I started this blog with the intention of sharing fun things that I was learning and doing, along with a little insight into "Life after Divorce" and my subsequent Relocation to California. I wanted to send a message of hope to women going through similar circumstances, maybe wondering what do do next after such a Major Life Event. Because maybe they had friends who chose the "other half" of the relationship, as I did. Maybe they had family members who were confused and hurt after someone they considered to be a member of their family was suddenly extracted from their lives. Maybe they were feeling guilty that despite all of their best intentions, they just couldn't make it work. Or maybe they were the half of the couple left standing there, wondering, "Wait, what just happened?" I wanted to reassure fellow divorced gals that they'd get through it and be happy again. Because I was living proof of Life After Divorce. Right?
Then, a couple of months into blogging, I suddenly had a lot more to write about. A lot more to learn. A lot more to share. Suddenly, I needed reassuring that it was all going to be okay, that I would get through it, and be happy again. I wondered, "What does Life After Brain Cancer feel like?" I had already survived the Big D and Leaving Friends and Family in search of A New Start in California, so I was sure there must be life on the other side of a silly old brain tumor! Right?
The last couple of years have certainly presented a series of hurdles, from further divorce drama to crappy cancer to the latest blow: bankruptcy. Jeez, what's next, Universe?When could I get on with it, already?
But I was starting to notice a trend: Stuff just keeps happening! One obstacle after another, then another? Get to "the other side" of one hurdle and there's something else waiting? Wait a minute - that can't be right! Could it?
So it struck me that maybe I had it backwards: You don't get through Stuff to get to Life, but Stuff is what makes Life. Maybe instead of looking at it as a series of hurdles to overcome, why not think of it as all just ONE CRAZY EXPERIENCE. Sort of a winding, connect-the-dots path, leading me from one (sometimes BIG) experience to the next; ultimitely writing the story of my life, creating the ever-evolving, new-and-improved, latest version of ME. Right!
So I hate to break it to everybody, but Stuff is part of Life, and Life, well, it just continues. As people have begun to ask me, "How's Life After Cancer?" and "How does it feel to be Cancer-Free?", I get a little weirded out. I mean, the "After" implies something is Over. Done. The End. But Cancer is a chapter of the story of my life and the story continues. It's a part of who I am, a dot on my winding path, and will never be something that never happened.
Life after Divorce? Life after Cancer? Life after Bankruptcy? There is always life after anything and everything. Because as it turns out, it's all LIFE, and it's up to us to choose how to LIVE it. I choose to live in humility, health, and HAPPINESS. With a side of rainbows and a chocolate-covered cherry on top!
Try as I might, it's impossible to stay calm and relaxed if my partner is anything but.
Boyfriend is struggling to keep his head above water as I've cut back on my work-load (read: he's doing it ALL - did I mention he's a superhero?) He's been working increasingly long hours, juggling our little shoestring-operation by himself as we take on our very first paying web clients. Yesterday, in the heat of some kind of anxiety-fueled frustration, he looked at me and said, "You're just going to have to get it together, because we have to pay our bills."
Note to anyone who ever has to live with someone who has a large tumor in the emotional center of her brain, is on anti-seizure medication that sometimes heightens, or then again sometimes dulls, her senses, and never has never been good with stress, anyway: NEVER tell her that she's "just going to have to get it together." Those words actually cause her brain to go numb, if not melt into a puddle, and greatly increase her risk of seizure.
And it was a doozy. As I was lying in bed, going over the day's many low points, internally wording comebacks at everyone with whom I've ever been pissed, wishing Boyfriend would just LAY off, but feeling terribly GUILTY that I'm no help on our quest for financial stability WHATSOEVER...
Shit. I'm having a seizure. I've given myself a fucking seizure. "Honey, wake up - I'm having a seizure."
Later, I asked him how long it lasted. He thought one to two minutes, but it felt like twenty. Stronger than the last one, and I hadn't even missed any medication. Double shit.
It just so happened that I had an appointment with my neurologist today. I was unreasonably nervous - I hadn't done any of the "homework" he'd given me since my last appointment, six weeks ago: check out treatment options and alternative therapies, get an appointment with a neuro-oncologist for a second opinion. And now I was going to have to tell him that I'd had not one, but two seizures since I saw him last. I felt like the bad kid, having to tell my teacher "the dog ate my homework". Just lame. I pictured my Ninja Neurologist, all disappointed, writing me off, for not doing my part in my own treatment. I pictured myself, begging him not to give up on me. Making 'excuses' for myself, like, "I had so much paperwork to fill out, we have rent and bills to pay, I did a lot of research on raw foods, completely changed my diet, and am working on a divorce-related, patient-financial-assistance stumbling block! Did I mention all the county and state patient assistance paperwork? Wait! Come back!"
