A sprinter, learning to wait
A marathon runner, my ankles are sprained.
Julien Baker, “Sprained Ankle”
The internal locus is perpetually analysing problems. Like an infant discovering a new object it picks them up off of the ground, shakes them to see if they make noise, turns them around to see things from all angles, and then sticks them in his mouth for good measure. All five senses scan all possible outcomes and create backup plans. I call my internal locus “the fixer” and for the past three weeks it’s been on overdrive. This is it, it cries! You have control over this part!
Unfortunately, as I keep being reminded, that’s only partially true. I can make all of the appointments and backup plans. But I can’t make a surgeon agree to operate. I can’t order my cancer to stop spreading while I’m off chemo waiting for someone to agree to and get me into surgery. Today I got one of winds I was waiting for. My MRI scan results showed that my liver metastasis has spread during the past two months or so that I have been off of systemic chemo.
Cleveland has shifted to plan A. Getting one of these surgeons who won’t operate to agree to advocate to get me into a trial is plan B, asking for a more aggressive chemotherapy approach in a full force attempt to attack both liver and peritoneal mets is plan C.
But I can’t MAKE any of those things actually happen.
I’ve always been a strong INT with a weak slant toward J and P depending on the day or subject matter. I will let you all be the judge:
But Myers-Briggs categories are limited. The whole story is more complicated than that. Like one of my tumors, a slow and subtle transformation has been occurring- molecule by molecule- beneath the surface. As these mutations multiply and grow, how long will it be before they begin to change me? Can they reach those core parts of myself that I never thought could be changed?
Let’s take intuition. I first referenced this in my post titled, “things broken.” An intuition that something wasn’t going to go right. An intuition that has been around since just before we learned of the metastasis to my liver.
Lately, I am thinking that it’s been around longer than that. I just haven’t been listening. “On this day” reminders from my journal have been haunting me lately. In addition to the one I quoted a few blog posts back (where I wonder if I will end before I begin) this one popped up recently:
March 11th, 2018-
It seems that I am nearing a few peaks in my life. Nearing 40, and nearing the end of (a project I’ve been pouring myself into at work). I have uncertainty about what comes in the “after.” I have a feeling that things might end up okay, but the unknown is terrifying. I am approaching middle age and confronting my past at the same time. I have unprecedented anxiety, emerging grey hairs and a fear of the unknown of what might be going on behind the scenes. What does this all mean? I have always felt that there is a higher purpose waiting for me. Does the path I am on lead to peace and happiness? Does this path lead to an early death? An early death is something that I have feared for a while. Is a health event pending?
Six months later I was in the hospital getting handed a biopsy report on the tumor they removed from my colon.
Of course, around this time last year I was feeling pretty beat down. Not just psychologically and emotionally, but physically as well. I was blaming the physical symptoms on the psychological ones. Reading this entry, I realize that I sensed that there was something wrong with me beneath the surface and that dark days were on their way.
But I wasn’t listening. I am learning a lesson far too late.
And it’s moving beyond simple intuition. Methodical, rational, logical Heather is beginning to see clues, even signs, of something greater at play. Dare I say these signs are spiritual? Is this what happens when someone gets up close and personal with their own mortality? Is this the natural consequence that comes when you don’t know how many days are left, but know that they are limited?
My dreams have been more vivid and emotional, but I often can’t remember them on waking. I am just left with the feeling of intensity.
For several years, we’ve had house cleaners come every two weeks. My housekeeper (who is also a pastor) asks if he can pray for me. I say yes because I think that he means at church. However, before I know it, he is placing his shaking hand on my forehead asking Jesus to take away my cancer. “I pray for a lot of people in my church with cancer” he tells me, “and they don’t have cancer any more… but you have to believe (he points to the sky).” Anyone who knows me at all, should probably be able imagine how awkward this moment was for me.
This morning YouTube decides to slip into my mix the video for Mumford and Sons’ “Beloved,” and I realize that it is about a boy seeing his Mother on her deathbed. In the video, he imagines that she wakes up, and they run around having one last day together before they return to the hospital and she flat-lines. I run to the bathroom and let loose the flood of tears and sobs. Fuck you, YouTube.
I go out for a walk to the park near my house, and find myself staring at the reflection of the sun on the water. A thought echoes- seemingly from nowhere- This is God, and he is with me. This begs a very good question- where is Heather And what has cancer done to her?
It occurs to me that a spiritual side of me has always been there. I just haven’t been listening. It’s been buried under busyness. It’s been buried under hurt. It’s been buried under cynicism.
No, this doesn’t mean that I suddenly believe in the man in the clouds. Or the bible. Or in Jesus as anything other than a historical figure.
When it strikes me that God is with me, it is far more abstract than that. It’s the warmth on my back. It’s the sound of quiet, mingled with birds chirping. It’s the beauty of the sun on a rippling creek. It’s love. It’s always been love. I just haven’t been listening. But I feel it now. In every gaze from my husband. In every kiss from one of my kids. In every hug and kind gesture from my friends.
On some level, I already knew that I was getting that phone call telling me my liver mets were spreading before it came. It was a setback. Another suck to add to a mountain of sucks. I’ve been sad today. But I haven’t fallen apart.
I think that I’m learning that the waiting place is not as useless as Dr. Seuss imagined. It has its time and place too. I’m learning that sometimes a sprained ankle is your body’s way of forcing you to stop charging forward.
I think that I’m learning that I need to take a breath, pause and listen; to discover where this next wind will blow me.