Thursday, February 7, 2013

First Cancer support group today

Today I went to my first ever survivors of cancer group. First support group. I was nervous. I had Eidie with me and what if they didn't want a little kid there? I thought out all the scenarios. What if I cried- that would be fine, but what if someone else felt like they couldn't because she was there?

I started talking myself out of it. Maybe I should just go next time. It would be fine. My friend L, who invited me and whom I was meeting, would be fine without me. She'd understand.

I kept driving and found myself at the oncology office where the group is held. Oncology. That's not a word that strikes me, because I never worked with an oncologist. I met with my family practice doctor and my endocrinologist, but never spoke to a 'cancer doctor'. I feel cheated in some ways, that support would have made my cancer journey something so different. I feel bitter, that my cancer was relegated to 'unnecessary' to meet with someone as important as an oncologist. I feel relieved, that it was so common and easy that I didn't need an oncologist. Mostly, I feel jealous that I didn't get it. Yes, jealous.

When I'm awake I can taste 
how bitter I've become
And it's more than I can bear

I went to this group of beautiful women, all in separate stages of their cancer dance. One woman is just two weeks from her diagnosis. How is she holding herself up right, I ask myself. Then I remember that I kept working and living like there was nothing new, making room in my mind for the thoughts about cancer but never setting aside my schedule so that I could just.... what... have cancer? It's so funny how I expect other people to fall apart with a diagnosis like that but found no need to do so myself.

We talked about grief and I had a lot to say, but it didn't go the way I thought it would. I think I imagined that what I would get was reassuring, knowing nods, acknowledging sounds. I did not expect to be boldly challenged in my thinking, and in my process.

"Maybe you should..."
"Give this a try..."
"Maybe you're going about it this way so you don't have to..."

I realized today that I spend so much time analyzing myself that uninvited, it pisses me right off when other people presume to do it. I feel like I am the one who has the right to decide whether I want my actions, thoughts, motives to be questioned. But there I sat, trying hard not to close down, feeling the anger rise in my belly, struggling to keep my heart open- and all the while knowing that there was some profound truth they were speaking to me or I would not be reacting so.

So I stay too busy to feel things- so what. If you had to feel all the shit I have on deck, you'd find some menial chore to do too, and fast. I want to grieve on my terms. As in, I want to control it. I want to decide when to let go of control, I want to decide when to let it run over me, so that I can decide when to stand back up and dust myself off.

Instead, I drive down the road and think the craziest thoughts, ones I don't dare write because... I find myself worrying what the impact would be- would it worry someone? Hurt someone? Odd, for me, but there it is. I'll find the right words, but not today.

Sitting with perfect strangers looking at me, nodding in my direction as someone else who doesn't know me talks about the holes in my process was like being stripped naked on the side of the highway for all of the passersby to see.  This is something very new to me. I found myself unable to detach myself from this vulnerable, naked feeling, that I couldn't just decide who I wanted to be in this group but could only react, and catch up. It was really hard. I left there angry and enlightened, toying with never coming back, because fuck that shit and knowing at the same time that I'd never let myself off the hook that way. I sat there and thought, "I had cancer. I can do this."

The note transcribed reads:

Who are you to tell me what I should do to feel my grief? What do you know about me?

Sap rising with the anger and as I feel it, I know there is something daringly true about what she's saying. I hear her saying that I am resisting the slow pace of the process, of grief. I expect it to fit into the empty spaces between the edges of my busy, full life.

I am sitting in this room, and I am more naked- to myself - than I have been since I can remember. I find that I am bitter, I am angry. At you, and at you, and at me. I tell myself I will never come back here. I am not seen the way I like, the way I control, the way that is comfortable. The blankets are ripped away by the hands of other women's experiences and we are revealed, vulnerable. But we do not cover our nakedness from each other. 

I am brave and strong. Maybe this is the Medicine I need right now.

{Around the edge of the paper}

I want to feel it in categories, in little packets, like how I experienced it. I want to be finished fully with cancer before I walk through Africa. I want to enjoy my triumph before I delve into the death of my mother. I won't get it. 

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