Was he disappointed? Maybe a little. Did he threaten to write me off? Nope. Just offered ideas, and words of encouragement, and emphasized the importance of pursuing treatment options. He recognized the validity of my brain-cancer-damsel-in-distress, and swooped to the rescue with rapid-fire solutions:
"The patient assistance programs are so frustrating and slow. I'm going to have you to talk to Swami, one of the social workers here - he's really good - because this needs to change. I can see that you've done all you can and you're not getting anywhere. We need to get you scanned again, but I don't want to order an MRI until you have some financial aid lined up, because I don't want to keep racking up bills for you to worry about. If you're having seizures, that's not good. I'd like to up your dosage a bit - from two pills a day to three." By the time we got to the meds, I was relieved - man, do I hate those damn seizures!
Once I figured out he really was in my corner (AGAIN! Why don't I get that?), kicking some brain tumor and state-funding ass on my behalf, relief washed over me like a delicious shower in a world with an endless supply of water.
So my Ninja Neurologist got me all lined up to talk to my new Swami Social Worker, who was nothing short of amazing. He's the first social worker (in a long list) I've met with who's been empathetic, but savvy and insightful. I'm smiling right now as I think about his encouraging, knowing grin. He actually told me, "You've done everything you can do and should do. You're way ahead of the game - but it's an undignified process. In fact you're standing at the crux of what's happening politically and socially in this country right now. It's ridiculous. It's disgraceful. And you're a living, breathing example of why it needs to change."
I did it. I finished my latest stack of applications and forms. Apparently I'm getting more efficient. I've made myself organizational binders for instant access to all of my frequently requested financial information. Yes, the divorce decree is in there, too. Right at my fingertips, for easy reference. Woo hoo!
To celebrate, Boyfriend and I are going to have a good laugh at ourselves with this clip, aptly called 'Intensive Caring'. Just imagine that Greg is not a lawyer, but a web developer (computer nerd). Enjoy.
Despite my very best efforts to keep myself relaxed and low-key, last week was harried at best, CRAZY-STRESSFUL at worst. Try not to worry, I'm getting enough sleep. Whenever it gets to be too much, I take a deep breath, move away from the pile of applications, forms, bills, and financial documents (Do I get to get out my divorce decree AGAIN? Yippee!) that is consuming my life, and take a nap. Right after a good cry.
So to keep my list of obligations as short as possible, I'm going to be posting pretty lightly for a while. (As if you haven't already figured that out!) Please feel free to submit all your raw food recipes so that we can keep the masses happily fed with yummy health food until I can get back to cruising the net for raw food resources and recipes to make and photograph. (This is me asking for help...Anyone? Anyone?)
And if any of you are experts at organizing paperwork regarding financially complicated divorces, untangling yourself from financially complicated divorces, sweet-talking county and state medical financial aid representatives, consolidating large amounts of unsecured debt, speaking fluent social-security-disabilitese, or otherwise know how to SAVE ME FROM THE FINANCIAL DISASTER THAT IS MY LIFE, feel free to apply for the unpaid position that is available through the Contact page of this website. Good luck - I'm sure it will look like a mob-scene with all the emails crowding my inbox at any moment...
No woe-is-me comments. I'm asking for help, if anyone has it to give, but I'm still laughing. This will all work itself out. Someday...
My oncologist, Dr. G, declared that there has been absolutely no difference in my little tuber between my MRI taken April 29th and the one taken July 1st. My neurologist, Dr. D, agreed that it looked good, even pausing to comment, "You look good - you look much better than I thought you would, actually." Uh, thanks? More progress toward my goal to become a medical wonder!
So while we're all breathing a collective sigh of relief, my neurologist warned me not to be fooled, it's only two months worth of data. "Keep in mind you did have a seizure...you need treatment - NOW." Here we go, I thought. A western doctor pushing me toward drug or radiation therapy.
Boyfriend and I had discussed how to approach the subject of alternative treatment with Dr. D, but I was hesitant to even bring it up, assuming I would have to filter heavy sighs and rolling eyes. But the very next thing he said was, "Are you still looking into alternative therapies?"
And this launched a conversation wherein he explained that he would be willing to help as far as the limitations of his knowledge and western medicine would allow. He pointed out that he might not have peer review research data and FDA approval to advise me on alternative treatments, but was quick to add that "3000 years of Chinese medicine can't be all wrong." Whew.
He finished with, "Well, if you're going to look into those things, I'd do it now. Don't wait." He said to feel free to call if I had questions. He's opened the door to an integrated approach, whatever the right one for me becomes. Double whew.
I guess I'm not in Kansas anymore, Toto. I'm in Santa Barbara, CA, baby!
Additionally, I also talked to both doctors regarding another stumbling block - the medical financial aid application, denial, and appeal process (one more round!) that have consumed me since my diagnosis. It has been a horrendous, ongoing process (and a full-time job, really!), considering the mind-numbing effects of my meds and the tangled web of my divorce still very much a factor on my apparent assets and income (or rather, proving a lack thereof!).
Their collective advice - the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Right. So I'm on the right track. Because I can be a very squeaky wheel.