Have you ever felt like your life resembled that of a childhood story or fairy tale? I most certainly have. I think mine closely compares to that of Hansel and Gretel. I am the character getting lost in the woods, but without breadcrumbs. Or do you feel like one of the characters in The Blair Witch Project that continue to find themselves lost, walking in circles while being tormented by an unseen witch at night? Yep, that is me again. Although my story does not involve a witch, that I know of, but both stories are horrific and terrifying in their own right. Since 2011 my adventures through life have and still do resemble a bit of the theme of the wanderer in the woods. Much like an inexperienced hiker trekking through the forest looking for the right trail to lead her out from underneath the dark and confusing canopy. I am not trying to escape from an evil witch in the woods as are the characters in the first two examples, but I am trying to find a way through the confusion, the unknown, and back into familiarity.
Sometimes I think I am looking for something that does not exist; a resemblance of my life before cancer and divorce. This previous life had order and some predictability. It made sense and the equations balanced; goal + effort = success. If I set my mind on a goal, put in the effort, I would typically achieve a successful outcome. Post 2011 the math changed. It was as if the equations had been written in a different language and the outcome was no longer the sum of all the parts. What the heck? Who changed the rules and why was I not informed? It was a reminder to me that life is not fair and we are no longer playing by moral and just rules. I had to stop looking backwards and start looking ahead. I had to tell myself, “It is the wild west out there, baby, and you better get your gun.”
Well, maybe not the wild west, but my journey has been rather odd in what some people refer to as a “season.” All my other seasons in life made sense, fit into place on the map, and was part of my big plan. If I can be perfectly honest, this season is a little whacked out, and quite honestly makes no logical sense what-so-ever. Let’s just say my life journey, if it was a person, appears to have taken a stop off at the local tavern to rest. While it was enjoying some libations and conversations, it unknowingly allowed chaos and sarcasm to take the reins – and boy are they having fun. But, as an optimistic, mature adult, I have learned that you work with the hand you are dealt in life. My hand was pretty strong in the early years, but somehow over time, the hand became weak. By the end of my third decade, I think the dealer was drunk because the cards I started to be dealt were random and harsh. I could have thrown them on the table and bowed out of the game, but I decided absolutely not. I pulled my britches up, took my seat at the table, and said, “Bring it, I am all in.” It was then I decided to play the hell out of this most peculiar hand I was dealt.
So what is the latest card in the peculiarity hand you ask? Well, let me tell you. This week the dealer is serving me up radioactive iodine treatment. It is a preventative treatment for my recent thyroid cancer diagnosis and thyroidectomy. Yes, I will be radioactive and in isolation for three days. This treatment will hopefully destroy any remaining thyroid tissue and cancer cell that may be lingering after my recent surgery. Although I am a self-declared introvert, three days in isolation away from the world is not exactly my idea of a rip-roaring good time. My son, bless his heart, will be my only physical connection to the outside world, as long as he is 7 feet away and does not come in contact with me. The logistics behind it all is actually very frustrating. Being locked in a room in your house for 72 hours is going to be challenging to say the least. This crazy diet alone I have been on for the past two weeks in preparation is enough to test anyone’s sanity. I had to give up coffee. Coffee itself is allowed, but because I love my coffee silky smooth with cream, I cannot have it. All dairy products are forbidden as part of the low-iodine diet. If you take coffee away from a woman who has been drinking it fondly and excessively for the past 25 years, you are comparatively waking up a hungry and angry bear from hibernation. The bear has been woken and she is not happy.
In addition to being hangry and coffee deprived, this next week should prove to be interesting to say the least. I am, of course, going to make the best of it and try to find humor in all the semi-atrocities and inconveniences. Let me just say that three days in a row I will make the commute downtown during rush hour traffic and pay for outlandish parking and/or valet fees. I will be stabbed by nurses with injections to be chemically forced into hypothyroidism. I will walk by the cafeteria and Starbucks unable to partake, because this chic is still on a low iodine diet and they have absolutely nothing I can eat. But it is on day three that the real fun begins. Day three will afford me many treats. I will start the day with an hour-long full body scan that includes no movement and no form of entertainment. This is when my meditation skills will have to come out in full force. Upon completion, I will then have a fabulous blood draw to check my chemistry and I will check in with my doctor for a short visit. Finally we come to the piece de resistance….to be made radioactive. On the third day spent at this fabulous hospital, (it is indeed an incredible place), if my body is perfectly in line and the stars line up as they should, I get to be introduced to radioactive iodine! Once the symbiosis begins, I become a radioactive cocktail!
Once the cocktail is streaming through this body, I will immediately drive home and force myself into isolation to my bedroom. Thankfully I have a bathroom in my room and I will literally turn it into a makes-shift fall out shelter. I made certain to order a few books, purchase some magazines, and compile a laundry list of television programs to binge watch. In case I need to dash out of my room to grab food or necessities, I have an exorbitant amount of latex gloves and a handful of surgical face masks. No need to share the radiation with my teenage son or cats. What do I do with all those latex gloves when I am done with treatment?
If you are wondering, yes, I am being sarcastic. If I seem to be complaining or whining, I am as well. I am actually very thankful and blessed for the technology and treatment available to keep me healthy. I am thankful that this is the worst I have to go through. Remember, I have experienced chemotherapy before. I know and have danced with that devil in the past. I am elated to know I do not have to tango with it once again. Actually, I will do whatever I need to in order to secure my health for myself, my children and my family. I am being sarcastic because it releases the frustration and it helps me poke fun at it. I poke fun at it because it diminishes any power it has over me. That is exactly why I choose laughter and humor at some of the most unsavory moments in life. As said in previous posts, laughter sometimes is the one true thing that keeps me from crying.
So where do I go from here? I simply do not know. I do not give up and I do not know how not to push through it. This “season”, this deck of cards, this journey – however you want to refer to life, is unpredictable. I am sure some day I will look back in awe or I will look back and it will somehow make sense. Who knows, maybe I will just shake my head and laugh…or curse. But in any case, I will continue to walk through the woods, checking out new trails, and doing my best to dodge any roots or branches that may trip me up. I do know that until I figure my way out of the woods, and until this season of growth, change and the rebuilding of myself physically ends, I am going to giggle and laugh my way through it.