A Path to Healing

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The path to self-growth is not linear. It is a meandering journey through mountains and valleys, and occasionally there are more lows than highs. But it is a journey ever onward, and it is our light—that same light that exists in every one of us—that guides the way, if only we allow it to shine. -Rachel Grayczyk

It feels like often it takes something big happening in my life to point out the areas that need to be addressed. The areas within me that I’ve been running from or that seem too painful to really stop and take a good look at and heal.

A breakup or divorce, losing a job, losing a friend, getting sick. I’ve experienced all of these things and what I know now is that they are all messengers. They come with profound knowledge and insight. But they also come with a lot of heavy emotion that I often like to dust under the rug. Pain, sadness, heartbreak, anger, regret, resentment, fear, abandonment, betrayal — these emotions aren’t pleasant. At times they can feel like the most painful thing in the world. Who hasn’t experienced a heartbreak we thought we’d never recover from?

But what I also know now is that THOSE are the golden nuggets. Those are the moments and experiences that gain the wisdom. Those emotions are the messages waiting to be peeled back and dove into deeper. Those nuggets are actually the path to true peace and happiness.

We are all incredibly intuitive beings and already have the answers to the questions we seek within. Who said that originally? Rumi? Buddha? Whoever it was, I fully believe it to be the truth.

Recently I developed a massive rash all over my face. To some, it’s just a rash. To me, it means something more.

It looks a lot like acne but it’s not. I know it’s not. It is hot, very inflamed and itches. And that it seemed to get inflamed when I eat certain things like coconut. And I know enough, I’m intuitive enough, to know that it means something.

This rash, to me, is a message. I know, that sounds a little woowoo for some but I really believe that our bodies are incredibly smart and so many of our ailments are messages from something deeper within. Wake up calls trying desperately to get us to address the deeper issues that are in a way, holding us back.

I know on a deeper level there are several reasons for my rash. One, I’m consuming something my body doesn’t like and I need to pay closer attention to what I eat and drink and how i feel after. Do I experience a reaction right away or is it delayed? I’ll get into this more in another blog post.

Two, there is a huge emotional component. I’ve been hiding from some things in my life that need to be addressed and my body seems to like to get me to wake up through body ailments.

The traumas of my past are finally speaking up and asking to be dealt with. All that hurt, resentment, anger, it’s been bubbling up quickly the last few months and I feel my body is asking me to look at it for real this time.

I was also dating someone for the last six months whom I adore and love. However, I knew he and I were in different places and wanted different things but fought against that inner knowing and tried to fit this square peg in a round hole.

These things combined created a toxic environment inside of me, always questioning, always frustrated, always sad or questioning, “what’s wrong with me?” This triggered the only way I would listen — a horrible skin rash on my face.

And this is why I love the body. Because it never lies to us. It’s always seeking to show us the truth, get us to listen, get us to show up for ourselves, through messages.

I believe we can heal ourselves in a multitude of ways if we just stop, get really still and listen for the answers. Listen to those little pings, those nuggets of truth, those whispers that say, “he’s not good for you, or don’t eat that, don’t take the job, don’t say yes to the thing even though it “looks” good on paper — just wait.”

I would like to point out that that’s not to say I don’t believe in taking action. We have to take action. But maybe we need to pause a bit more, give ourselves space and time before we react? At least I know I sure do.

I also believe in western medicine. I do. 100%. I thank it daily because if not for it I would be dead. I know this. But I believe too many of us use it as a bandaid. A quick fix. At times, myself included. But sometimes if not most of the time a headache simple means you are dehydrated and need more water. Sometimes it is signaling you need rest or to actually look at something you’ve been avoiding. Taking a pill is a quick and easy fix but often we are reacting with the quick fix instead of addressing the issue. What would happen if we pause and just ask ourselves what we need instead?

If we just took the time to explore more of what our body, our heart and our soul are trying to tell us, what would happen in our lives?

