February 24, 2011

Appointment Anticipation

Dear Mom,

Tomorrow is finally the day for my much-anticipated doctor's appointment. Me feeling anxious is an understatement, but Gisele is coming with me, and she always helps to lighten the mood. The pressure is still off and on in my pelvis, and I have absolutely no idea if it only hurts when I worry and think about it, or if I worry and think about it because it's hurting. Really frustrating, but I am ready to solve this pelvic mystery.

I'm going to spend the rest of the weekend at home with Dad, which I'm really looking forward to. Tom is going to make the six-hour trek to be there too, so I'll finally get to give him the few little things I bought him in Belize last month. I also plan to visit a couple relatives from your side of the family, have a movie date with some sorority sisters who have moved down that way, and take some time to catch up with a few of my close friends from high school. It'll be a nice change of pace and environment.

Last I knew, Dad no longer has wireless internet, so you may not hear from me until Monday. Don't worry though (I'm doing that enough for the both of us); I will write an update as soon as I can, and hopefully it's something along the lines of, "Dear Mom, I'm just fine."

Wish you were here to ease my mind.

Love you,

February 21, 2011

Nancy's Point

Dear Mom,

Today I am being featured on Nancy's Point with a guest post discussing my experience with grief counseling called, "Shrinking My Grief". I was flattered when Nancy asked me to be a guest writer on such a wonderful blog; her writing is so informative, passionate, and relatable, and I am honored that she wanted to include my thoughts in the same forum.

Seeing our picture on someone else's website this morning released a hundred butterflies in my stomach. It was the best feeling. All I've ever wanted to do is find a way to reach out and share our story, and I'm doing just that... with the help of some very amazing people.


February 18, 2011

Losing My Cool in the Heat of the Moment

Dear Mom,

Oh boy. If only you saw what this post originally said approximately 18 hours ago. I am all for writing in the heat of the moment and saying what's really on my mind, but this is the first time I am relieved that I didn't hit 'publish post' while I was in a fit of rage.

Writing publicly about your work life can get you into some trouble, and what I had to say last night probably would have had some negative results if anyone in my office knew this blog existed and actually read it. Regardless, I stopped myself, verbally vented to the appropriate sources, got a good night's sleep, and regained my footing this morning.

So what exactly made me so furiously lose my cool yesterday? Well, let me try to retell this story in the most harmless way possible.

It wasn't the fact that a co-worker randomly felt the need to tell me that I shouldn't be so confident that the small lump in my armpit isn't cancer (even though the doctor said it wasn't and the medication he gave me shrunk it and relieved the pain), and it wasn't even the 10 minutes she later spent researching the worst case scenerios of what 'could be wrong with me' after I had to tell her I won't be in next Friday sinceI have to drive two hours away for an appointment, and she prodded for the reason why. I can handle those things, but you know what I can't handle? I can't handle when someone inconsiderably mentions something about your death (anywhere, let alone at work). And that is what sent me off the deep end.

I was sitting in my office trying to finish up some paperwork before my workday ended in 30 minutes when I heard this person strike up a conversation with some other co-workers up front. Per usual, I tried to block it out and let the conversation fade into the background, but the last thing she said was clear as day.

"The only way you can legally smoke pot is if you're dying of cancer or something."

Ouch. That stung... but I could handle it. It probably wasn't directed towards me anyway, and chances are she instantly remembered what I have been through and felt terrible, right? Wrong. The only thing true about that statement? She instantly remembered what I have been through and felt terrible. She scampered down the hallway, appeared in my doorway, and said:

"Sam, did your mom get to do that?"

My chest tightened. Did she seriously just ask me that?

"Did she get to do what?", I asked, giving her an escape from the conversation in hopes she'd just say, oh nevermind!

"Did she get to smoke marijuana when she was... you know... sick... and dying...?"

I miraculously shrugged it off and told her I didn't know, when inside I was cursing her existence and saying things that would force me to change my blog preferences to "warn readers this blog contains adult content."

That's when she decided to take it upon herself to WebMD my pelvic 'symptoms' and shout throughout the office how I could have tumors growing on my uterus, an inflamed bladder, ovarian cysts, etc. Talk about icing on the cake; I was on a sugar high.

It took everything in me not to cry right there. I was so offended. It wasn't what she said necessarily; it was the way she said it: like bringing up your death out of nowhere nonchalantly was no big deal and wouldn't upset me; like you were just any ol' person; like the fact that you may have been offered a chance to legally smoke was a perk of dying.

