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On Reflection

Water Lilliies

On reflection, I am not who I thought I was. I have always prided myself on my robust health; I have relied on it. We all have a vision of ourselves and where we fit into our world(s). Some people fancy themselves fine aristocrats, some see themselves as clowns, making fun of themselves before anyone else can, others flaunt their superior intellect. I have always seen myself as the sturdy, peasant type; hale and hearty—the human version of a chrysanthemum.  I am shocked every time I get sick, and now I am facing a challenge I am completely unprepared for.

I have read all of Brené Brown’s work. I thought I was comfortable with being vulnerable, but that turns out to be something else I’m not so sure about. Suddenly I’m not the helper, I’m not in charge, I’m not as tough as I thought. To be clear, I don’t feel sick, in fact, I feel just fine, but there is definitely something wrong with me that needs to be dealt with by something other than homeopathic remedies. It requires a surgeon, time off from work, recovery and help from other people; lots of help, and lots of people. Of course, this is a foolish thing to say, but I keep wondering how the hell did this happen? Is this my fault?

The truth is that anything can happen to anyone, and though I have always understood that and endured some pretty crappy things, getting ‘sick’ has thrown me in an entirely new way.  I have an unusual type of ovarian cancer and if you’re going to get cancer, this is the one you want. It is probably completely contained and once it is removed I won’t need any further treatment. And yet, there is some part of me that believes once they do the biopsy they’ll see it wasn’t cancer at all. 

Years ago I had some money left in one of those medical spending accounts that I had to use or lose, so I decided to go to an eye doctor because I hadn’t had my eyes checked in years. When he told me I needed glasses to correct my vision I didn’t believe him. I got the glasses, started wearing them, and I’d constantly lift them up and replace them on my nose testing whether I really needed them. I feel the same way now; like this is all some great mistake, though I know it’s not—I did need those glasses.

Years ago I had some money left in one of those medical spending accounts that I had to use or lose, so I decided to go to an eye doctor because I hadn’t had my eyes checked in years. When he told me I needed glasses to correct my vision I didn’t believe him. I got the glasses, started wearing them, and I’d constantly lift them up and replace them on my nose testing whether I really needed them. I feel the same way now; like this is all some great mistake, though I know it’s not—I did need those glasses.

What I’m going through is not that terrible. It will be over soon, and I will resume my life. I understand that I am lucky; many people get much worse news than I did, some are given bleak prognoses, some must endure horrendous treatments that are almost as bad as the disease they are fighting. I am not self-indulgent enough to compare what I am going through with anyone else. This isn’t about what is wrong with me, it is about there being something wrong with me. It doesn’t fit my image of myself, it doesn’t fit how I want to be seen, it doesn’t fit who I want to be. I demand a recount!

Life is made up of a series of quiet moments punctuated by a variety of shocks and surprises, some good, some bad, and some moments that defy categorization. Most of us make our way through, finding inner resources we didn’t realize we had, or friends we had no idea would show up in such a meaningful way. Though I am dreading my upcoming surgery, I am looking forward to having time to read the many books stacked all over my bedroom. I will get to see people I haven’t seen in a while, I will spend time with my kind friends and family who have volunteered to come watch over me. I am grateful for all the kind thoughts being sent my way, and the love I feel surrounding me. I know that I am facing a few lousy weeks, and then I will be fine. On reflection, I am lucky, and I am also someone who will need to take some time to redefine who I think I am.

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  • October 7, 2015 - 1:08 pm

    Stacie - I am so glad it’s nothing too serious. I had cancer at a time in my life (34yo) that I’d never felt better. I get how things like this can throw self-perception for a loop. I like the way you never actually say what the surgery is. Good luck and heal quickly! Hopefully you will still be able to type!ReplyCancel

  • October 7, 2015 - 6:50 pm

    Carrie Stuckmann - “Life is made up of a series of quiet moments punctuated by a variety of shocks and surprises, some good, some bad, and some moments that defy categorization.”

    “The truth is that anything can happen to anyone …”

    Two very solid thoughts that are worth retaining!ReplyCancel

  • October 7, 2015 - 10:24 pm

    Lisa - “Life is made up of a series of quiet moments punctuated by a variety of shocks and surprises, some good, some bad, and some moments that defy categorization.” Brene Brown wishes she wrote those words! Who you are really comes through in this. I mean, I don’t know you, but I feel like I do!ReplyCancel

  • October 8, 2015 - 2:44 am

    Megan Ferrell - Ooof. I know where you’re coming from with this. It feels strange to accept that help when you’re the one who’s used to giving it. But, situations when you need help have a way of showing you just how much you are loved, how much love you have in your life.

    Then again, I like how you put this, that it’s a disconnect between our own self-image and how things like this don’t reconcile with that.

    I’m sorry to hear of your diagnosis. But, if your self-image is of someone who is strong and tough, then that remains in tact.ReplyCancel

  • October 8, 2015 - 4:04 am

    Asha Rajan - “It doesn’t fit my image of myself” is absolutely the heart of so many issues, isn’t it? Especially when there’s something wrong with us. It’s not who we are, the person we become under the influence of the illness/adversity, is not who we know ourselves to be. Such a thought provoking piece.ReplyCancel

  • October 8, 2015 - 4:43 pm

    Michelle Longo - Reversing roles is so tough. I hope your surgery goes well and you stay in good health.ReplyCancel

  • October 8, 2015 - 5:12 pm

    Nate - It’s things like this that remind us that we’re not invincible and that we are powerless when it comes to our health. I had a wake up call myself recently, so I hear your message loud and clear.ReplyCancel

  • February 21, 2017 - 6:02 pm

    Let’s Talk About Me » Chefs Last Diet - […] enough; there was something wrong with me, there were many tests, I went through some unpleasant surgery, went home to recover, and talk everyone’s ears off. Me, me, me, what could possibly be […]ReplyCancel

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