This is what I’ve been thinking a lot about since the last time I wrote. Writing has always been incredibly therapeutic for me. It’s been a catalyst for discovery, exploration and ultimately, what paves the path to my own growth and ultimately, my healing.

Lately I’ve been called to share where I’m at in a different way. Cancer took a toll on me physically, mentally and definitely emotionally.

The last two years have been extremely challenging in a multitude of ways for me but the amazing thing is, I’m finally at a point in my growth where I can look at challenge in my life and see the parts that are getting me to stretch beyond my comfort zone and grow.

The dance for me is and always has been to learn to balance my emotions, to not be so reactionary, to let go of all the stories I took on for years, and honestly, find my voice and figure out who the heck I am and fully embody that. Even if it means others in my life may disapprove.

Developing my tumor two years ago has been the greatest teacher so far. I think I’ll have to tell that story sometime because it was one of the most frustrating and terrifying experiences of my life. Yet, looking back it’s taught me so much. Getting a rare and confusing cancer diagnoses, the whole process of learning about that, surgery, treatment, and recovery from that has felt like one big uphill climb and I just couldn’t catch my breath. My normal disposition is to keep pushing on. To do all the things in the same way I always have. What I’m learning now is I just can’t. I’m not that person anymore. Or, maybe I never was.

I actually need a lot of downtime. I need a lot of rest and relaxation. I need quiet. I need to not over schedule myself or have very many plans throughout the week. I function better on more spontaneity and I definitely need to allow myself the space to make a decision instead of saying yes to everything out of fear of missing out like I normally do.

So, I’ve spent the last few weeks sitting with that and trying my best to get really honest with myself. I’ve been asking myself some really tough questions.

But it’s always when I feel like I’ve hit a bottom that God (ie: Universe, Source, Life) steps in to remind me of the very thing I’m not addressing and if I did, it would change everything. Rashes, breakups, anger and resentments rising to the surface, massive hormonal chaos. All huge messages right now for me.

I find myself in a place I’ve never been before. I’m excited. Almost giddy about what is to come. It feels like the calm before a storm but not a destructive storm like in the past. A tranSTORMation is what I’m calling it. A big one. One that will allow me to peel back even more layers and show up as the real me even more.

So what is next?

Trauma, whether emotional, mental or physically (usually it’s all three combined), doesn’t look the same for everyone thus healing can’t look the same for everyone either. We all have the opportunity to embark on our own healing journey. And that is exactly what I am doing.

As I said to my therapist via text the other day, “It’s time. It’s time to go deeper.”

So that is what I’m doing. I’m investing in me in a way I never have. I’m taking this whole healing thing a few steps deeper. It’s not a one size fits all plan. It’s tailored just for me. I’m looking at all areas of my life and getting very honest and I plan on sharing what I’m doing for myself to heal along the way. I plan to really show up in this space consistently and offer you an experience that may open a few doors of curiosity for you as well.

But please remember, this is MY path and it may not feel right for you. It may trigger you or cause uncomfortable feelings to arise in you. May I invite you to explore that more deeply? It’s just an invitation for you to possibly look at your life differently too. You have to go on your own exploration. Your own journey. You have to try things on, listen to those little nudges and find the courage to step forward on your own path. .

So raise your glass of organic green celery juice (that’s all I’m drinking these days) and cheers with me. Because t’s time to really heal.

Dear Cancer, You Are Stealing From Me

**WARNING: I recently took a yoga class from my dear friend and her words penetrated deep. "Let the world see who you really are, where you are really at. It's not always pretty and perfect." So here is to a messy, raw and wildly authentic post. If you have an aversion to cuss words, well, maybe skip this one.  

"Everybody's got that chapter, of dark and darker days. Saturn seems to be returning and his essence can't be tamed. Some may like to fight it, try to plan a secret attack. But the more you push it the more it's pushing you back. So, you can't rush your healing. Darkness has its teachings. Love is never leaving. You can't rush your healing"

- Trevor Hall

I learned the hard way to not put out into the Universe the very thing you fear most because it will likely be presented to you at some point in time. The Universe will most definitely say, "Oh yeah, well I think you CAN handle it," and then throw whatever it is in your lap like a ton of bricks leaving you gasping for air. Sometimes life just isn't fair like that.