I spent parts of the night crying and ranting about how I wasn't going back to work. Both Dad and Tom told me it was time to stick up for myself in order to end the constant bullying and rude comments hurled my way almost daily. I was honest with them and admitted that I didn't think I could do it. In my every day life I am certainly not a pushover-- I speak my mind and wear my heart on my sleeve-- yet when I walk into this building I feel defeated. It's not always this bad, but the difficult days are beginning to outweigh the good ones, and it's taking a toll on me. I was honest with them... I'm not strong enough for this.

I woke up this morning with my stomach in knots. I wanted to call out sick, but I couldn't because we don't get any sick days, and my college loan bills won't pay themselves. So, I pulled it together, prepared to bite my tongue, and made my way in.

When she poked her head in my office to say good morning, she commented that I looked tired. I opened my mouth to speak my usual reply for when she negatively comments on my looks: yeah, I guess I am feeling pretty tired today, but instead, how I really felt came pouring out of my mouth unexpectedly.

I told her that no, I wasn't tired, I had actually been crying since I left work yesterday because of the things she said to me. I went on to say that I don't want anyone in the office talking about you or your death in that way, nor do I want anyone trying to diagnose me through random sites on the internet because it's not healthy to work myself up when I have an appointment in a week to find out what's going on for sure.

When my word vomit finally ceased, she hugged me and said she felt awful because her intention was never to upset me or be disrespectful. I figured that was the case, and I knew she would feel horrible (which in turn made me feel bad for calling her out on it, but I refused to let that show). I made sure we had an understanding, thanked her for the apology, and moved on to another topic.

I didn't do anything crazy like throw a chair down the hallway or push her against the wall in a chokehold until she cried like they do in the movies, but I still got my point across, and it felt great. I can't believe I found the courage to speak my mind to someone who has intimdated me for months (reacting in the heat of the moment sometimes has its benefits!).

I texted Dad to thank him for encouraging me to brave. He was really proud of me. He wrote back, "Good thing you stood up to her because I was about to drive up there and do it myself! You're still my baby." It's true, I am his little girl and always will be-- but at least now around the office, I feel like I am one heck of a powerful woman. Go me!


February 11, 2011

And the Winner Is...

Dear Mom,

There is a battle going on between my mind and my body, and-- surprise, surprise!-- my mind is winning. I know you're supposed to "listen to your body" to know when something is wrong with it, but my head is stronger lately.

It all started because I'm having a weird, pressure-like feeling off and on in my pelvis. It's off when I'm doing things like watching a movie, talking on the phone, or finishing a project at work, and it's on when I read about the declining health of a blogging buddy or when I start worrying about my own health. So is this pain in my head? Possibly. But I just can't risk it.

After weeks of paranoia, I read Dee's blog post and decided to finally call my doctor's office to make an appointment to see Dr. S. Her next opening is on the 25th, so I have two weeks until I sit awkwardly in a johnny that's made for a 300 pound giant on the loud, crinkly paper that covers the examination table in front of the very same woman that told you you had ovarian cancer. How exciting! But at least I took the step and made the appointment. No matter the outcome, it's a step in the right direction and one appointment closer to a healthier body-- and mind. Both are equally important!

Writing an e-mail to Carly later this morning caused me to break into sobs at work. Oh yes, AT WORK. Good thing that's not at all embarassing. Luckily, it was only me and my fabulous third-mom-esque coworker there, and she let me pour my guts out to her. I think it's no coincidence that somehow the right person always shows up in my life at just the right second I need them. After having one of those days this week that somehow didn't force me into a fit of tears, I knew I was bound to let them out eventually. I mean, I could have done without it happening between the work hours of 8-5, but it was a much needed, healthy cry all the same. Afterward, I was able to compose myself and finish my e-mail to Carly.

Besides the fact that I was writing to her about your final moments on Earth, I think what made me finally have the breakdown that I needed stemmed from the friendship that has flourished between her and me. I feel like I can tell her absolutely anything, and I have. If it weren't for our friendship and constant exchange of e-mails (or great American novels, as we call them), I wouldn't have felt comfortable enough to share those stories, cry those tears, and ultimately end my day absolutely beaming. I am so thankful to her.

So, along with my morning breakfast, I had a cup of tears, and it made me realize one thing...

Milk isn't the only thing that does a body good!

Happy weekend!

