Now is the time to soften. I came to this conclusion as I lay on the mat in the first yoga class I had taken in a million years. I had been meaning to try a class at SoulShine Power Yoga, a Maggie’s Brightside Sponsor, for a while now, but as luck would have it, I found myself in this particular class on this exact moment. My dad always quoted Jon Kabat-Zinn by saying, “Wherever you go, there you are,” and indeed, there I was.
I lay on my mat at the beginning of class in a heart opener pose. The instructor spoke about allowing your softness and vulnerability to be felt. She spoke of releasing what you don’t need and letting in what you do need. I set the intention to release the protection that I have created around myself. I felt my heart crack open a little.
Then I cried.
I have always heard about people crying during massage or yoga. It’s never happened to me. I don’t know if it’s because I’m a stone-cold bitch. Or because I don’t allow myself to be vulnerable in that way. I know I put all of this heart and emotion out into the world and here on the blog, but if you met me on the street and asked me how I’m doing, I would likely smirk and say something sarcastic about how super I am. I mean, ask anyone who has actually seen me on the mean streets of Richmond, VT. I’m super.
If I walked around allowing myself to be vulnerable and “soft” all of the time… actually, nevermind, I wouldn’t be able to walk around doing that. I would just be a pile of salty tears, crumpled in the corner. I would be a blubbering, snotty mess of a human being. It wouldn’t be pretty. And I’m afraid that without my sarcasm, jokes, and walls, I would become so vulnerable that the tears would start, and I wouldn’t be able to make them stop.
The next chapter of my cancer journey is unfolding. My cancer journey. I’m resentful of that expression, but I don’t even know what else I would call this. I am starting a clinical study at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. The study is trying to determine if adding immunotherapy (Pembrolizumab) to chemotherapy (Eribulin) makes the chemotherapy more effective. I FINALLY hit a stroke of luck and got into the trial group (both drugs) and not into the control group (just chemotherapy). The treatment is on a three week cycle; week one and two I would receive treatment and week three I would have off. Every treatment will happen at Dana-Farber in Boston since the study is so new. This may be a hardship, but in my opinion, it’s worth it. I really think that immunotherapy is the answer.
It may be my miracle.
It has been exactly two years (to the day) since my world was turned upside down with this cancer diagnosis. I’ve experienced the highs, the lows, and the doldrums. I have immersed myself in the present. Wherever I’ve gone, there I have been. I have become the warrior I need to be. I have become the bright side. I can also appreciate the dark side. I know that the only way out is through the center. I can see that there will need to be some sacrifices in this next chapter.
Since August 30th when my doctor came into the exam room and said, “I think you should go back to Dana-Farber,” I have not been able to escape the thought that this is what my dad always wanted. My dad was with me the first time I went to Dana-Farber. He really wanted me to get treatment there. Every time I had a bad scan he would say, “Let’s go back to Dana-Farber.” The first time we were there, he exclaimed that it would be “so cool” to go to Boston for treatment and that we could make it fun and get dinner and it would be so great! Remember when I went I first went to Dana-Farber and met Dr. Christina Herold aka Dr. Amy Sedaris? Well, I met with her again a few weeks ago and she remembered me and she looked at my Aunt Sue, who accompanied me on my trip and said, “I haven’t met you before.” Well, doctor who I haven’t seen in a year and a half and have only met once, you are classy AF for that level of patient care. My dad would be impressed.
Fortunately, he will be with me in my heart during every trip. That will soften the burden a little.
You know, I think I’ve been building calluses around my heart for two years now. It’s not that I’ve become complacent, it’s just that I’m trying to get used to this heartache, this grief, and this stress. I’ve become familiar with it. I’ve been strumming on my heart strings, building calluses on my proverbial fingertips for a while now. I’m hardened to the idea of where I am. But I don’t want to completely lose feeling either. The way I felt in yoga, when I released the tight mantle of protection is not a feeling that I can constantly maintain. It is too vulnerable and exposed for me to be that open every day. I have shit to do and people to raise. I won’t spend my precious time feeling all of everything when I have this movement. But I think it is a feeling I need to visit more often.
Being vulnerable and soft and expressing sadness in front of other people is not something I want to do. I don’t like it. This summer, I spent an extraordinary amount of time crying, nay sobbing, in front of people. My dad dying was my last emotional straw. But then I stopped, abruptly. I can’t explain why. Maybe my well dried up. I built a protection around my heart so that it would stop getting battered. I listen to the comedy podcast 2 Dope Queens when I’m driving or walking, so I don’t even allow myself to go to places of sadness when I’m alone. My sadness mostly hits me at night, in the dark, after everyone else is asleep and there is only me.
There is no doubt that I am a warrior. I made a decision on this day two years ago that I would continue to move forward in my life living big and bright.
I continue to want to embrace the fun, the light, the love. I need to find balance in allowing that softness in my heart, but also protecting my heart enough to get through the day. I want to slay as a new business owner. I want to get on The Ellen Show to promote Maggie’s Brightside Maggie Card. I want the doctors to tell me that there is No Evidence of Disease and that I can take a break from treatment. I am recommitting to myself.
Wherever I go, there I am. I will be present. Be alive. Be soft. Be love.