Shitty things happen to really great people. Beautiful and kind and amazing individuals are taken away from us way too soon. Disease happens and people lose things they never realized were valuable to them. Little kids get sick and die and horrible criminals live well into their nineties, unscathed.  

There is an imbalance in life and I don't think we'll ever really understand why. 

People often say, and I've been guilty of this myself, that everything happens for a reason. All of these things happen to shape and mold you, to help you grow into the person you are suppose to be. I've said that a bunch too. I laugh now and can't help but wonder if most of it is a crock of shit. That maybe life, sometimes, is just really unfair. 

Tragedies rip through lives stealing precious people and moments right before your eyes and you spin in circles trying to make sense of it and suddenly, "don't worry, this is all happening for a reason," sounds like a big pile of steaming bullshit. You wait and wait and wait to see things clearly, to understand why but nothing comes. No sense is made and you wonder, well then what was the fucking point? 

That is where I was last week when I learned that radiation was more then likely going to put me into early menopause and at the very least, leave me, infertile. Ouch. 

I want so badly to remain in a state of optimism, to lead with grace and kindness, to continue to believe that everything is happening for a reason and that life presents things to me so that I can evolve into the best version of myself. Except, I really don't feel like this experience is doing that at the moment. At least not right now and maybe that is the point. Maybe over time, this whole mess of an experience will make better sense and I'll be better because of it. 

Last week I fell deep within a cloud of bitter haze though as I sat alone with this news. I found myself throwing on fake smiles and diluted pleasantries to make everyone else feel at ease around me but the reality was, I was spinning from the feeling that cancer is stealing something mighty precious from me and I can't do anything about it. And I keep wondering, what is the bloody point? 

The funny thing is, I knew the highs and lows would come like a chaotic whirlwind. I've been through this before after all and I learned a huge lesson that time around. I knew that once the dust settled and life moved on and time went by, I'd feel all the feelings that come with this wild rollercoaster. I knew that I'd, at times, feel lost and forgotten. I knew I'd feel angry and scared. I knew I'd feel confused and baffled and even happy and peaceful by what I'd been given and I definitely knew unexpected things would happen that would change the course of my life forever. 

I knew my faith and sense of optimism would be tested like it never had before. 

What I didn't realize however, was that my life wouldn't even look like my own anymore. That everything would change and I'd feel like I was standing in the middle of Time Square staring at everything moving a million miles an hour all around me and I'm just watching and waiting for everything to make sense to me once again. Yet, none of it does.

And so I sunk. Deep and dark I went. In all honesty, if it wasn't for a few things that happened that helped distract me from my current reality, I wonder if I would have continued sinking? I felt somewhat balanced. 

Then the news came last week. News that made me feel out of control and helpless and I found myself facedown kicking and screaming on the floor and I realized how distracted I had been. I wondered how much of this reaction was from this news and how much of it was the aftermath of time and not truly processing the magnitude of what I was going through.

This news however, opened up that dark pit once again and I sank. 

But as everyone knows, time changes things. Even in the span of a week. This week has felt lighter and I see how much I have actually grown over the years. I have tools and resources now and the greatest advantage possible; perspective. 

I've been thinking a lot about perspective and our attitudes towards traumatic things that happen to us. How we think we lose our power by situations and circumstances that are out of our control, then it hit me, it's our attitude and perspective that GIVES us the power. 

Last week, as I watched a lifelong dream slip through my fingertips, I also let my personal power melt away with it. Demons surfaced, ones that whispered lies to me, ones that created chaos in my mind, ones that I've worked tirelessly to quiet over the years. 

