Out of the water

May 31st, 2013 § 24 comments

IMG_5808This afternoon I will attend my youngest child’s Field Day. It will be a steamy 93 degrees here and I will join parents as we stand around and chat while we clap for our children and hug their sweaty bodies and remind them to drink lots of water.

It is always in these group events that so many of us feel like outsiders. It is often when surrounded by many people we are most aware of being alone. For me, this has never been more true than during the past 8 months since my diagnosis with stage IV breast cancer.

I return again and again to the desire to escape, the need to flee, the pull toward being somewhere else. The refrain in the new song I am co-writing with Doug Allen is about this need we all have, regardless of the cause, to take moments during the day where we just “check out” for a bit. It says:

I take a trip inside my head,
I don’t know where I go.
Somewhere else,
Anywhere else,
Far from things I know.

There are days when I want to be the ostrich, when I just am so overwhelmed with things that I can’t be on social media, returning emails, or even talking. I just am still. I notice that I rarely read anymore, even television can’t capture my attention. I sit in silence a lot, and when I have the opportunity I write or work on the songs.

I take those trips inside my head.

The pull of educating and informing is too strong to allow me to stay hidden away, though. Social gravity pulls me back. Sharing and documenting fuel me. I take my anger, my sadness, and my grief and I send them out into the world in constructive words and deeds. I can feel powerless and without control in many ways about what is happening to me but I always feel that I can control my reaction to these things. This is my lesson to the people in my life.

There is a scene in the film Children of a Lesser God where William Hurt’s character jumps into a pool to try to experience utter silence the way that his deaf girlfriend does. He wants to know what that feels like. He quickly realizes, however, that this won’t work. He knows when he rises to the surface he will once again hear sound. He can’t live what she lives. He can’t share her loss in that way.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery wrote, “It is such a secret place, the land of tears.” Most mornings I stand in the shower for a while longer than I need to. I listen to the water, I think about the day, I am grateful to have another. I know I will have more days. For those few minutes I take a trip inside my head. I gather my strength, I focus on the work to be done.

I turn off the water, I step out of the enclosure, and I rejoin the world of the living. That’s what I am doing every day: living with metastatic cancer.

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§ 24 Responses to Out of the water"

  • Lisa Boone says:

    Again and again, you make me STOP what I am doing and not only read your words, but actually get inside them. Thank you for allowing me to enter your world, even if for a brief moment. It makes me a better friend to those walking similar paths. Enjoy Field Day, and relish all those smiles and sweaty bodies and hugs. My boys are past those fun days and I do miss them…a little ;-).

  • uberbabyboomer says:

    Your words which express your reality with such passion, put my own reality in perspective and wake me up to how grateful I am for all my days. I selfishly appreciate your willingness to share just a bit of your reality. The old quote “…no man is an island..” comes to mind.

  • Thank you for sharing some of your world, Lisa. It helps me with mine. love.

  • Pam says:


    Eagerly anticipating the song!


  • Kim C says:

    It’s true. When it comes right down to it the journey is ours alone. We can’t know how you feel, but thank you for giving us a small window into your world. I’m better for it and it helps me with my own feelings of grief and loss.
    Take care,

  • Thank you for sharing, Lisa.
    You put into words what I feel. You inspire me to try to write down my feelings as a breast cancer survivor. I have a difficult time opening up. You do it so well.

    Take care and try to stay cool in this oppressive heat in southern Connecticut.

  • Carla says:

    Poignant writing. Thank you.

    Lisa, I am curious (do not feel you have to answer if it is too personal or you do not want to share) if you are an introvert or extrovert. From what I understand that is where our energy (or fuel) comes from – either time spent alone or with others. And do you feel your preference for introversion or extroversion shifting?

    • Lisa Bonchek Adams says:

      Carla, that is a very interesting question. The truth is that I really think I am both. Based on the way you ask it, I get energy from both places: time spent with others and time spent alone. I am absolutely at ease with others, I enjoy that time, but without time alone I am unhappy. But the reverse is true too. Too much time alone and I crave my chats with my friends. I am very glad that I am comfortable being alone. I think it’s important.

      I do find my preference shifting. Or at least for the moment. I find this feeling of “no one in this room right now has any clue what it feels like to be me” is a barrier to enjoying groups of people the way I once did. This sense of being preoccupied, having a short attention span, needing to be spending time doing what I want to do (being with the people that matter most to me) is getting stronger. Maybe that’s temporary, maybe not. But I find it very hard to be in groups of people not because I am uncomfortable with that per se, I just find myself very antsy to be alone with my thoughts, doing things with my family, or working on projects that fulfill me.

      I find social interactions tire me out a lot more than they used to. I am always trying to be aware of how I present myself and what I say. I think Twitter is the perfect balance for me. It’s quiet (noise has always bothered me a lot, I really like the quiet) but yet it’s social. It’s silently speaking to a lot of people and interacting. My drive to educate and inform makes it necessary for me to interact on a daily basis. I have to balance this with quiet time (spent writing, mostly).

