ducky doolittle || seeking joy + wellness while surviving cancer

Tag: surviving

I Survived. Now What?

I Survived. Now What?

These are strange days. I’m a few months into remission and I am spinning in new ways. There are these moments when I feel elated. Late at night, while walking my dog I will step out of the front door, look up at the stars and feel an overwhelming […]

The Truth About Menopause

The Truth About Menopause

If you are new here, I recently survived cancer. In doing so I had to accept going into abrupt surgical menopause. I have had no hormone replacement options available as they stand a high chance of causing more cancer in my body. But you know […]

I Hide My Tears / But Not Very Well

I Hide My Tears / But Not Very Well

I am a very stoic individual. I don’t like to express my pain or vulnerabilities publically.

I was at work when the doctor called. He did not ask me where I was or prepare me for the news. He just said hello, told me who he was and said, “I have the results from your biopsy. You have cancer”

I was sideswiped. I had been so happy to have the biopsy surgery done that I had almost forgotten that there were results to come.

I ducked into a nearby office and exploded in tears. I was full of fear of the unknown. What is cancer? Is it death? Destruction for my family? Is it the loss of my hair? Is it painful? I had no answers.

I needed to hide my face and tears. I could not face my coworkers. I was trapped in this office. I contemplated climbing out the window. Nope. I needed my coat and bag. I sat there crying for a long time. I called my husband. I called my sister. I slowly pulled myself together and slipped out the front door. I emailed my boss later that day. They love me. My health was their only concern. I was ok.

But tears kept quietly flowing. Every day I would get up early, before my husband was awake, and write here with you. I had to cry but did not want to subject him to it. My friends got used to the idea that I would not pick up the phone. I could not have the conversations. But I used this blog to express myself and wring my eyes out for the day before I would have to go to work and be strong. I’d put all my feelings into these post and gave them to you.

I can see the analytics. I knew that if I expressed them here you would show up and process them with me. You’d collectively write comments and send me little notes. I got emails and messages from people who have survived the process, from people in the middle of the chaos of cancer, and from people who work in medicine and cared enough to experience this with me. My words and tears have been serving more than just myself and that too has kept me writing.

One by one packages started to arrive on my doorstep. Fuzzy blankets, bath bombs, books, and chocolates. You stepped into the unknown with me, to live in this place where we sat together in fear of the unknown. You sent me things that soothe my heart and remind me I am not alone. I wrap myself in these things and they emanate you. I can feel you. I kept writing to you so I could hide my tears in public.

I had some horrible days trying to schedule endless medical appointments. The person on the other end of the phone might ask me why the procedure was being scheduled and I would be forced to say out loud, “I have uterine cancer.” And then I would fall apart in tears. It was hard to say those words out loud to a stranger. I’d have to apologize and fight through the tears to finish the call.

I got in contact with a short-term free counseling service. They only had counseling hours during my workday. I said to the woman, “I have to work, I can’t make any of the times you have available.” She asked if I could speak with a counselor during my lunch break. I said, “I can’t spend that time that I should be caring for myself with lunch on the phone– crying. I can’t then go back to work and behave as if all is well.” Counseling was not an option for me.

Instead, I came here and I have processed my tears with you. You allowed me to express them at 4am or 5am. I was able to make it to work. To make money for my family. To hold it together most of the time. To use my experience and my pain to write and help others. I was able to give my tears to you. I opened up. I said yes to your help. These are no small things for me.

Try as I might, I still could not control the tears.

There would be little tears that would spill out during a tough medical procedure. The medical professional might exclaim, “Why are you crying? You’re covered in tattoos! This doesn’t even hurt!” Or a more empathetic professional would say, “I’m sorry. We’ll get this over with as quickly as possible.”

Afterwards, I might get very quiet in the car as tears slipped down my cheeks. If I could pull my heart out of my throat I would tell my husband, “I don’t want to have cancer.” My husband is a silent person. The bullet he took through his neck, that exited out his mouth only encourages his silence. I have learned to listen to what he does not say. A gesture, a lack of gestures, the tension in his jaw or hands, the flush of his cheeks. He did not want me to have cancer either.

I had one uncontrollable outburst two nights before my surgery. I tried to hide in the bathroom but my husband pulled me out and I sat in his arms and bawled. As hard as I tried I could not stop the tears. The only words I had to explain them were, “I am scared.”

That was the last time I cried. Until yesterday.

Last night I was feeling physically weak. I had just finished my first week being back at work. It was not easy, but I needed to get back to making a living. We beat cancer (YES! YES! YES!) but every day the mailbox is full of bills. Big, ugly fuck-me bills. Bills that illustrate how hard it is to be in need of medical care in America.

And then this happened. Thank you Lilly and to each person who has donated or shared the campaign. Your love and support feels like you are pulling wreckage off of me, brick by brick and relieving the pain and stress. And this morning I sit at my computer, blogging through tears with you again. But these tears? They are not based in fear or pain, they are tears full of joyful disbelief. I feel so loved. Thank you so much.

Timeline of Hysterectomy Healing Process

Timeline of Hysterectomy Healing Process

This is a timeline of my healing process. I’m creating it to remind myself how far I have come and to help other people who experience a robotic, radical hysterectomy to know what they might expect. Doctor’s say it should be six weeks until I am fully […]

I Am Alive

I Am Alive

Quick post as I have limited energy. Forgive my typos, I’ll try to clean them up once I have more wits. On surgery day I went from being emotionally distressed to terror as they started popping the IV in my arm, to absolute physical trauma. I came to in […]

Fear & Happiness

Fear & Happiness

This is my last post before surgery. During surgery, they will be able to stage my cancer and tell us if I need more treatment, like radiation or chemo. But finally, on Friday my treatment will begin.

