Life goes on, but it’s not the same

I’ve got the “I beat cancer” blues.

Am I still a mountain biker when I haven’t been on my bike in years? Am I a runner when I haven’t gone running in months? Am I a writer when I’m not actively writing? Am I a musician when I haven’t been playing my guitar? Do I have value to anyone when I’m not doing something valuable?

Two years ago I beat* cancer.
*which just means it hasn’t yet come back in two years, and it may never come back, but then again it could.

I think there’s a time, just after cancer has been beaten*, when survivors feel more alive and connected than they remember feeling before cancer. It’s an incredible experience. You have no patience or time for bullshit, and you act on things that are important to you—even little things—right away because you know how close you came to having no time left. There is no should when it comes to doing – only will and won’t. You feel overwhelming impatience for meaningless or frivolous delays. If something is worth doing then it’s worth doing it right now—or at least taking the first difficult steps—and it’s exciting.

My husband and I had talked for years about our next pet being a dog. When I was done with cancer, I pushed hard to get that dog. I had been thinking for ages that I should improve my guitar playing through lessons, so I went out and found a teacher. Everything that seemed important to me — from taking a course to riding my bike 200 miles in a weekend to finding a way to get into community theatre to just getting outside — I was ready to act on each and every item in the moment it occurred to me.

My productivity was off the charts… but only for a little while.

As my strength came back and the chemotherapy drugs wore off, I felt unstoppable. And then life started creeping back in.

It’s hard not to believe that once your cancer is in complete remission that there’s nothing you can’t overcome. When life starts throwing exciting challenges (stressful situations) at you, you’re confident that you’ll breeze through it all.

The adorably troublesome and neighbour-irritating new puppy gets pneumonia and nearly dies on the same day that my husband’s grandmother across the country passes away suddenly? That’s awful. But the expensive emergency vet trip saves the dog, and the expensive private training sessions make it less likely that our neighbours will hate us for the dog, and we’re grateful we took our daughters to visit Bubbie a few months earlier. We can recover from a little credit card debt. And it’s nice having a puppy.

My husband starts having seemingly undiagnosable abdominal pain? Okay, well we survived cancer, so we can get through this and figure it out and move on. No big deal. And when it turns out to be a pulled abdominal muscle gone rogue with PTSD, we breath a sigh of (painful) relief and laugh nervously about the strange post-cancer side effects we never expected.

Our ground-level apartment floods, leaving us homeless in the most expensive housing region of the country with possibly the lowest vacancy rates? I guess we can take our family of four + puppy and sleep in our friends’ basements and guest rooms, and stay at hotels and short-term holiday rentals, and try to buy a townhouse in a seller’s market that’s just gone from barely affordable for us to completely unaffordable. For six months.

And then I didn’t feel unstoppable anymore.

I didn’t float through problems secure in the feeling that everything was going to be okay. Everything consistently wasn’t okay. I wasn’t okay.

And now that things are settled — the dog is healthy, the family is healthy, we’ve uprooted ourselves and settled down in a new town in a house of our own, and everything is feeling deliciously normal — I’m still not okay.

I’m supposed to be okay by now.

I held it together for two years of crises. Nobody — myself included — knows exactly how. That’s okay — how doesn’t matter.

What matters is that I’m not holding it together anymore and I feel like I should be. My life is as stable as I could ever hope it would be. And I miss that feeling I had when I first beat cancer — that I could do everything and I could start right now, so I did.

Some of that feeling has stayed — specifically, the part where I want things to start or change or be the way I imagine they should be right now. I’m in a new town, why don’t I already have all sorts of new friends and social engagements and volunteer work? Why am I not already involved in everything? I want it to happen right now. I have no patience for pointless delays like small talk and trying to meet people in my usual awkward ways. Not that I have skills to do it without the awkward.

But the other side of it, the side where I feel alive and unstoppable, where I’m excited about every new idea I have and the new friendships I’m about to discover… that part has disappeared. More than disappeared, in fact. It’s gone into negative space, and it’s feeding the imposter syndrome I’ve felt for as long as I can remember — about my career, about my hobbies and interests, about being not a real cancer survivor because I didn’t have it as bad as a lot of other people. I don’t feel like I’m a real anything, so I don’t want to do anything.

