Saturday, October 14, 2006

Letting go of dreams

My life. How it has changed.

I just noticed that my employer has posted the position that I was working towards before I got blind-sided by this stupid disease. Back in Sept 2004 I had just begun taking the final accounting course I needed to compete for this position at my workplace. Then, a couple weeks later I was forced to drop out of the course due to my diagnosis and treatment. I was blissfully unaware of how much time I would in fact be off work, and in mid Oct 2004, a week after my first lymph node dissection, I competed for and won a competition for a job that was in direct line to me getting the position I really wanted, if only I got this course under my belt too.

I won the job, but I didn't start it until May 2006 after a year and a half of treatments and recovery. That's the good thing about working for the government and having a good union, they had to hold the position for me.

So, I started this job, one notch below the job I really want, in May 2006 and did it part time for 4 months up until this Sept when the other shoe dropped . I should add that in all my optimism, I had just re-enrolled for that course I need and got one week into it this time before having to drop out again, almost 2 years to the day that I first dropped out.

Now, I see in the newspaper that the position I had been wanting so bad, that I have taken courses for, that I have been groomed for, that I was envisioning as my "goal" is posted and it isn't going to be me filling it.

I have a hard time accepting that my life isn't actually going to go the way I had planned. I'm almost 30, just started my career, wanted babies, wanted grand babies. Wanted to travel more, to experience more, to get to that point in your 40s that women say you just stop caring what other people think and fully accept and know yourself. I was playing soccer right up until the time I was diagnosed. I scored a goal the week before! I was fit, I was active, I was so on top of my game in all aspects of my life. We had just downsized to a small apartment from a 3 bedroom house we were renting to save money for a downpayment. I was doing well in my part-time studies and getting praise at work. I was feeling so confident, sharp, on top of the world. I knew that even though there were setbacks here and there, that things would always be ok.

Someone else is going to take my job. Everyone else gets to lead the life I wanted to live. I know that's not true, but in my daily life it is. I'm the sick one. I'm that girl who people lower their voices to talk about and say, "It's such a shame, I feel so bad for her". I don't want to be a that tragic story. It isn't suppose to be my story! I know my story and for fuck sakes, I know this isn't it!

I'm at a loss. I'm so sad. I don't know what to do. I know I have to "fight", but this is a war I didn't wage and don't believe in. I'm no warrior, I'm just a normal girl who had a normal life and as the months go on and the setbacks get closer together, I feel like I am watching my normal life disappear more and more.

This last month has been hard because it has been entirely about cancer. I have officially moved from Wonderland, to a limbo between Wonderland and Cancerland, to living full-time in Cancerland. Where before my cancer life was just one small slice of a full pie-- I was back at work, I was jogging, I was going out to pubs, concerts, camping, trips to New York and London, starting school-- now I do nothing but sit around in a methadone haze, make phone calls and visits to cancer doctors, watch tv, surf the net, read and think. Think think think. Try to solve this unsolvable problem. My mind just goes in circles, trying to figure out the answer to this riddle: How do I get better and stay better?

I just hope this surgery will indeed alleviate the pain so I can be off the methadone, and get out and about more after I've healed from surgery. Even if I'm not at work, I feel like a fuller human when I can at least feel good and pretend I'm just on vacation. I can easily pass my time when I feel good, go window shopping, coffees at Chapters, yard work, house work, meeting people for lunch, maybe hopping on the elliptical trainer we bought 2 weeks before I got the news of this latest recurrence. It sits in living room, a constant reminder of how good I felt only one month ago. A constant reminder that my best intentions were yet again squashed, that hoping and having goals and dreams does not mean they will actually come true.

It gets really painful to keep "moving forward" when your dreams keep getting squashed like that. It is so demoralizing to have to keep picking myself up and brushing myself off and trying again.

The first time this happened was when I won that job competition and realized that I wasn't actually going to be able to start it for a long time.

The second time was in Dec 2005, I had just finished my Interferon treatments, was looking forward to returning to work in the new year and bought myself a whole new wardrobe of work attire. Two weeks later I found a lump. I wasn't going to be going back to work for a while. I had to return all my clothes knowing the soonest I'd be at work was the spring, so no point in having a new winter wardrobe. Returning those clothes was one of the hardest things I've ever done because of what they symbolized. They symbolized my optimism, my hopes for the future, me getting my life back after over a year of it being high-jacked by surgery, radiation and Interferon treatments.