Then this week something radical resurfaced out of a choice; faith and hope. I realized that as unfair as it may feel, I do have a choice. I can allow cancer to harden me, to add a bitter layer, to feel helpless and anger towards life, OR, let it continue to soften me, to add depth, and an openness to relate to and be there for others in a way I never have been before. 

I know very well which attitude I want to cultivate. But it's not always easy and I know the demons will try again and again and I'll fight back with everything I've got because I'm committed. I've chosen which side I'm on and I really want to do my best every day. I'm committed to living my life with purpose and waking up daily and reminding myself that I GET to live life this way. That I've chosen faith and hope and love over the dark side. That, in the end, I DO have all the power and I DO believe that something mighty wonderful will come out of these dark moments. 

So maybe cancer can come in like a thief in the night and steal a precious experience from me, one that feels like a birthright really, but in the end I get to choose how I react to it. I get to process it, move through it and ultimately, live it the way I see fit. 

So in the end cancer, I win. 

 

 

 

Don't wait. The Time Is Now.

"I know the rain is cold my dear, but dance in it a little while you wait for the sun." - a.j. lawless

It's been two days since my surgery and I'm home, resting somewhat comfortably on my couch with my legs up on top of a pillow. Aches and pains fill my left side and pelvis from the procedures they performed. One was the inguinal dissection of the left lymph nodes and the other was a D & C (Dilation and curettage) which is a procedure to remove tissue from inside my uterus. Basically, my doctor scraped out the first layer of my uterus  with a rake-like medical devise. There's a mental image for you. 

I had no idea what to expect from this surgery and I did too much of the very thing you shouldn't do and research way too much and totally freaked myself out. I've only really ever known surgery to be excruciating. When I had part of my colon removed in 2005, complication arose and I got extremely sick and was in a tremendous amount of pain. I had a pic line and drains and an ileostomy bag and was very sick. Naturally, I figured this surgery would bring about similar pains. It's funny how our mind does that to us. 

Given the nature of that surgery and the complications that arose, its safe to say that I developed a good amount of PTSD. However, this surgery hasn't been nearly as rough but I imagine, and I'm prepared for, its own set of hardships.

I did have to leave the hospital with a drain connected to the area where they removed lymph nodes which I'll have for a minimum of two weeks. I have to empty it twice a day which was similar to my ileostomy bag. I also left with some mighty good pain meds but I hate being on them. They make me nauseous and I feel like I'm floating out of my body. They also make me feel like I"m having a panic attack and I can't think. So I'm trying very hard to not take them. But I think I may cave today as I overdid it this morning and now am dealing with more pain then I had since the surgery. 

My mom went to run errands and my roommate left to go volunteer with some of her students so I have the house to myself for a bit. It's an eery feeling. I haven't really been alone since finding out the results of my PET scan which were worse then I had hoped. Apparently, the cancer was in multiple lymph nodes along my left side and had spread to a pelvis/sacrum node as well and I can't help but wonder if that is why my lower back has been hurting so bad the last few months. I can't help but think back to a lot of my so called symptoms and wonder if that was the cancer the whole time. 

They still don't know exactly where the cancer started. They don't know how to diagnose me and my oncologist even said that this case is very rare. It's not normal. Here is the thing about me though; I'm all for not being normal and being unique but in this case, I'd actually prefer to be a little more mainstream. I'd actually prefer my cancer be a little more black and white. I'd prefer to know exactly what to expect but I don't and that is a hard place for me to be. 

My world feels a little foggy right now and this surgery is only the beginning. I have a long road ahead of me and I have no idea what is in store. All I can do at this point is hope like hell that what they find isn't as serious as I feel like it may be. 

 I'm grateful though. I'm grateful for all the love a support I've received. From my family, my friends, strangers. Thank you. 

Thank you to all those that have shared with me that I am on their prayer lists and their aunt's church prayer lists and so forth. I know I have an army behind me. I know I have some mighty good connections to the big G.O.D so I feel safe and in good hands. But I'm still scared.

