middle places

here’s the thing about not having cancer anymore:  i’m not sick, but i’m not well yet, either.

beyond the continued treatments, surgeries, therapies and side effects to my body, the reality of how i am not going to be done with this, not going to just ‘put it behind me’ has settled over me like late-summer Texas heat- blistering and prickly, humidity choking all the oxygen from the air.  inescapable.

there’s this rush of gratefulness and light- a renewed energy that comes when the weight of diagnosis is lifted. and then… heaviness. dark, shadowy fears that cry out of your loss, your family’s hurt, your life forever scarred.

where does that come from?

there’s some question about how my long term medications interacted with those i took only briefly, jarring my brain as it struggles to keep up with all the new formulas-  possibly the fluctuation of hormones as i shift from one drug to another.

it is likely that this- the unexpected hard of post-cancer- is also the backlash of the last 9 months.  the feelings i pressed back and back and back because i had a job to do, now all crash forward at once- like water sloshing in an overfull bathtub. a warm wave of questions and fears and anger, spilling over the edges and spreading across the floor, messy and uncontainable.

or maybe i’m just tired. the body i am left with after gallons of chemicals and counter-chemicals and now cutting and rebuilding is tired. the mind i am left with after focusing on getting well, maintaining some energy for my family, and clutching small shreds of southern christian girl politeness towards those who ask ridiculous questions is tired.

yes, i think all of those are true.

i meant all the words i wrote during and just after… they are not false just because i am tired now. but i don’t really want to hide this part from you, friends.  this may be the more real part of being a ‘survivor.’ (side note: i don’t want to be called a survivor, warrior, or fighter. those are great titles from some, but i just don’t resonate with them. you can call me rachel.)

i have met lots of women who are going through cancer treatment, and i have seen this in some of them as well:  when there is a job to do, we do it- take the meds, deal with the sickness, maintain our lives and our families and our sanity, do the work to get well again. we are positive- strong- hopeful- focused. inspiring, even. but not much can prepare you for the post-cancer tidal wave. when you are alone with your thoughts again after months of chemo-brain and ‘just don’t puke in front of the kids,’ the darkness is a little surprising- a little overwhelming. the guilt of ‘shouldn’t i feel amazing and go save the world?’ instead of ‘i think i’ll just drop everything to sit alone in the sunshine for a while.’

some people ‘bounce back’ more quickly than others, which is wonderful. but some of us aren’t bouncy anymore. some of us reach the end of our resilience. maybe there’s only so many times our bodies and minds can be stretched to the limit before we stop returning to our original shape… not destroyed, but irreparably distorted.

you know what i WANT to do?  write cutting, sarcastic words that feel good going out, but horrible when they land. i want to slip in passive aggressive digs at all the well-meaning hurtful things people say when you have cancer (i’ve gotten some doozies).  but spewing every dark and crazy and desperate thought i’ve had, pouring out my emotions like sludgy, rancid water on you- my friends, family, and online acquaintances who have cared for me so well- that’s not good for anyone.

and that’s why i haven’t been writing (or just not publishing what i’m writing).  not because i don’t have anything to say, but because i’m still in the middle of it. there’s this human tendency to want to learn the lesson, see the growth, understand the process, wrap it all up in 1000 words or less. but in the middle, it’s dark and twisty and unmanageable.  even now, i’m tempted to put a big, fat, happy-clappy ‘yay Jesus’ bow on this… and i just don’t think that i should.  you don’t need that- my false front, my pretty picture. you can handle a little darkness from me, right?

so… i’m just going to leave this here and hope you don’t feel like you don’t have to say something helpful, be deeply insightful, or ‘fix me.’  i am broken, sure. but so are you… and it’s enough, even good sometimes, just to be broken together.


15 thoughts on “middle places

  1. I admire your frankness. We all need to hear and say the truth sometimes. Sometimes we are tired and aren’t up for constant pleasantries. You are simply enough. Where you are is a visiting place for many. Sign your name in the visitor’s book and sit on the porch swing and slowly swing back and forth in the late afternoon sun and let it warm you. You won’t be here forever, just for now.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I am with you, just not in the same room. Love you. Btw, my husband hears all my sarcasm and my “what I wanted to say was…..”


  3. Well, I came here yesterday and thought, looks like the most loving thing I can do for Rachel is be silent. But then I was curious who would take courage and what they would speak. 😛 And I share several of the comments here (liked ’em). Sit in the sunshine, soak in solitude, and allow the darkness to shape you as He sees fit! I’m with you in prayer, my friend! ❤


  4. Not in the spirit of fixing, but in the spirit of I get it: Why do we rally for that humungous project and then completely fall apart when it is finally time for vacation? It took me four or five years to heal from the accumulated emotional toxicity, psychological fatigue and twisted thought patterns from decades in toxic Corporate America. I think the gap between an expectation that everything is finally all right, and the reality that we are still broken is the one-two punch of post-trauma. The Golden Gate Bridge is so beautiful…we must be in Heaven! So why do they throw themselves off it?

    Dealing with major crisis galvanizes me. I know I have to bring my A game to survive. But the petty crap that comes day to day? Different story. I firmly believe that nothing emotional lacks physical corollaries, and vice versa.

    As one familiar with the temptations of snark in writing (some of my dance posts on Facebook frighten even me) I would encourage you to keep writing, even if you don’t publish, or publish broadly. Those growing pains and sticky states of malaise sometimes yield to the sharp light cast by the pen or the keyboard. Also, sometimes in recording my own dreams and being clueless about their meaning, I find that simply recounting them to another person…just hearing the sequence out loud, enables me to see clearly what I am being encouraged to confront and often, to rise above.

    Thanks for writing about a delicate state most people would not bother to observe or articulate.


  5. Pingback: nothing profound | rachel blazer

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