February 9, 2011

Ohhh No You Di'nt! (insert finger snap here)

Dear Mom,

I haven't written in a week, but for a valid reason. This has been my life: work til 5, edit video, work til 5, edit video, work til 5, edit video. And, if I'm lucky, I get to squeeze in some time to sleep or communicate with other humans outside of my office.

Today is simply just one of those days. A day when my alarm never went off because I was so tired the night before that I accidentally set it for 6:30PM; when my roommate mistakenly put her muddy, slush-covered boots on my nice winter hat that was drying on the entry way floor; when my car was an impenetrable frozen forcefield; when I noticed just how loudly my co-worker stomps down the hallway; when no one can do anything right to please me, and the fact that they keep trying is even more annoying.

Oh yes, it's one of those days.

I'm exhausted. And aggravated. And pouty. And acting like I'm 3 rather than 23. And I hate it more than anything because, on days like this, I really just want my mommy... but I'm never going to have you again.

Why does it have to be one of those days?


February 2, 2011

Even If It Kills Me, I'm Gonna Smile

Dear Mom,

When I was driving home the other day down a quiet, white, wintery road, I watched one single leaf float down out of nowhere and slide across my windshield. Knowing all the trees on that street have been bare since early December, it practically took my breath away. It was beautiful, simple, and elegant. It reminded me of you. I smiled.

Yesterday morning I wanted to do something really wild and crazy, so I reached in my jewelry box for a bracelet to complete my typical plain Jane work outfit. I found a silver one with a heart charm dangling from it that I didn't recognize. It fit my puny wrist perfectly. That never happens. As I admired it, I noticed a smaller heart beside it that was engraved with just one letter, B. Barbara. It was yours. I smiled.

Lately, I find that I'm weeping less and smiling more. It's a relief. Although, when I do cry, it's from that place so deep inside myself where the pain of losing you still lingers. It's relentless. It's messy. It's heartbreaking. It happened last night.

I was watching The Biggest Loser, but my mind was somewhere else, all because I suddenly had a small pain in my lower abdomen. My thoughts went into overdrive. Is it cancer? Am I dying? But I'm too young to die. Is it my ovaries? Do I have ovarian cancer like you? Should I get them removed just to be safe and not have kids? I think I can live without kids. I could always adopt. But your kids were your life's biggest accomplishment. What if I never feel accomplished? What if I die without achieving anything? Wait, what if I die, period? I don't want to die. I should go to the doctor's again.

I go through this daily. A pain in my armpit? Must be cancer. An ache in my abdomen? Oh, that's definitely cancer. The headache that I had for the entire day? Well, now that's a sign of malaria. Maybe I caught malaria in Belize. How quickly does malaria kill you? Maybe I should call my doctor again.

It. Never. Ends. I hate my mind. I just want to shut it off and be the naive girl I've never known before. For the past few days, I have been thinking about whether or not I should find out if I'm a carrier of the BRCA gene mutation, so that I can be prepared. But how much more prepared can I make myself?! I see my doctor for every ache and pain. I keep up with my annual appointments. I've done my research. I know the symptoms. I'm going crazy already acting like I have it. I just can't put myself through knowing for sure. I'm not strong enough to know. I can barely get by with my thoughts as it is.

As soon as a commercial came on, I started crying. Through my sobs, I managed to tell my friend I've felt obsessed with my health since you got sick over five years ago. Every day, I'm worrying about cancer, and other illnesses, and dying. I can't stop thinking about it. I can't stop wondering when my day will come; when the end will come.

"But that day won't be the end of your life," he reminded me, and my tears slowed. "Your time here is just a part of your life. So just live, and stop worrying about everything else." As our conversation continued, the weight that I've been carrying silently on my own for years slowly lifted.

He asked me why I'm afraid of dying, and when I actually thought about it, the truth is, I don't really know why. Everyone makes it seem like the worst thing in the whole world, and I never stopped to question if they were right or not. But... you did it. You died. And I know that's a odd scenerio to have an 'if you can do it, I can do it too' kind of attitude about, but it comforts me in the weirdest way. I decided, in that moment, that I need to stop living this life of fear. And when a day comes where I can't get it out of my head, I need to reach out to someone. Who knows, it might just change my outlook on life (and death) in the most positive ways, like it did last night.

"And remember, everyone dies."
"Wait... Is that supposed to make me feel better?"

After an awkward silence, we burst into laughter. I wiped my tears as The Biggest Loser came back from commercial, took a deep breath, and again, I smiled.

You are my strength,