And yet, the morning comes

November 15th, 2012 § 44 comments

Each day is different. Each moment, too.
It still seems surreal, this diagnosis of metastatic breast cancer.

It’s strange how quickly the horrific can become regular: the chemo, the side effects, the new routines.
Oncology appointments, IV infusions, medication refills all start to fill my calendar.

I start making lists of things I need to do. I prioritize them.

It’s not always about what’s actually the most important, it’s also about finding things that bring me small moments of joy.

The small moments are the ones that bring tears to my eyes. Tristan’s little voice saying, “I love you, Mama. You’re the best Mama in the whole wide world” is enough to make me misty.

I still lose my temper. I still yell sometimes. Often it’s misplaced anger, a manifestation of my frustration with my situation.

I haven’t suddenly turned into the world’s most patient person. Sometimes cancer makes me the most impatient one, in fact. I feel the clock is ticking. I don’t have time for nonsense. But that’s not a way to be. I will still try to be better.

I try to be the one to do things with my children as much as I can. Even if there is a babysitter in the house Tristan always reads to me at night for his homework:  that is sacred. I still save artwork and photographs and remind them to brush their teeth and clean their rooms.

I try to do the little things: helping Colin with a school project, keeping Paige company while she does homework, watching a sports practice if I can. I go to the grocery store and I work on the holiday card. I still take pleasure in getting the stubborn stain out of Clarke’s dress shirt that the dry cleaner couldn’t.

My motto is that I will do as much as I can for as long as I can.

I don’t ever have a moment that I forget about my cancer. I think that’s the part about it being new. Even when I was diagnosed the first time — even after I finished chemo and surgery and all of it– it still took at least a year for me to be able to push the daily fear down. Of course now the fear has been realized. I am living it. I am living my nightmare, one many people share.

And yet, the morning comes.

I see the light of day and I get out of bed. I see the faces of my children. I kiss my husband goodbye when he leaves for work. Each day I have is a day that matters. Each day is one to make a memory with my family and friends.

Each day is one more than I had the day before.

But let’s be clear: there is no joy in this disease.

My appreciation for my days should not be interpreted as supporting the nonsensical idea that “cancer is a gift.” There is nothing positive about this disease; I would give it back if I could. I did not need cancer to show me the value of things. I always knew these things were true. I never took them for granted. I knew what demons could be lurking.

I did all I could. It was not enough to keep it at bay. But maybe, just maybe, I can keep it at bay for a while.

 

I still haven’t fully come to terms with what this diagnosis means, but that’s because there’s no real way to know. We don’t know enough yet. It is the uncertainty that is the most difficult part for me. Will this chemo be the one that lasts for a while? Will it fail? When? What next? How long with that one last? My body holds the answers, but it’s not showing its hand yet.

I have to learn to ride this roller coaster. I’m just not there yet. And I don’t really know how long that is going to take.

I walk past people on the street and know they have no idea what is going on inside my body.

People in front of me in line at the gas station don’t know there’s chemo in my purse.

 

I look like everyone else. I have hair on my head. I ask the checkout person to pack the bags light because I can’t carry anything with my left arm now (the cancer has fractured two ribs on my left side).

Sometimes I want special treatment. I want a Get Out of Jail Free card. Most of the time, however, I want to stay home. Hide out. Be invisible.

I’m still processing. Reeling. But while I’m doing that I’m living.

 

§ 44 Responses to And yet, the morning comes"

  • And living with grace and beauty.

    As always, thank you for letting us in. Sharing a private space like this one is I consider an honor and privilege.

    with love,
    Jody

  • Fear and uncertainty paralyze many people. But you go about your day carrying that burden and you’re doing everything that you can, in the best way that you can. Cancer really sucks.

  • Michele says:

    Lisa, I wish we could force the magical thinkers and imbeciles who say the ridiculous things – “it’s a gift”, “god only gives you as much as you can handle”, “people get cancer for a reason” – to read your blog and understand what this is really like. You’re doing a service for every other person with cancer.

    Feel what you feel and don’t give yourself a hard time about it!

    Best,

    Michele

  • Beautifully written…big hugs to you! & prayers!

  • Emily says:

    Lisa,

    Thank you very much for telling us about what is happening to you. As you say, you have other priorities, as you should. By writing about your experience and thoughts, you are helping many of us learn a great deal about what it means to be human/mortal.

    When my husband broke his back, we got a lot of that “you’ll realize someday that it was a gift.” It never turned out that way for us. The repercussions (medical, fiscal, emotional, social) persist to this day, nearly two decades later. We certainly learned a lot, but becoming intimately familiar with how a body/life can be broken was not how we would have chosen to spend our time.

