Do you take vitamins? Annoyance, obsessions and the inevitability of cancer
A note: The following is a journal entry written about me and basically for me. Although it makes me feel like, I don't know, a person who should just be grateful for the goodness in her life, the goal of my blog is truth. Taking a leap towards not wasting a moment worrying about how I'm perceived is my aim. Almost impossible I realize. So although I feel the intense urge to qualify this post with a lot of other things, I won't do that. Instead I'll let James Pennebaker M.D. the author of "Opening Up: The healing power of expressing emotions" do it for me.
"Actively holding back or inhibiting our thoughts and feelings can be hard work. Over time, the work of inhibition gradually undermines the body's defenses. Like other stressors, inhibition can affect immune function, the action of the heart and vascular systems, and even the biochemical workings of the brain and nervous systems. In short, excessive holding back of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors can place people at a risk for both major and minor diseases."
The night after my dad died I dreamed he was a baking sheet with arms, legs, and a head lying on the floor of the kitchen looking up at me and asking me to pick him up. I remember it was not our kitchen. It was one of my very best friends, Jennifer Frugaletti parents kitchen. I guess I liked their's better.
I think the baking sheet was actually a clock because I can recall at the center of the baking pan there was a short hand and a long hand and I vaguely remember my cookie sheet dad telling me that he was running out of time.
Isn't that weird? It's weird and it's sad.
I am vastly aware that it is annoying to always be sick.
I learned that when one of my friends asked me in an annoyed, somewhat nasty tone if I "ever took vitamins." I don't know. She was just annoyed that I was sick again. I'm not sure why. It just annoyed her.
I mean I get annoyed by people who are constantly talking about the same problem over and over again. So after the fiftieth time of hearing I have an ear infection I suppose it's easy to start seeing the culprit as... me.
To be honest, I have found myself thinking that about people with odd diseases like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. It's easy to write them off as something they should have more control over because there isn't a ton of research and we don't know as much about them.
I also hear these phrases a lot.
Slow down. You do too much. You're going to make yourself sick. You should meditate more. You need to calm your body. You need to eat better. You shouldn't have meat. You should have a high protein diet. Here try these supplements.
I was so grateful to a doctor when he said "Yeah, you shouldn't be this sick, none of those are gonna help." Amen doc.
I carry a weird shame trying to cover up the gravity of being low level sick and so I pretend that I'm not until I can't. I'm smallish sick about 65% of my month with a cough or bug of some sort. 20% of the month I have some sort of infection or bacteria type thing and maybe 15% I am pretty good-except that my cough never really goes away. I don't know, it varies.
I'm embarrassed to talk about it because I am so over it. Apparently others are too. As my lovely "anonymous letter writer" wrote, everyone has ear infections, everyone has colds, and tons of people have miscarriages, I just talk about it to get attention and use it as an excuse for my failed career as an actor.
See. It annoys people.
What is it about the human experience that we feel it necessary to qualify someone's experience as less than or bigger than? It's not really anyone's business is it?
So, this post is for me and you can follow along if you wish. That's the good news about having a blog. I get to decide. You can judge away if you want. But just don't tell me to take vitamins, okay?
Most of my days I spend thinking I'm running out of time.
Most of the time I don't think about death. That feels easier. I've seen people die and it's graceful. Barring unusual circumstances the vast majority of people die with family surrounding them with love and with grace. I have learned how to be around that.
Instead, I think about the moment I find out I have cancer.
Weirdly I think to myself it'll be a relief when I find this out because I will have somehow reached this inevitable fight that I have been gearing myself up for the past twenty years. Also, there are so many advances I think I have many more options than my cookie pan daddy.
I can tell right now what you're thinking. "If you build it, it will come." I don't mean to sound bitchy but you understand I know that right? Of course I know it. I will tell you that if I am diagnosed when I am 80 then I will have thought about it for forty years. Them's just the facts. I'm just willing to say it out loud. I didn't say it was rational. Just that I am indeed thinking about it everyday. Also-it's not irrational when you do the research.
Two things are stressful about my obsession.
First, the fact that I'm not able control my mind.
Second, that people tell me I shouldn't have this fear. Or I guess they mean I shouldn't think about it.
Or maybe I'm not allowed to have this fear when there are so many other terrible things in the world and also sooooooo many people have cancer?
Guess so. Still have it.
So listen- I understand this. I can't just snap out of it, willing my mind of my thoughts like I am able to do with other bad habits like spending too much, eating poorly, or trying to stay organized.
You may worry about your relationship with food. I worry about my relationship with illness. We all got something.
But is the preferred option not to talk about it?
I try not to talk to much about it as I've told you the various reactions I get. However, the frequency over the past two years has increased and it simply sits in the back of my mind brought to the front when I wake each morning with a smoker like cough, a stomach bloated from a bacteria, and eye goop coming out of my eyes from chronic sinusitis that's been there for maybe ten years? Fifteen years? I don't know it's been forever at this point.
At first glance my various illnesses present themselves as colds, stomach bugs, or bronchial infections-something so normal that everyone has to deal with. But each infection confirms one thing in my brain.
Cancer is inevitable.
I suspect it's been my number one fear in health since my brother and dad were both diagnosed 6 months apart when I was fourteen years old. That can leave an imprint.
My dads death felt like a ten year slow motion episode that shaped my late adolescent brain. By the time he died it was a relief.
If I'm really being honest with myself, each day I think I'm one day closer to the day one of my common illnesses turn into something more, just like him.
I'm just perhaps twenty tests away, maybe ten, perhaps five.
And the numbers don't really lie and despite people telling me to stop reading the data I have to because otherwise I'd feel blindsided. It gives me more control knowing the numbers.
The truth is that there is a 5 fold chance that someone with CVID will get cancer. Quite often it's leukemia or lymphoma. More specific than that, more will be women.
My dad died of lymphoma and I'm a woman. Check. Check.
Each morning I wake I think of what the day will bring
Luckily, I've found my way to meditation and each morning I now wake at 6 am and quietly sit in the dark with my husband snoozing on my right side and sit for about 20 minutes. I breathe and say the following.
I am light.
I am healthy.
I am focused.
I am open.
I am strong.
I repeat this over and over again. It starts my day with empowerment.
Then I cough for the next 20-30 minutes hacking up the stuff that has been sliding down into my chest over the course of my sleep. Rinse my eyes out that are covered in the same stuff, ew gross, blow my nose ten or so times and then wash my hands and get on with it.
I know. Sexy.
My life feels like one slow motion major illness
For 20 years, age 18-38 I was able to continue through my days, weeks, months and years pushing illness aside for the most part. My body did this to get me through marriage, career, and children. I'm so grateful we did that, together.
Now my body says, "it's time for me now". I've come to the realization this past week that my mind and body are at odds. My brain wants one thing and my body another.
Now as I write, explore, and self examine they are pulling together and I find my instinct not allowing myself to psychically and physically push myself past a certain point that my body won't allow.
It's good really. It's progress. I'm getting past the woe is me part and onto the I'm doing what I'm meant to be doing part. I'm starting to let go of thinking of the past or the future and starting to be in the now. I've never had the patience to do that.
This is what my 40's will teach me.
And if I'm wrong and that indeed I will make it to the end of my life without this diagnosis then okay good for me.
But that doesn't mean I shouldn't talk about about my fears. Confronting my fears can have enormous benefits to my health. Something I need.
I'll be over here blabbing away.