      I hope this makes sense. I know it’s not a simple either/or answer, but I think it’s accurate for the way I feel right now. Thanks for a great question!

      • Carla says:

        Thank you for your thoughtful response. You have great self awareness which appears to have (and will continue to) serve you well. I admire your insight as to what takes and replenishes your energy… what motivates you… Also how you individualize your filter (what you allow to come through) and your actions (how you choose to use your time) accordingly. Bravo. #parenthesisaddict

  • Christie says:

    Your words bring back a feeling. Years ago I attended the graduation of my youngest son who was somewhere in one of the identical caps and gowns near a field of other parents – and me. When the ceremonies ended and graduates were free to seek out their families I felt so removed. When the other parent won the race with poised camera and took pictures with my son and his new spouse I wanted to sink into the ground. Sometimes we are so alone. As time moves on I am convinced, though painful at the time, it isn’t a bad thing. It causes you to really examine your feelings and their significance to you – and to those you love.

    I love to read your diaries. I learn so much you and me. I value your willingness to share all that you are.

  • Amy says:

    You describe so well what it is like to be a person with Stage IV. I often have that feeling of being the ‘outsider’. But as you say we are LIVING with cancer so I embrace each day and am grateful for all the loveliness in my life, biggest of which is my family. Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us all.

  • Laura Robertson says:

    I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer in 2011 at the age of 24. My son was 18 months old at the time. Even though it was always likely that my treatment would be successful I still have the worry of recurring disease or secondary cancer due to my treatment. No one knows that feeling until they are in that situation. I will be on medication for the rest of my life and can’t imagine ever feeling “normal”. Your tweets and posts move me so much. I wish the best for you and your beautiful family. Life can be so cruel.

  • Mary Killian says:

    I echo the responses above. Even 19 years NED (Stage IV Breast), I still have that nagging fear that every ache or pain is a dreaded recurrence. Meanwhile, most of the people that I come in contact with on a daily basis are not even aware of my medical history. People look at me as completely healthy now, although there are many lingering effects of treatment that most would not understand, so I just keep them to myself. So, many years later, that feeling of isolation still exists.

    I’ve always been a bit introverted and have definitely become more so since my illness. I don’t have much time for superficialities in life. The most important things to me are being with my family and close friends and focusing on things that keep my life interesting and fulfilled.

  • JoAnn says:

    thank you again

  • I spend extra time in the shower, too. I don’t care of the gas bill will be higher than normal for the extra heat used. It just feels so good to be there before entering the world of the non-Stage IVers. Poignant post as usual. xo

  • Connie says:

    Lisa, thanks so much for sharing your very personal thoughts.
    My beautiful niece, 42 yr old, has stage iv breast cancer. Your writings help me understand what she might be going through. Recently she expressed some of her feelings of grief in a deeply moving poster she made for American Cancer Society fundraising which she was brave enough to put on facebook. (I would love to send to you). We in the African American community need to hear African American voices like yours. I am going to see if she would consider doing a similar post. I think doing so will help her. I want to do all I can to help her but feel so helpless! Thanks for all you do.

    • Kiana says:

      Én is megcsináltam még akkor, nekem sem lett tökéletesen szilárd, de azért tortaforma maradt. Nem lehet, hogy a tejszín zsmtatrr­alÃán is múlik valami? Én Philadelphiát használtam, meg egy elég normális diabetikus fehér csokit, a tejszínre viszont már nem emlékszem.

    • http://www./ says:

      Gibson,Thank you for sharing your experience! I am glad that you found a way to nourish yourself that works for you. Being in tune with our bodies is the first step to holistic health. It sounds as though you have made that connection! Being comfortable with our daily routine generally helps motivate us to keep the healthy habits going. Thanks again for your input! Karna

    • Un fizician îi spune soÅ£iei sale:- Draga mea, eÅŸti din ce în ce mai atrăgătoare!- Aiurezi! Tu nu vezi cât m-am îngrăşat?!- Păi, tocmai! Cu cât creÅŸte masa, creÅŸte ÅŸi forÅ£a de atracÅ£ie…

    • http://www./ says:

      Absolutely right Deb. Meditation is a far better choice than dangerous and unpredictable drugs. “Meditation brings wisdom; lack of meditation leaves ignorance. Know well what leads you forward and what holds you back.” – The Buddha

    • http://www./ says:

      On est sur son neuf quand on a bien bluté :  » Mon hamac craquait et blutait aux coups du flot » (Chateaubriand, Mémoires d’Outre-Tombe, t. 1, 1848, p. 357). (in TLFi) D’où les expressions « Je vais te bluter ! », « Tu veux que je te blute ? »

    • Two great flavors Mary. I think you created another winner. When my husband is able to eat solid food again I will have to make these as he loves lemon!

  • John Coleman says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences, Lisa. Your sanity and determination really shine. Peace, John

  • paul says:

    Great article thank you.

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