by Sandra Beardsley
Oct. 15, 2000
The first time I had real hope about surviving this cancer I had learned about the National Brain Tumor Foundation Website. When I found the site there were the words "Survivor Story" and a face staring back at me. The survivor was Judd Rose, a journalist that I had seen on television and the biggest shock was that he was diagnosed with the same type of tumor as I have. His was also an astrocytoma but with a higher grade and with more treatment and recovery. I was so happy to see a real person who could survive the same kind of cancer and live many years. It gave me hope.
Hope is a funny thing. You don't notice it when you have it on a daily basis, but when it suddenly leaves you, it is a real struggle to gain it inside of yourself. I've always thought I would be positive and hopeful with whatever challenges I had, but when this began to change I felt that I had lost myself. My attitude slowly disinegrated until I felt I was acting and using great effort to keep the world from knowing my state of mind.
My feelings began to swing like a pendulum from gratefulness to hopelessness. I would tell myself that this attitude change was caused by my fatigue not from any mental or emotional reasoning. I began to cry a lot and have bad dreams which made me more tired. Work added more stress because I didn't want to let on that I had any weaknesses.
I would come home and cry and go to bed exhausted. If it wasn't for my husband who would bring some soup and reassure me that everything would be okay, I don't know what I would have done. I began to lose interest in exercising and felt weak against all the problems and responsibilities of daily life. Some days I would be so overwhelmed I could barely make it to work. Once there I would get myself together and the children and their beautiful faces would make me forget and concentrate on the moment. Teaching has such contrasts because as you enjoy each moment with these honest, real, curious children you are constantly having to plan ahead for days, weeks and even months. This can encourage the loss of living in the moment.
One evening I turned on the television and was jolted to attention. It was the news and a reporter said that after a long battle with cancer, Judd Rose had died. He had left a wife, children and many friends. My emotions came instantly and I began to weep. I was all alone and I felt myself losing hope. This man had been my survivor. What could I hold onto now?
The past two months have brought me much confusion. I am so grateful to be able to work but at the same time I feel that I am sometimes an actor playing myself. Playing the role of my former self. No one knows I've been replaced by another person. I look the same and am able to be a believable character of myself. But what no one sees is inside I'm forever changed. I have become fragile. My friends seem to be unaware of this change. I need them to be more understanding now than ever.
Before I was a cancer warrior, strong and full of hope. Now I feel tired and confused. I want to be the person everyone seems to see me as but I feel confused. I can't believe that after all this time it is like just finding out, as if my mind has just woken up to the situation. I might die. I seem to want a finish line to this cancer. I want to know I am cured and my patience is waning. Then I get mad, How can I have any emotion except joy. The fact that I'm alive and doing so well should make me walk around with a smile from ear to ear. Am I being too dramatic? I can't seem to give myself permission to feel this grief.
My husband continues to say positive messages just as I would do for him. I tell him that I have a visual of a black anvil suspended over my head. I see a rope with frayed edges, a few strands keep it from dropping and ending my life. I thought I had this all worked out. I feel that I don't have the right to mope when all around me I see people dealing with much more pain and sorrow then I could ever imagine. Some days I am filled with intense joy and happiness. Seeing my son play football and experiencing autumn and the beauty of the colors around me. I try to focus on these feelings.
Death is a real face slapper. It's like having someone throw a pitcher of ice water on you as you sleep comfortably in dreamland. It rocks your world. I am continuing to try to face my emotions. This means not tucking them away but taking precious time to explore them. I am slowly getting my hope to return. I am trying to be proactive in my healing. Acupuncture is my new way of feeling a little bit of control.
I gained some of myself back recently. My strength returned
as I hiked a mountain trail to witness the spreading of a friend's
ashes in a peaceful place. It was a surprise gift to feel my
body and myself and the sense of hope for the future.
Go to Chapter 10