The third time was in late June when I found that little lump. I had gotten myself to the point physically where I was jogging 5k for the first time in my life (I'd always been relatively active (soccer, gym, ex- swim instructor, but never been able to run outside straight for half an hour). Even though it wasnt logical, I had somehow hoped that being that physically fit would keep the cancer away. The fear was always there, because I know it doesn't work that way, but I just hoped so bad that the universe would see how badly I wanted to stay healthy and how much I appreciated my body. I was looking for divine justice, a divine intervention, but I know there is no such thing.

The fourth time, was just over a month ago, when I was forced to really admit for the first time that this "problem" , my cancer problem is huge. I am caught in a one step forward, two steps back cycle that is likely to continue this way, despite my greatest hope and wish. I am a full-time cancer patient right now. Trying hard not to let it define me, but really, I don't have much of a life outside cancer pain, cancer treatments, medicine and appointments right now. Cancer has been my full-time job for the last month. It's getting old and I'm so over it. So bored of this story, I keep saying that. I'm so bored of it.

Everything happens for a reason, what doesn't kill us makes us stronger, things always work out in the end, and if they don't, we find a reason why it was "for the better anyway". These are the mantras we all tell ourselves so we keep on keepin' on through thick and thin. Those mantras don't cut it for me anymore unfortunately. Forced out of blind naivete, my mantras today are: We are only guaranteed this moment, so make the most of it, Shut up and stop wallowing as it is ruining your experience of today, Take comfort in the fact that others have been down this road before you, you can do it too, Death is only a continuation of life, There is no such thing as death, Hopes and dreams are just an illusion, all we have is the present.

I have to explain that last one in my next post. There is a story that goes along with it, making them the most comforting words that I have heard since the beginning of this journey. I repeat it all the time, because of the way it came to me, and because of how true it is.


At 2:34 AM, Anonymous Kristy said...


I do not know what to say - I do not have cancer so I cannot possibly know what it is like. But I felt compelled to write as I read your Blog and am moved by what you say.

My Dad had melanoma so I can only comment from a caregiver's point of view. I can identify with some of what you say - it completely hijacked our lives from his stage IV diagnosis in December 2003 till now. I was saying to a friend last night that those years have ruined me and that there was me before the diagnosis and there's me now. I could go on and on but I won't. And as I said, I do not know what it was like to be the one with melanoma.

I was recently reading on MPIP the postings on what positives melanoma have brought into people's lives. I wanted to post and rant that it has done nothing but ruin my Dad's and my family's - but for others human kindness has been given when they didn't know it existed.

Sarah, I think that you need to focus on the task at hand. The job, better jobs, will be there when you are ready. Focus on getting through this surgery. You have drive and ambition, once you are off the meds and recovered from surgery you will be feeling like your old self again. I am struggling at the moment, but when I read stories such as your's I feel inspired. I know that you don't feel strong, but believe me you are. And you are not too old, I am 34, newly graduated and landed a fantastic accounting job just over a year ago (my peers being 10 years younger).

Just know that I am thinking of you and sending you love from Australia.


At 9:54 AM, Blogger Carver said...


I wish there was something helpful I could say but there isn't. I will say that I would never lower my voice around you because I see strength that I can't even express. Not the fake strength that no one really has. The strength of looking honestly at the cards you're dealt and doing the best you can. I am almost 49 and our situations are different but I think I understand part of what you're dealing with. I do understand goals being turned on their head and I definitely understand feeling like if you stay fit you can beat the cancer. That was what I intended to do as my adjuvant instead of INF, run, run, run. Best laid plans . . .I keep you in my heart and thoughts and am glad you can express your feelings here, both for you and also for others who don't know how to give voice to the feelings and can find someone who can express it for them in you. As ever, Carver

At 5:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


You are thought of every day.

Keep writing.

At 7:55 PM, Anonymous Veggie said...

Yell, scream, rant about this all you can, Sarah.
Then fight hard.
You can do anything today.
Then repeat.

At 9:10 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sarah,

Its Lizzy, I just read your latest blog entry and I hope its ok if I comment. I just wanted to say that I love you, your honesty, and your strengh. I'm here for you anytime and always. Thinking of you...

At 9:45 AM, Blogger kimberly brown said...


I just came upon your blog and I got very sad that your doctors misdiagnosed you at age 19 with spitz nevus. I had the same situation. I was 29 and a mole on my leg came back spitz nevus. I did alot of reading and did not believe that this was possible considering my age. So i went for a 2nd opionin.My first doctor said come back in six months. My second opinion had me in surgery in two days and stated that I would have died if I did not have a 2nd opinion. I could have been in your situation and I don't know why I am not but I read things like your blog and it pisses me off that doctors can be wrong. God bless you


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