    Please keep on writing when you can and know that we feel with you and for you.

    Keep on taking care of yourself and your family.

    Wishing you health, peace, comfort, and happiness.

    – Emily

  • I wish with all my being that I could write something uplifting, encouraging, impactful. The reality is I don’t know those words, or if they exist in this moment.

    I love you. That’s all I can think to write. It’s all I’ve got right now.
    <3

  • Robyn Olson says:

    I can’t comment yet on what we are experiencing here, Lisa, but please know your strength and kindness make a huge difference in my life right now. And always. Loves and Hugs from Richard & Robyn

  • Lisa, today I faced a deep–if stupid–fear and made an appointment (for December 5 at 9 am) with an endocrinologist. In a very real way, you gave me the courage to do this. Without you, my excuses could easily have lasted me another few years. My Type 1 diabetes and Graves Disease might have continued responding to my current medication…or they might not have. I’m still scared about the appointment, but I will go, because you’ve given me the guts to do so. And if he tells me something is wrong, I’ll face that. Please know that you are making a very real impact on lives near and far, and to say it’s appreciated doesn’t begin to do it justice. Sending you much love.

    • please remind me on the day. I will virtually hold your hand and will be anxious to hear how it goes. I will support you, and am glad you are pursuing an answer. If I have helped you find strength to do that, it’s a compliment I appreciate more than you know. xoxo

  • “I still lose my temper. I still yell sometimes. Often it’s misplaced anger, a manifestation of my frustration with my situation.”

    Thank you for that line. My mom, who just went home to France yesterday after 2 months here in LA, is losing her eyesight. And sometimes says the most awful things. Blaming, mean, just awful things. But reading that line I realized that going blind when you’re 86 must be so frightening. Especially since she has no one to take care of her. And can’t move to the US because of our horrible health care system. In France you get amazing, remarkable treatment for free.

    At least now I know what she must be growing through.

  • kelly says:

    each day, i think of you.xoxo

  • Cathy says:

    You are simply amazing :) Thank you for continuing to share with us. Love you!!

  • jenna says:

    still waiting for the day when I don’t think of my medical issues. let me know if you figure out how to do it. in the meantime, we’ll keep sharing, supporting, living. xo

  • Pam says:

    Beautiful.

    I think your practice of taking the joys you can from the days that offer joys is the best practice.

    Be good to yourself in all the ways you are able to be. We’re counting on you! xo

  • Joe W says:

    Yes, as Jody said at the top of this thread, you’re living with grace and beauty…and allowing us to share.

    And your lessons move on: I have a whole extended family making more doctors’ appointments than they used to, and it all started with mondaypleads.

  • robin black says:

    You have taught me so much. That isn’t a silver lining – there isn’t one, no gift, as you say. But still, you have. You are stunning, an embodiment of “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know” – Keats

  • erikarobuck says:

    Your exercises in mindful living are inspiring. Your reminders show me to take more time to enjoy the small beauties of life, the cozy moments with kids and husbands. I love a boring day because it means that all is well, and you have shown me that. I think you are creating an army of people uplifting you through positive thoughts and prayer, while teaching us all to live better.

    xo

  • Jen M. says:

    Sending lots of love to you, today and always.

  • Anonymous says:

    Thanks so much for sharing. Walking this path with you, and sending you healing thoughts and prayers.

  • Jamie handy says:

    I loved your saying that the cancer hasn’t “shown its hand yet.” This is a link to a post I wrote about how cancer is just like a card game. http://just-what-am-i-thinking.blogspot.com/2011/06/rook.html Maybe you will end up with the high card at the end, it is as likely as ending up without it — luck has to fall for someone, cancer doesn’t get to win every round. keep up the hope that luck will be on your side.

  • Laura temkin says:

    Lisa, I think when you’re going thru treatment, it truly is like being in a war…always on edge, high alert, sure something might be wrong any minute, never completely relaxed. its been a year for me and just now i have whole days of mindfulness where the cancer thoughts hardly sneak in. We adjust as best we can, even to the horror of the “chemo dungeon”, even coming to (sort-of) look forward to seeing our doctors and the staff. The best you can do is what you’re doing –find some joy each day.

  • DrAttai says:

    Thank you, Lisa, for giving us a glimpse into your personal and private life, as painful as it is at times. We are all here with you in loving support.

  • Karyn Toso says:

    Though you may want to be invisible, in truth you are anything but. Your words and wisdom have found a place in my heart, and though we have never met, not a day goes by that I don’t think of your grace and your grit. Wishing you many simple joys each and every day.