I don't want to have cancer. It's a very strange feeling to know that there is something inside of me and it's very job is to seek and destroy every last part of me until I take my last breath. It wont come to that mind you. I'm stronger then this beast. This beast doesn't quite know what it's dealing with and I'm trying very hard to not show it my fear. 

But I'm scared. 

Words like more surgery, radiation and chemotherapy have already been dropped and that scares me. That scares the crap out of me. I don't want to lose my hair. I don't want to pump my body full of poison or fry my reproductive organs under a machine. 

I keep repeating conversations that my old roommate and I had about what we'd do if cancer came back into our lives. We are both rather holistic and I always thought I'd fight this with natural medicine but here I am, now faced with that choice and I'm scared of the decision I have to make. I don't know what to do. All I know, without a doubt, is that I want to live and I want to live in a mighty big way. I know that I have a lot left to do and I also know that this experience is part of that plan. But I still don't really know what to do regarding this cancer that I am facing right now. So I'm thankful for this time of the unknown. This time of not having to decide anything. 

Why does it take something bad happening to remind us of how bad we want to live? Why does it take something like this happening to remind us of how lucky we are or how much we still want to do with our lives?

I hope I remember when this is all said and done, to live like I've never lived before. To take even more risks and be even braver in my choices. To say yes more to the things that light me up and no to those things that are petty and bullshit. 

I hope I forgive more easily and love even bigger. 

I hope I tell those I love them every single time I talk to them. 

I hope I close more doors that no longer deserve my time and attention so that other doors, doors that are waiting to be open can do so. 

But then again, why am I waiting for all this to be over to do so. Screw that. The time is now. Live like this now. Don't wait. Don't you dare wait for the right time because that time IS right now. Take it from me, when you find out something like this, you have a moment when everything flashes before your eyes and you wonder why you aren't living the way you believe you should be.

So from here on out...while I fight this fight, I'm also going to live this one precious life of mine exactly as I want to. 

Wild, free and full of purpose and adventure. 

I hope you do too. Live your life they way you've always wanted to. 

 

 

 

Today is the day because don't you know I have cancer?

"Being ignored is a great privilege. That is how I think I learned to see what others do not see and to react to situations differently. I simply looked at the world, not really prepared for anything." - Saul Leiter
 

It's 6:30am on a Thursday morning, almost two weeks to the day that I was diagnosed with metastatic cancer of an unknown primary source. 

I thought I would have heard from them by now. The oncologist at UCSD Moore Cancer Center.  I mean, it's been over a week since they received my case. How can they possibly still be reviewing it? Don't they know I have cancer? 

Thoughts circle my mind like a whirlwind of chaos as I sit up and attempt to settle into my first meditation practice of the day but all I can think about is the big, goopy cup of coffee I so friggin' want right now. I'm missing some of my old rituals.

As committed as I am to eating and drinking things that only promote alkalinity in my body, I just want to be sitting at the base of a big mountain in the early morning, with the soft glow of the spring light kissing the snow capped mountains, sipping on cheap, instant goop. I wonder if I'll ever be able to drink coffee again without feeling guilty. 

I'm growing frustrated with the system as I wait on more information. I'm starting to feel like I've been swept under the rug, once again.  

Over the last few days I've noticed a certain irritation, an impatience for myself and with others, bubbling up from within. My type A side is feening for more structure and order yet my wild and free spirit is enjoying the unknown. I feel like a total conundrum. My head is spinning. 

I take a deep breathe and focus on my breathing, doing my best to attempt to let go of any linger irritation and chaotic thoughts. 

"Just focus on your breathing, Amanda." I quietly say to myself as I place my left hand on my chest. "Let all that other junk fall away. For now."

I come to from my trance-like meditative state and realize I actually meditated. This makes me excited because honestly, I really stink at meditating and lately its felt more like a violent boxing match between the competing thoughts in my head instead of a mediation practice. Screw the silence, let's just see which ones I can keep at bay the longest. That alone feels like a success.

