I have been remiss in blogging here AND posting on my YouTube Channel these last few months. I'm afraid the online forums that so helped me during my cancer fight have somewhat fallen by the wayside in the face of a few recent medical challenges - challenges I was too cocky to ever think I would have to deal with.
First came lymphedema - swelling in my hand and forearm that makes it difficult to type, lift, or carry things for more than 20-30 minutes. You can imagine how frustrating this is for a writer - everything takes three or four times as long, and has to be worked on in pieces, rather than straight through. I have pushed myself to complete projects, only to have to wrap my arm for days at a time to get the swelling down again. It's ridiculously annoying, but I finally had to take it seriously because if left unchecked, it can be permanent and irreversible.
Next, I threw my back out in early August - probably a combination of stand-up paddleboarding and the physical demands of packing and moving. This not only sidelined my marathon training for a month; it kept me from my three-times-a-week boot camp schedule, which, frankly, I depend on to keep me sane. I guess I'm just one of those people who has to exercise regularly to maintain my mental health (magic pants aside, sometimes, I think exercise IS the cure for everything).
Lastly, to add insult to injury, I found a thickening in my healthy breast (the one that didn't have breast cancer). For a perfectly healthy woman, this could have been something stressful, but, as you can imagine, for a cancer survivor, it's a whole different kind of yucky. I went through the "you're overreacting" stage, the "it's cancer!" stage, and finally, the "let's just see the oncologist and get it checked out like a normal person" stage, which resulted in her telling me, yesterday, that I would need an MRI and an appointment with a surgeon.
A week before I leave on a nine-month cross-country road trip.
You see? Life throws you curves. You learn to swerve.
To complicate matters, I've met my insurance deductible ($4800) and am two months away from the new one kicking in, which means if I have this surgery ASAP, it will be free. And, if you've been a cancer patient, you know that free is good. Free is GREAT.
In the last 24 hours, I have processed just about every scenario. I'm pretty proud of myself, actually - I'm getting better and better at making lemonade. I might go so far as to say I now have a Ph.D in Making Lemonade! What has finally, FINALLY sunk in is, you can plan and plan and plan, but life will surprise you, every time. Every SINGLE time. And you can't get mad or frustrated about not being able to predict or plan the future. You just have to work on getting better and better at rolling with the punches, and you have to be okay with making the best decision you can, with the information you have at the time. I can say, "If I had just had a mastectomy, I wouldn't be dealing with this right now," but I might be dealing with some other nightmare! A leaky implant, a complication from my port removal, or worse - CANCER AGAIN! So, I'm not wasting my time playing the "If only I had..." game.
What's hardest, when life throws you curves, is not giving up. Some people swerve and fall completely off the path they're on, unable to recover. They get lost in the messiness and can't bounce back. Resilience - the kind of long-term bounce-back-ness you need to sustain your recovery - is the key to survivorship, and what helps you cultivate resilience is FOCUS and PURPOSE. When you know WHERE you want to go and WHY you want to get there, it doesn't matter how many times you get knocked off the path - you just keep getting back on and keep moving forward, because you're committed and engaged in the quest. You don't let anything deter you. THAT is why I have a 40-by-40. It's a map, with a time limit, and enough difficulty built in to help me cultivate courage and strength along the way. This journey will transform me and enable me to help other people map out THEIR journeys to recovery, and it's not worth giving up on because I have to schedule a couple of doctors appointments.
SO, #31 (Take a Road Trip Across the USA) is still ON. I'm juggling the long-term schedule, but it looks like the only change in the plan will be a 4-day hiatus in Chicago and a break post-NYC Marathon for the lumpectomy. After that, it's Thanksgiving in Dallas and a trip back home in December/January to shoot the documentary I'm working on, followed by the Princess Half Marathon in Orlando February 27th. I'll post a new schedule as soon as my surgery dates are locked in.