  • David W. Davidson says:

    Hopefully your spirit will be elevated by the realization that hundreds (perhaps thousands) of people are uplifted in many ways, both material and emotional, through your gifted writing.

  • s.a.meade says:

    I make a point of reading all of your posts. Your honesty is so welcome and refreshing. You have made me appreciate the small things in life so much more. Thank you. xxx

  • You are breaking my heart, and I love and respect you for it.

    And I hate cancer.

  • Laura Vuchetich says:

    Reading through all these responses…your impact is incredible. My heart feels squeezed and the lump is hard to swallow when I read about the little things you’re continuing to do with your sweet boys and beautiful daughter. How you must be pushing yourself every day!

    Another dear friend of mine is also fighting for her life…abdominal cancer. I went to see her last weekend (in WV), and she told a simple but lovely story. That day was a rare, warm fall day: brilliant sunshine and low 70s. She went outside to get her mail and was overcome with the urge to lay on the grass in her front lawn. Normally a rather “proper” woman, under any other circumstance she’d be far too embarrassed to do that. But given her desire to experience even the littlest joys now, she did precisely what she wanted to do. Not only did she lay down but she actually fell asleep! She didn’t want to worry her husband, though, in case he came home and saw her passed out on the grass. So she was thoughtful enough to bend her leg and put her knee up, making her pose look purposeful. She told this story with a wistful smile…no doubt wishing she weren’t in the position where she doesn’t give a damn what others think, but being proud of herself that she listened to herself and did that which brought her a little joy.

    I hope you’re able to do that for yourself, too. To hell with what’s “right” or “proper”…lay down on that grass and feel the sun. I love you very, very much.

  • Beautifully written, my friend. Love, Julie

  • sarahbutten says:

    Each day matters. There are so many people who don’t realize that, cancer or no cancer. I learn a lot from you, my friend. And wish you could hand this crappy piece of luck right back, truly.

  • j says:

    “It’s not always about what’s actually the most important, it’s also about finding things that bring me small moments of joy.”

    Which, of course, is often the most important. xox

  • Ann Imig says:

    Thinking of you and wishing you more sacred moments than scary moments today.

  • It may sound corny but I really am in awe of you. Reading your blog teaches me so much.

  • Darryle says:

    I couldn’t agree more that cancer is not a gift, but you are. Thank you for continuing to share so freely and so beautifully.

  • Katherine C. James says:

    Beautifully written, honest post; you articulate just exactly the combination of physical and emotional feelings I imagine I would feel in your circumstance. You are on my mind a lot, and daily. I admire your strength and ability to take the time to describe what you are experiencing. You enrich, support, change, touch so many lives. I think youre are a remarkable woman. Sending you love. Sending you love. Sending you love. I hold your hand. Katherine.

  • Your honesty is your legacy to us all! Bless you for your candor! Those of us that have survived breast cancer look at you with wonder and as a role model!

  • Beautiful. Heart-wrenching. Genuine. Sharing your personal journey is inspiring so many of us to not take today for granted. Thank you. The final two words of the post say it all–
    “I’m living.”

  • carol graham says:

    Lisa, I don’t have cancer and until I ever do (I hope not) I cannot possible truely understand what it is like. However I do have MS and now when I go out shopping I am using a wheelchair as I can no longer stand on my own. Your words and feelings I understand because in large part I can substitute MS for cancer. You have put into works what i am dealing with.

    I so wish there there was something I could do to help you, you are too young to be dealing with this.

  • Every thing I want to say to you starts with, “I hope” or “I wish” but wishing and hoping can’t take away what you are going through right now. You eloquently share this personal part of your life to help others understand what living with cancer feels like. I’m still at a loss for words but I want you to know that I think of you very often and would do anything to help in any way.

  • CarlyRM says:

    I love this line “My motto is that I will do as much as I can for as long as I can.” and am going to paste it into my own small blog so I don’t forget.

  • [...] And yet, the morning comes, the most amazing post from Lisa Bonchek Adams, who recently discovered her breast cancer was back, [...]

  • Beth says:

    As a mother to two children who
    were adopted from an Eastern European orphanage
    and later were diagnosed with fetal alcohol syndrome , I
    became paralyzed with fear and getting out of bed everyday
    was such a struggle. I am doing better these days ( after 10 years)
    but I still have this in my head every day.
    You have brought me what I need: honesty and hearing about how
    you put one foot in front of the other every day, and make lists. I haven’t been
    reading your blog long but am so happy I’ve found you. You are in my heart.

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