The combination of stress whiplash and the jarring feeling that my ambitions and motivations no longer exist make me suspect one thing. These are the hardest words to say aloud, the hardest ones to even write down on a page:

I am depressed.

I shouldn’t be depressed, because everything is okay now. I don’t have cancer anymore, and it’s been two years since I did. I have a home and a great relationship and family. I have a job with a great team who have supported me through every hurdle I’ve faced in the last couple of years. I am not allowed to be depressed because there is no valid reason to be depressed. My life doesn’t suck enough for me to be depressed. I still play with my kids and laugh with friends and make terrible jokes and sarcastic comments. On the surface I’m perfectly fine.

I know better. I’ve walked this path before, though it’s been a while. I remember how it felt the last time I went through this. It felt exactly like I feel right now.

I’ve talked to friends who also survived cancer; they say they went through that period of feeling alive and motivated and excited about everything, and that it went away, and that they miss it now that things are settled and normal. I haven’t asked them if they, too, struggled with feeling worthless, pointless, fraudulent. I haven’t asked if they got depressed, because that would be telling, now wouldn’t it?

Am I still a biker, writer, runner, musician? Am I valuable? I don’t feel like I am when I can barely find the motivation to sit on my couch and play my video games once I’ve taken care of all the standard mom responsibilities.

I’m terrified of telling anyone my suspicions — that I’m actually depressed — because they’ll look at my life and wonder how that’s possible, when all the bad things are over — I won. They won’t believe me. They won’t know how to help. I certainly don’t, and I’ve been depressed before.

Do many cancer survivors have this much trouble resetting themselves into normalcy?

I don’t know the answers. What I have done is started seeing a therapist regularly. Unraveling the weave that has made me who I am means walking through a lot of things that I’ve been skirting around for the last twenty years. I’ll see you on the other side.

Allergies

I have an appointment on Tuesday with an allergist. I’ve never had allergies before this, and I don’t even really know if what I have now is allergies or some weird lengthy cold that doesn’t act like a cold. It certainly acts more like allergies than a cold, however. I’m hoping the doctor can figure out what it is and I can remove it from my surroundings as much as possible (as in, I hope it’s not dust or cats, because those things don’t disappear in my life.) I don’t want to get on antihistamines if I can possibly avoid it – I’d rather deal with the sneezing and sniffling sessions than breastfeed with random drugs coursing through my veins, and I don’t intend to stop breastfeeding at this point.

Adam is sitting on the living room floor with Lyra. He is playing the guitar and singing for her, and she’s giggling, squealing, and helping strum from time to time. She likes the music, our little girl. She sits with him while he plays piano, too – she loves hitting the keys and seeing what sounds she can make. I should take a video of both sometime.

It’s been sunny and 10 degrees for much of this week. The croci have reappeared – the first sign of spring to me. I expect (and hope) that there is still some rain to come – we’ve barely had any this winter, and I’m sure the summer water stocks are comparatively low. I don’t really mind the rain… sometimes I even miss it.

In other news, we downloaded Noby Noby Boy for ps3, but haven’t tried it yet. I don’t really know what to expect, other than very, very weird things. Oh, and I picked up Final Fantasy IV, Chrono Trigger, and Big Brain Academy for the DS Lite, so far. I traded in a whole bunch of old games for store credit and used it to buy four new games (one for ps3 for Adam, Valkeria Chronicles.) I’m loving final Fantasy IV, haven’t started Chrono Trigger, and am liking the Big Brain Academy stuff (which I also liked for wii when we played it at my mom’s place.) I’m also playing Final Fantasy VII on the ps3 (for ps1, hooray backwards compatibility.)

Maternity Leave planning

Today at work I posted the job opportunity for my maternity leave coverage on our website. It was very weird. On one hand I’m pretty excited that time is getting so short. On the other, it is a strange feeling to post your own position online. My brain fills with all sorts of questions… What if I don’t want to come back? What if my replacement is way better at things than I am and work starts to wish they could keep them around instead? What if everything changes and I come back to absolute chaos? What if nothing gets done of the major projects I’ve been involved in starting, and I come back and have to pick up the pieces? It makes me just a little crazy, so I try not to think too much about it.

