Tag Archives: depression and cancer

Happy to not be sad

Humans are natural skeptics. Hard evidence is always favored over hearsay.

The problem is, not everything is quantifiable. However empirical evidence (say, those bloody finger tips of mine) remains both highly evocative and generally not open to question.

If I tell you that I am depressed, what you may imagine is likely far more vague and nebulous than my actual experience.

Being sad, for months on end, is like sleeping on dirty sheets. Drinking from a grimy glass. Looking through a filmy window.

Sadness without end is, to my mind, far worse than any physical ailment. Pain can be controlled–psychic agony only modulated or dulled, and generally done in such a way (antidepressants) that not only the edge but the gloss goes off of every interaction.

My hands still hurt. My tongue too. And my creatinine kinase remains elevated. Pretty damn sure my cancer is still there, as is the pandemic. My car has almost 180,000 miles on it and I still haven’t paid last year’s taxes. I have a few nagging worries. The same ones I had last week plus some. But I also have a little spot of light behind my eyes. A glint, a gleam. A safe, well lighted space.

My head.



Or how to be up when you’re down. A palindrome of a concept, if you will. Sort of like the joke Jem and Aug made up when they were wee: ‘Why did nothing cross the road? Because nothing wanted to.’

If you follow. The yes and the no and the can and the can’t all at once.

The living while dying, which we all must do but some of us faster than others. The slippery slope.

It is easier to stay on the upside when one is feeling well. And safe. And cared for. Currently I am struggling with all three. Oh to have a fire to light, a bathtub to crawl into, a partner to bring me a cup of tea.

These are flights of fantasy, and hardly top shelf. When I can muster the energy, instead I imagine lying on a deck chair somewhere. Warm breeze in my hair, cold drink in my hand.

And yet I remain the master of ‘it could be worse.’ Last week my therapist countered with ‘but yes, it could also be better.’

It will be. It must be. And I am the one who will make it so.


I have been feeling rather blue. Deep blue. Indigo. A fatigue that is physical, emotional, spiritual.

Not surprising, I suppose. In sixteen days I will turn sixty. Remarkable, really. I never thought I’d have the opportunity to grow old. It is a milestone, in so very many ways.

It also means that I can now say, with complete accuracy, that I have been living with lung cancer for one quarter of my life.

That’s a long time. And obviously primarily a positive–surviving has always been my objective. But it’s also really sad.

If my life is a pie, then cancer represents an enormous slice.

Choosing to become an advocate has lent my diagnosis purpose. It has been an opportunity to make some good out of what can only be characterized as a personal tragedy.

But there is much that cancer has taken that I simply cannot reclaim/override.

Innocence–mine and my children’s–financial security, the bloom of youth.

And then the loving and losing. It is both the best and the worst part of advocacy. Relationships which transcend the ordinary. Incredibly special connections, each of which has enriched life to an almost unimaginable degree. Precious. Precarious. Often fleeting.

This–and my own mortality. Each new day exhilarating but also exhausting. Life so full of possibility but also portent.

Overwhelming. Odd, glorious, awful. But also all I’ve got. This is it. This is mine. My life.

Until it’s not.

The struggle is real

Just breathe.

If only it were so simple.

When I’m not coughing I’m wheezing. My left lung is getting boggier by the day.

It sucks, this downward spiral. Been here, done this, doing it yet again.

I mean, I’m tough but this is fucking demoralizing.

There, I’ve said it. Allowed that this shit gets me down. That not falling into despair as I hang on until the next clinical trial that may or may not work takes enormous will power. At times I feel like I’m running on sheer survival instinct. I want to live.

Just live.


I don’t do things halfway and when I go low, I go low. Take no prisoners, lethal sort of low.

My face couldn’t couldn’t get out of the way soon enough and so I made a minor mess of it. If you’ve never picked your skin you wouldn’t understand, but if you have, you know. Damned if you do, but in some sick way, self damage is an amazing way to relieve stress. However, just like alcohol, it tends to make things worse the following day.