My nerves still hum… it’s been like that for days. I wake up at super early every morning and have to chase away gorry thoughts about surgery.

I pop up the stairs after walking my dog and I can’t help but think about how I am not going to be able to leave the bed, much less the house, much less climb stairs soon.

I have little conversations with my body. I cheer it on. I remind myself I am strong and healthy. We just need to remove these parts. I will heal and I will pop up the stairs with my dog in tow again soon. It’s all temporary.

I am afraid of seeing stitches in my skin and in the same breath I can’t help but think about how amazing it is how the human body heals.  I am afraid and I know there is magic inside me and I can get through this with the help of the people who love me. I get pushed back and forth between fearful thoughts and my own strength. It’s a lot of work to manage my thoughts.

I’m so grateful for so many things these days. As hard as it is to go through this I am very lucky. I’ll be down for the count for Thanksgiving, but my mum in law is staying here and will cook a feast. My friends have stocked me up with things that taste good, smell good and super soft socks and blankets. Bills are piling up but we have good, healthy food and plenty of thing to keep us entertained.

My job is supportive. They make decent health insurance available to me and cheer me on. My coworkers, tho weirded out when I first gave them the news, have ponied up and just worked alongside me. Allowing me to keep busy and keep my days as normal as possible.

Why am I so grateful? It could be the rotten, bug-infested food offered to me by my foster family. (They ate the food without bugs.) It could be the park benches and filthy abandoned buildings I slept in as a teenager. (I preferred those circumstances to the abuse of foster care.) It could be the deadbeat landlords of the ghettos I lived in, leaving us for days with no heat in the dead of winter. And the nights my roommates and I took turns standing guard at the stove door, watching to make sure the heat poured out and the pilot light stayed on. It could be the 18 hour work days or the multiple jobs I have worked most of my life so that I could crawl up and out of those circumstances. I have survived a lot.

As hard as those days were, they did set me up to appreciate every little thing life gives me today. So perhaps cancer is another chance for me to find more grace and beauty in this life I have been given? Or perhaps I am just a dumb optimist who sees the silver lining in everything? I don’t give a shit. I will not over think that question. All that matters is that despite it all– I am happy and I am resilient.

Now I will hunker in, work through the pain and heal through the winter. I’ll be a different person in the spring. Isn’t that what everyone hopes for in the spring?

Waiting For Cancer Treatment / Part 6

Waiting For Cancer Treatment / Part 6

Surgery happens this Friday. Now there is a low hum of nervousness that constantly resonates out of my chest. It started yesterday and is so real that I can damn near touch it and see it. I wish I could make it stop. The thing that I have been […]

Uterine Cancer: Signs To Look For

Uterine Cancer: Signs To Look For

Uterine cancer is also called endometrial or womb cancer. People don’t talk about it enough… perhaps because it mostly happens to older women? Perhaps because women are not sharing their grief with this diagnosis? But uterine cancer can also happen to younger, body positive, fearless women like me. […]

Waiting For Cancer Treatment / Part 5

Waiting For Cancer Treatment / Part 5

Still managing to keep my head in a good place. I have these passing panicked thoughts about surgery and incisions and losing part of my body to cancer. I am getting pretty good at setting them aside.

The mind is a funny thing, you can play honest games with it and get what you need. It helped to create some happy places in the future rather than looking back at happy times and places. For some reason, I felt more pain looking back– like I was mourning for those good times and places. On the contrary, looking forward gives me joy and energy. Whatever works.

I have also been thinking about how this cancer is hereditary. It’s been existing in my family but no one knew. I have heard of people doing genetic testing but I never understood why. I guess poor people don’t do those things? At least not the poverty-based family I come from. The good thing is that at least my siblings and their children have a chance to test early and be prepared to care for themselves.

When I sent my siblings a document they can take to their doctor my sister asked if I learned any other interesting facts from my pathology, like “if I’m part Neanderthal or anything?”

I told her I was 100% fairy.

My brother then said, “Monkey fairy. You’re a hybrid. Or a mutant.”

I agreed that I am, “I am 100% two things.”

So you can see… they take this whole thing very seriously!

Also, did you know there is a national registry for people with cancer? I only found out when my doctor uploaded a document to my online charts stating that I had been added. They use it to map environmental cancer outbreaks and gain statistical information. It’s kind of awesome and creepy at the same time.

Surgery is scheduled for November 17th but could still happen sooner if there is an opening. I go to the hospital tomorrow for pre-surgical testing. (More needles! Bluck!)

I am trying to take it one day at a time. Now I wait. Then I heal. We will all see what comes after that. In the meantime I am eating well, doing yoga and anything else I can to be as strong as possible when I go under.

Having family here and getting love from friends have been a good distraction. Even if I am a bit of a hermit, y’all still find ways to love me. You are amazing. I am so thankful for the people I have in my life.

(Photo: Words written on a wall saying “Its moving kind of slow.” Lower East Side, NYC. Circa 2010.)

My Epic Wellness Plan (A Work In Progress)

My Epic Wellness Plan (A Work In Progress)

My goal is to heal and regulate my energy with food and behavior as much as possible. Here’s my working plan. I am sure I’ll adjust it along the way. You are welcome to give recommendations for good books or links, but on this topic, […]

Things To Look Forward To

Things To Look Forward To

I’m making a list… My brother’s wedding Getting new tattoos with my husband when we get our no evidence of disease report Going back to martial arts Learning how to do aerial yoga Plotting my spring garden (I’m planting/learning to grow more food next year!) New […]