The exciting part, of course, it just how quickly everything is happening now. We’re well past half way through May. June is bound to go quickly. My plan is to go on maternity leave around the beginning to middle of July, since I’m due at the end of July or so. That should give me some time to sit around the house bored while I wait for Ultra Magnus to come out. Plus, it gives me time to go all nesting/housecleaning or something.

Speaking of Ultra Magnus, he/she is awake and kicking yet again. I could feel a foot sticking out of me the other day. I like to sit around in my rocking chair watch my belly undulate with the baby’s movements. Adam joins me regularly and stares at it – it’s more entertaining than any television I’ve ever watched.

I’m starting to worry about what we have left to buy to prepare for the impending baby. I think we still need a stroller and a dresser/change table type thing for baby clothes. I hope I have enough cloth diapers to start with, but I really don’t know if I have the right sizes – how do you size for something that you can’t really see? How do you know what sizes will work? I think for the first week we may have to go disposable, just to keep things simple. I’ll pick up some eco-friendly disposables soon. I hope to transition to cloth quickly, however, and I really hope to get a diaper service for at least the first few months.

I also very much need to invest in that apartment sized clothes washing machine. I’d like to find a used one, but I’m not sure if that will work out. I may have to just buy it full priced from Wal-Mart (it’s cheaper there than at London Drugs, sadly, but not by much.) Of course, if I had the option to splurge there’s always the crazy LG washer at 725$, but 370$ is pricey enough, really. The only one of the three portable machines I’ve seen that’s Energy Star qualified is the Danby (the cheapest of them, w00t) so really that’s my best option.

Yes, I will buy appliances based entirely on Energy Star Compliance. Now if only I could find a used one, or a reasonable sale price. 369$ is still a lot of money.

I really need to sit down and make a list of what I still need.

It is now time to corrupt my unborn child by watching Adam play some Grand Theft Auto IV. Wooohoo!

Post-christmas haze

Christmas at mom’s was nice. We took a car from the the Car Co-op out to my mom’s place, mellowed out there all day, then came home to sleep. I got snowshoes from Adam, they are truly awesome. Now to set up some snowshoeing dates.

Yesterday we went in to Vancouver and played board/card games at Wolf’s house. We played Citadels, Puerto Rico, and Carcassone, for nearly 11 hours of gaming funness. Today Adam is working (early shift ew) but will be home soon I think. It’s been rain/snow/slushing out all day – pretty miserable and wet, really. I should go out and get some groceries, but I’ve been lazy. I did do some cleanup and took out the recycling, but that’s as ambitious as I got. Maybe I’ll meet Adam on his way home at the Grocereteria or something. I should really get out of the house, even if it is miserable out.

I am considering knitting myself some simple slippers. Anyone got a good pattern out there? Preferably easy, because I am lazy and lack attention span for complicated things.

Burke

Chris, Adam, Sean and I went out riding on Burke Mountain in Port Coquitlam this afternoon. It was good, we haven’t actually been back out to Burke since we took Chris out for his first mountain biking ride back in May. It was a lot less wet, and I was a lot more comfortable this time than last time. I guess all the riding (or attempting to ride and mostly walking with bike) the North Shore trails has made something like Flywheel on Burke feel pretty easy. It’s a trail with really good flow, and I really managed to find a happy place with my riding. It was good

Yesterday I spent half the day shopping with Jinni along Robson. I spent my gift card for Plum and bought some nice new clothes. The pants are awesome but they need hemming – I wish I knew why women’s fashion stores think that I should be four inches taller than I am. I can never buy pants that fit properly. The shirts are nice too, especially the turquoise/aqua/ocean one. For dinner we ended up getting Hot Pot in Richmond. We had considered seeing a movie but it was too late by the time we were done

So now we’re home after riding, and a bit tired, and I might play some Drakengard whle Adam makes houses in the Sims 2. I want the pets expansion. I should just get it already, EB keeps sending me coupons to save 15$ on it, but I still don’t know if that makes it worth it to buy online in USD and pay for shipping. Wish I knew how much it’ll be in the Canadian stores. Oh well, Neverwinter Nights 2 is out in a couple of weeks, and that will take up all my time soon anyway.