That said, my mood is on the upswing. Sometimes when you hit bottom you bounce. I plan to take that momentum to propel me forward into some healthier activities. Writing (I’m on a roll), working on my health insurance, going to the gym and yes, painting.

It’s been a long time since I’ve held a brush but my easel beckons. And getting my art on might just be the perfect antidote to much of what ails me.

That, and the always amazing outpouring of love and support that a post brings–both here and on Facebook. Thank you. Know that every message goes straight to my heart in the best of all ways and that as alone as I feel at times, I’m really not. Because I’ve got all of you. ❤

Deepest Indigo


Depression is having its way with me.

Yesterday I took myself to Five Guys for lunch. A small cheeseburger, fries and a chocolate malted. Not so bad, as I am working out again.

But then dinner rolled around and so did my gloom, just like a bank of fog. I started with a glass of white wine (that bottle was staring at me so I just decided to kill it). Some black licorice. Five olives. A beer and a banana. Cereal with goat milk kefir and frozen blueberries. My repast all over the place, just like my mood.

I feel as if my schtick is strength and positivity. For the curriculum vitae I am putting together I have Adversity Expert as one of my skills (given my lack of actual substance, I am taking some creative license with my CV). And honestly, I feel as if I am letting some of you down by so openly sharing my current depression.

However, in the name of keeping things real, this is part of it. Any one of the stressors in my life (emotional, financial, physical) is enormous and when you add them all together, it is, on a good day, extremely challenging. And on the bad days–overwhelming.

What I am describing is OTSD–ongoing traumatic stress disorder.

Yes, I am unusually resilient. However, almost thirteen and 1/2 years of dealing with this shit has taken its toll. Last night I managed to waken myself from a nightmare because (and I distinctly recall saying this to myself) ‘I don’t want to see where this is going.’

If only it were so easy to walk away while awake.

So please bear with me as I move through this tough place. As my Granny B was fond of saying, ‘this too shall pass.’ And so it shall.

The birds are back

A week ago I noticed the robins. In the days since: a bard owl, vultures, pheobes, juncos, flickers, wild turkey, and red wing blackbirds. With the return of the migratory birds, spring can’t be far behind.

The glacier that was once our backyard is slowly receding as well. It has been raining and the season’s first thunderstorm was followed by a bit of hail. As I traipse through the woods  the earth is boggy beneath my feet.

What I really long for is sunshine. Not only has the weather been gloomy as of late, so have I. It is not a state of mind that I find acceptable for very long.

This past weekend I spoke briefly at a conference for cancer survivors. There was a question and answer period and someone wondered how I deal with depression. I explained that the first thing I see when I wake is the framed word Gift; a reminder that each day is precious.

Of course, that awareness isn’t always enough. When my kids were younger and in a state of distress, I found distraction and diversion to be the best tactics. That is, unless I too was at wits end, in which case my response might be far less constructive.

A simple change of scenery can nudge me out of a funk sometimes as well.  Perhaps a few minutes laying on the floor with Buddy (dog pile), going out into the woods with my camera, trolling at a thrift store or immersing myself in a good book.

I just read The Diving Bell and the Butterfly. It is an autobiography by Jean-Dominique Bauby, who was the editor of French Elle. At the age of 44 he suffered a major stroke, during which he was deprived of almost all bodily function, a state referred to as locked in syndrome. It is a slim volume, which Bauby dictated by blinking his eye to indicate each letter; an unbelievably painstaking process.

Situational diversion was no longer an option for him, and he recreated his own world within his head. His recounting is simply amazing.

For me as well,  distraction is occasionally cerebral. Recently my oldest son, August, was in the midst of a personal crisis. Although we spoke often on the phone, I really wanted to actually be there for him. As I lay in bed at night, I replayed memories from the moment of his birth, as if by doing so I could hold him close.

When feeling sad, sometimes it is forgetfulness that I seek. That is, of course, only a temporary solution. Ultimately I must return to mindfulness, and embrace the here and now. Even when it hurts.