"Today's the day!" I say to myself as I slip out from under the covers, resting on the edge of the bed as I pull on my fuzzy white Penguin socks. The ones my mom gave me for Christmas two years ago. 

Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer

I prepare my warm lemon water and stand staring out the kitchen window at my back yard. I look at the garden and a smile forms across my lips as I imagine the harvest we will have in a few months. I think about the conversation my housemate and I had yesterday as we were cleaning out the garden, getting it ready for planting on Saturday. How empowering it was going to feel to grow our own food. I laughed and told her that I'd rather be hands deep in dirt and soil then out partying any day. 

I'm shaken from my memory by the sound of boiling water. 

Today is the day they'll call. Don't they know I have cancer

Earlier this week I joked with a friend and said, "they better figure something out soon cause I'm already bored with cancer. I'm bored of talking about it.  I just want to get back to my life."

So that's what I decided to do. Get back to it. Because despite this recent diagnosis of mine, I must keep moving forward. 

When I first realized my gut feeling was becoming my reality, I immediately thought of all the stuff I was doing. I am only half-way through my first semester of school. Last time, twelve years ago, I had just completed my first quarter back at school. All I could think was, seriously? Please, not again. I don't have time to put all this on hold agin. 

So today, they have to call. They have to because don't they know I have cancer. 

And my art. I have momentum. I have plans. I don't have time to put all this on hold either.

I wonder; why is it that right when things feel good, right when I feel like I'm going down a path that feels so friggin' good, life throws a giant curveball? 

I've been mulling over something for a few years now, something I think people often say to provide comfort but I wonder, does it? 

"God does not give you more then you can handle."  

I've been turning it over and over in my head because it bugs me. I think it’s bullshit sometimes. But I also find a lot of truth to it. I've found myself repeating it often. To myself and others, as a source of comfort. But I don’t know what I believe anymore.

What I feel like saying to God is this:  

"I'm good God. I think I've had my fair share of challenges to learn and grow from. I mean, it's not that I can't handle it. I KNOW I can handle this. I am one strong bamajama. There is no denying that. But God, I'm good. I think I've had my fair share."

And then I hear God laugh in the far off distance. And I give him my most perfect glare and eye roll. 

Today they'll call. They have to. Don't they know I have cancer. 

I get ready for school and call Brooke, my best friend back in Seattle. We catch up, both sharing our latest frustrations with the medical system and then we encourage the other to call our doctors and insist on moving forward. "Be your own advocate!" I cheer and laugh into the phone. "We are women, hear us roar! The sounds of claps and cheers fill my head and I cheer on my best friend. 

I hang up with Brooke and silence.

I feel weak, forgotten and powerless as I call UCSD. 

I'm transferred to a gal named Wendy and she informs me that my case has, in fact, finally been approved. I can't help but suddenly feel like dollars signs are hanging over my head.. 

"April 10th is the soonest I can get you in to see one of the oncologist." says Wendy. Tears well up in my eyes. I clear my throat and try to compose myself. " But that's over a week and a half away. You don't have anything sooner? I've already been sitting on this diagnosis for two weeks. I'm also losing my insurance at the end of April and there will be a lapse until I can get private insurance. I kind of need to do whatever it is I need to do before that" 

"You mean surgery? Oh well, we are already booking out into the middle of May for that anyway. I'm sorry. We are just really busy." She replies. This fact alone is just depressing in and of itself. They're just "really busy." 

"But wait!" I want to shout. "Don't you know I have cancer?" 

"I guess just put me down for that one." I say as nicely as I can. I know I can't take out my frustrations on her but I surely want to. "Can I get on a cancellation list?"

"You can call back Monday and see if anyone's cancelled. It does happen every now and then." Wendy replies.

"Okay, thanks." I whisper.

I hang up the phone and give myself a few moments to cry in the drivers seat sitting in my car in the school parking lot. 

Because don't they know, I have cancer?