was All in My Head

June 8, 2010

In my continuing quest to take my life back and own my body, rather than being controlled by my body, I made a momentous decision.  I committed to training with a group of Cancer Survivors to participate in the Danskin Triathlon.  Little did I know how profound that decision would be.

At almost 90 pounds over my ideal weight, way into middle age (55 years old) and a body experiencing the difficulties that accumulate from life (back injury, surgery, broken bones, etc.), I got off my rather expansive butt and decided to do something different.

Like many overweight people, I was uncomfortable with the thought of working out with “athletes” and figured I would be “different”, perhaps even laughed at or, at best,  tolerated and I knew I would not be able to keep up with most, if not all, of the others in the group, but I put that aside and did it anyway.  What I discovered: all of that was in my own head.  No one laughed, no one tolerated, no one “put up” with the fat girl.  They were supportive and enthusiastic and willingly accommodating.  The coaches, the other participants, everyone just wanted to see everyone else succeed.  How incredible!

So, train I did.  For 12 weeks.  And then, the day of the Danskin arrived (I would say dawned, but the Danskin started long before dawn).  We arrived in the dark (5 am) to set up for the day. The triathlon included a 1/2 mile lake swim, a 12 mile bike ride (open road, hills, you name it) and a 3.1 mile walk/run on grass through fields and over dale.  Oh, yeah.  Did I mention I have asthma?

But, what I really want to share is that I DID IT.  Those people I was so afraid would laugh at me and be so much better than me–the ones that often, in my mind, kept me from making the choice to make a difference–those people didn’t laugh at me or abandon me.  Those people stayed with me and supported me and allowed me to support them, each in our own way.  And, we all finished.  It took 3 hours, 58 minutes and 43 seconds to finish the course and finish it we did. I did it while still almost 75 pounds overweight, 55 years old and with all the same problems, but I DID IT.

It brought home to me how ridiculous the self talk and embarrassment and all the reasons I gave myself to not do something are.  It was all in MY head.  Everyone has something they must overcome and everyone has the talk in their head.  The key is to step outside the internal chatter and just do it (do I sound like a Nike commercial here?).  I know, at least for me, it was easier said than done.  But then, I look at the wonderful people who journey with cancer and journey with obesity and journey with asthma and journey with back injuries (you get the idea), and still do it.

And, now, I, too, am one of those people.  And you can be too.

Come join me on the journey to just do it, to take control back over your life and your body and please, along the way, share your journey so we can experience your triumphs and support you and welcome you back to a place of controlling your own destiny.

P.S.  This post is dedicated to Capital of Texas Team Survivor.  You go, ladies! You are incredible.

As Mother’s Day approaches, I hear my mother and grandmother whispering.

May 6, 2010

In honor of Mother’s Day and to acknowledge my mom and my grandma, who I am missing a lot today, I share this poem.

Visitation
Deborah Gordon Cooper

On Tuesday
in the produce aisle,
choosing my oranges by feel
and by their fragrance,
I hear my father
whistling in my ear.
A Scottish lullaby.
Everything else stops.

There is a tenderness no border can contain.
A web that may be glimpsed
in certain, unexpected plays of light, or felt
like a shawl
across one’s shoulders
laid by unseen hands.

There are sounds in other decibels
the heart can hear
when the wind is right
and the mind has quieted its clicking.
The border guards are sleeping
at their stations.
Spritis come and go.

The wall between the living and the dead
is as yielding as a membrane,
is as porous as a skin.
Lay your palm against it
and you can hear their voices
in your hand
and in the place where the chest opens
like a flower.

They are not far away,
no farther than the breath
and enter us as easily,
in pine and peonies,
in oranges and rain.

Guess what?–the journey never ends.

March 16, 2010

It’s been almost 16 months since I was diagnosed with uterine cancer.  It’s been almost 15 months since I had the surgery and was told “we think we got it all.”  For a brief time, we created a blog to follow my journey, but then realized we just couldn’t focus to keep it up.  And then, it seemed like it was done and no one would be interested.  Except, it isn’t done.  Cancer is never done.  And so, I realize it is important to share with others the continuing journey.  There is no destination except living to the fullest.  So, I want to share with you, periodically, the continuing journey of life after cancer treatment, how life has changed and how normal is redefined during this journey.  I also want you to share your experience with the journey: before, during and after treatment (maybe especially after)–when life is supposed to return to normal (what is normal?) and how normal has changed for you.

I hope we can make this a place to share our stories and support during the journey.