Picture a Day update

I’ve just added the newest photos to the Picture a Day project. For today’s I actually had to collect some stuff on the way home from work and set it up in the dining room.

I’ve been sorting things to pack, on and off. I should probably go through my desk. I finally installed that hard drive, and then installed Baldur’s Gate II and started playing it. Mmmmmm Bioware, I love you. Please don’t bring out NWN 2 until I have a computer that can play it… I beg you.

I think this year I will do a photos of the year retrospective in my photo gallery and journal. That should be interesting. Now the question is, will I focus on my best/favourite photos, or ones that tell stories about what was going on at the time? Hmmm. Much to consider.

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I had so little energy today after getting home from the hospital that all I could bring myself to do all day was sit and/or lie on the couch and watch Adam play SSX and Dragon Quest VIII when I wasn’t napping. I played a bit of SSX myself – it’s great fun. I am the ski grinding queen.

However, now it is Sunday night and I have accomplished nothing towards my goal. I’m still quite exhausted, so I don’t know how much I’ll be able to focus tonight anyhow. I may just have to put a lot more energy into it after work this week.

A ghost in the office?

We were sitting here, minding our own business, Adam playing his game and me working on a website, when we suddenly heard a loud ‘crack,’ akin to the sound of a light bulb exploding. We stopped everything we were doing and looked around. It sounded to me like it came from Adam’s desk, but we couldn’t find anything. There are no broken light bulbs. There is no sign of anything being wrong at all, in fact, and we have no idea what caused the sound. It’s a little bit creepy.

I’ve finally started some work on my website redesign (yes, I do this once in a while. The last one hasn’t been particularly effective for what I want, so it’s time to move on.) I’ve put it all together in a nice photoshop file, now I just have to work out how to translate all of that to HTML. That’ll be the challenging part. I’ll tackle it tomorrow perhaps, after I’m done running errands. Hooray for dreamweaver.

Adam’s playing black & white now. I will have to get back to that when he’s at work tomorrow night. It doesn’t run on my computer (what with my computer being about 7 years old or something) so we have to switch off playing. It’s interesting watching our different playing styles – I’m predominantly good, winning over towns by making my town so fantastic everyone wants to live there. He’s predominantly evil, creating armies and sending them in to take over towns by force. It makes for a bit of a different game.

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My grogginess knows no bounds… sat down on the couch and passed out for a bit.

Adam’s playing GTA: San Andreas on his computer. It makes me wish that we had a PS2, so I could be playing it (or something equally fun and destructive, like Samurai Warriors or one of its kin.) We actually put a Playstation 2 on our wedding registry at the Bay, simply because we want one that much. Plus, we can buy the stuff off our registry after the wedding for some kind of deal (I forget how it work exactly) so if no one gets us a PS2 we can pick it up ourselves later. It will be nice to have a PS2, and maybe a tv that isn’t sucky like our current one (all red-tinged and 20 years old and blurry-like.)

We’ve realized that everything breaks down right now into two categories: Pre-Wedding and Post-Wedding. Pre-wedding is the next month and a half, where everything we do pretty much revolves around the wedding, how much money we have for the wedding, how we’re going to get everything done before the wedding, and so on. Post-wedding is our entire life from when we get back from Ontario onward. It’s the only way we can think about anything right now… little things, like post-wedding we can buy a coffee in the morning from time to time, but we can’t pre-wedding because we have to save as much money as possible. Post-wedding we can go out and have a few drinks on a patio, but pre-wedding we have to think long and hard about it before we go, and then we have to be careful how much we spend if we do decide to go. Post-wedding I’ll be able to buy some cute shoes.

A wedding of this scale (small compared to some, large compared to any weddings in my family) really does take over your entire life. I never thought it was like this. I was wrong.