The sadness crept in today.
Since documenting this whole experience, I’ve received a lot of compliments from friends and strangers commenting on my transparency and openness. They’ve supported my positive attitude and conveyed the inspiration they have drawn from my writings. From what I can gather, maybe this isn’t so common? I don’t know. I don’t have a lot of experience following cancer stories. But I assure you, I never sought out to BE inspirational or BE positive. I’m just being honest.
For anyone who knows me somewhat, whether directly or through social media, it’s pretty obvious that I lean more towards oversharing than hiding. Frankly, I don’t trust the quiet types. They always end up having a skeleton in their closet. And I, well, I don’t feel I have anything to hide. But further, I don’t feel the experiences of life are private. Existence formed itself…we didn’t create it, so the circumstances that act out upon us aren’t always of our making…they are nothing to be ashamed of. And what is life without sharing. How do we gain inspiration, gain perspective, gain the alternatives without knowing them?
The good. The bad. The beautiful. The ugly. These are all parts of our experiences and all worthy to share.
So I do. And so you have to trust that my positivity is genuine. My perspective is current, but evolving. You have to trust that I’m not hiding parts of this experience and though my expressions may not be as common as some might be used to…they are genuine to ME. Trust that if my positivity does wane, you will hear it. If the fear does grow, you will know.
I woke up at 6 am, holding to the routine I had developed previous to my diagnosis, unwilling to let the waiting erase any more normalcy than the cancer already has. And with a relatively open agenda for the day, I had planned to go for another bike ride while I still can, in an effort to simply enjoy the experience, but to also hold on to some degree of fitness I had built up to this point, knowing every muscle fiber and strengthened system would only aid me after the surgery is complete.
I stepped outside into the grey skies and felt a blast of cold air rip through my jacket. I turned around and instantly added more layers for this backslide to pre-spring temperatures. I rode into the wind, feeling little pebbles of sleet bounce off my face and audibly crack on my thin jacket flapping in the wind. I stood up and pedaled hard, paying attention to my abdomen and gauging the pain I’m trying to supress. I had eaten nothing when getting on the bike and felt a passing hunger roll through my stomach.
Turning on to the paved rail trail I saw no one else off into the distance and continued North, the wind now slicing across my body instead of directly into it, the effects of its cold lessened in the direction. But as I pedaled on my hands got cold and continued to get colder. My right foot was numbing and going cold as well, dampening the enthusiasm I had for the ride when I left the house. I made it halfway up the trail and stopped at a local coffee shop to see friends and thaw out my hands before continuing on.
Leaving the shop I continued North, the bordering trees blocking the wind and giving me relief from the cold and the motivation to start spinning hard as the adrenaline in me surged. I rode on alone, my thoughts focused and unwavering from the coming operation and the value I was hoping to gain from this effort. I spun harder, feeling my heart rate finally get high enough to induce labored breathing. I felt determined. I felt the determination that rises during my runs, when I’m pushing hard through a workout and envisioning a future goal race to spurn me on.
But my race is…well..not a race. The goal I am fighting for now is the aftermath of a brutal surgery. The reward isn’t so defined. It isn’t a specific moment in time, a finish line, or an overwhelming flood of satisfaction. It is an avoidance. It is an avoidance of pain, an avoidance of prolonged passivity and deterioration, an avoidance of a life halted.
And the sadness crept in.
The specifics of the surgery now presented in much greater detail and the gap in time until I get admitted giving me plenty of time to dwell on them, I became a little overwhelmed, unable to focus on the recovery, the post-surgery rewards, the attempt to decrease my time spent passive. I could only think about the overall sadness of my predicament, while fighting off self-loathing. I continued to push out the whispers, “This just isn’t fair.”
Fairness doesn’t exist.
I made it to my coffee shop destination and sat down alone for an americano and a little bit of rest, still unable to eat any hard foods without abdominal pain. I worried about my energy levels getting back home, especially with the crosswind slowing my efforts. I flicked through my phone looking for any bits of positivity, but remained sullen and dejected, worn out, maybe from the physical effort. Maybe from the emotional weight.
I got back on my bike and started to ride back South, still searching for the “high” that comes with physical activity, but it seemed that any strong effort only highlighted my circumstance. It felt good to fight. It felt good to put in an actual workout of sorts, experiencing something close to my recently halted running efforts, but the reason for my efforts cast a shadow on the rewards of the experience.
“Damn. I’m still so fit….healthy…lean. My pain is minimal and my fire is not out. I’m determined and driven…..but nothing I can do erase the growing death inside me and the coming operation. Nothing.”
And I found myself coasting, letting the efforts subside to the sadness, the sense of defeat wearing me down…then with a renewed vigor I would start pedaling again, finally making it to my halfway point for another thawing session. I ran into my ex-wife who is organizing a benefit on my behalf and talked with her about this, coming up with ways I can contribute so as not to feel so guilty about all the work being done for my sake. But the sadness wouldn’t lift.
I got back on the bike and repeated the effort, pushing when I could and fighting off the under-fueled fatigue and emotional weight, finally making it home to a now chilled house. I turned up the heat in the shower and let it wash over me, resting my head on the tile and closing my eyes, giving in to the weight and letting it run its course. I felt tired, and alone.
I changed into my clothes to start the day, sat down at the computer, stared at a pile of mail, pre-op instructions I needed to read through and a small list of others tasks I had to get done…but just didn’t have the energy. I walked into my room, gently lowered myself onto the bed and fell into a light sleep.
I was woken by my parents coming to the house and I walked out of my room groggily and in no better emotional state than I was previous. They asked me how I was feeling and I just said, “Tired”, but didn’t offer whether that was physical or emotional. They pushed a number of papers in front of me to sign…power of attorney over finances, power of attorney over my life or something…I don’t even know. I initialed them, dated them and handed them back, briefly recognizing how appreciative I was that they were here to do some of this work for me, because I don’t know what I would have done if I was completely alone in this. Then I had to go online and answer a number of questions about life support.
Life support. Like I was flippantly checking boxes for an online survey I didn’t care about or something. I went into the other room alone to really understand the questions being asked and made some decisions that felt somewhat absurd to be making, almost as if they were part of a personality test and not something that ACTUALLY mattered. But, nope, they’re about my decision to live or die if my state was irredeemable. I checked, “No.” Don’t keep me alive if there is no hope. Don’t prolong my pain. I EAT vegetables…I don’t want to BE one. And although this paperwork was an unavoidable necessity, it didn’t help lift my spirits. I was being short with my parents and instantly regretting it. I was tired. I am tired.
And that is the truth.
But this is today. Or even, this is now. This is not permanent. This is not me sliding into a “woe is me” mentality or exaggerating any sense of expected fear and depression. This is just the process….and I can only imagine a HEALTHY part of the process. This is the down that is part of the up, the depression that highlights the elation.
And I’m sure there will be more to come, a gamut of emotions that act as defense mechanisms, inspiring motivators, and experience processors. These are the components of a full life, comprising the spectrum of experience, ensuring that we are moving through a life worth living and giving the strength to continue to do so.
Today the sadness crept in, and I welcome it, only because I know it is going to leave soon enough.