Thursday, October 20, 2011

7 Years Later: Exposed

I felt naked walking around.  Sometimes I would freak out hours into my work day and grab my shoulder to find the strap: "Oh good, I put on a bra today."  One day I forgot to put on a bra; thankfully I realized it on the way to work.  That is how out of it I was.  If you know Lizzy, you know, this is like really, really out of it.

"Free to be" day was easy to recover from, though, compared to how exposed I felt in other ways.  I felt like someone had turned me inside out and my internal mess was out there for all to see.  Perhaps it was all the processing I was doing; perhaps the therapy.  But mostly, it was that I could not hide behind anything I had anymore: not my productivity, not my good nature, not my Christianese, etc, etc...

I walked around feeling like everyone could see "my junk," (double meaning intended - go ahead and laugh).  It felt terrible for a time...and a time again.  To not be able to hide behind your normal defense mechanisms is a terrible and wonderful thing.  Terrible and wonderful are a great team - especially 7 years later.  In the moment it totally sucked!, yet I am grateful.  Especially since I have been assured in retrospect, "No, Lizzy, I really could not see that you were afraid all the time; that you really felt you were dying most moments of the day even though it was totally irrational.  Or that a close secondary concern was how your ass looked in those jeans. (Every thing is relative?).  Or who you have a massive, embarrassing crush on."  But the point is I started to be honest with people; being honest is a lot easier when you think "they" have seen it anyways.

To be seen is a wonderful thing.  Now people saw in part what God saw in whole.  Only I don't think God requires modesty.  But, don't worry, people like me do: occasionally I still check my shoulder for a strap.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

7 Years Later: 90/10

I briefly entertained the idea of becoming a statistics minor is college.  It was really only because my professor suggested it and said he would mentor me; ...oh, what could have been... (smirk).

Silly me!  I thought I could put those darned interpreted numbers behind me.  But enter the world of medical patient and you can not.  In fact, in emotion, in reality, you can not.  In diagnostics, in treatment, in prevention, you can not.

So, what does a 25 year old girl with a 90/10 chance of cancer do with herself in the meantime? Surprisingly, she gains a bit of a bounce in her step.  After all, something could actually be wrong!, like treatably wrong.  And her sense of humor rebounds a bit.  At some point ridiculous is funny. She makes jokes with the doctor that is sticking a huge biopsy needle in her neck about ruining her new shirt from Anthropologie.  (They even wager a bet and the tech wins a soda).  She laughs out loud when she finds out the biopsy is inconclusive and the chance of the matter still remains: 90/10.

Next up? Surgery: knife to neck.   But not until after Thanksgiving; load me up with some stuffing and pecan pie.  And, yes, I will have another glass of wine.  Doesn't it have anti-oxidants?

Sunday, October 9, 2011


Dan suggested it.  He really did.  It wasn't me.  "Do you want to go see that movie 50/50?"

I won't review the movie, because I don't really know how to do that.  But, will say this: while it was too Hollywood for words at some points, dirt-ball at some points, and I was bored at some points (only a few), I laughed, I cried, and I think I finally have a compelling dissertation idea: Acute Illness Incidents During Young Adulthood and Its Impact on Lifelong Human Development.  You know you want to read it.  (And to those that actually would, I know I need to be more specific).

But here are some less academic take aways:
1.  Everyone in their 20s that is very sick, very suddenly should have a friend like the Seth Rogan character.  He is crass and raunchy, but faithful.  He saw his friend and the sickness, not denying either the sickness or especially his friend.  And he used the F-word a lot.  (I personally thanked my dear girlfriend that said, "for "f***'s sake" a lot during those years of my illness over a glass of wine Thursday night.  Invaluable).
2.  The relational dynamics are exaggerated, but real.  The girlfriend/boyfriend really does freak out, but is not honest about it with themselves and, as Seth puts it, basically, "suck as a person;" ... at least in that way.
3.  The scene with Joseph Gordon-Levitt getting ready and then going to the hospital is pretty true to life: feed the dog, get in the car, watch your neighbors go to work, drive to the hospital, hug your friend, and walk freely into the building that will change your life either way.
4.  I love the play with chance in the movie, albeit narrowly themed through out, and that real, raw, imperfect relationship comes out of moving through the odds of life.

7 Years Later: Permission to Go Inside

My injury and illness gifted me permission.  Permission to go inside and find healing.  The messages around me and in me all my life had been the opposite, despite some of my various attempts to challenge them.  But my body was such a wreck anyhow, what choice did I have?

Interesting, because I'm a professional counselor.  My career values people going inside, to the "hidden things" to find healing.  I entered this profession before this critical permission entered in; I believe that many of us in the ministry, helping, and healing professions are trying to find a way to heal without having to go inside for ourselves.  I get that, on so many levels.  I also believe we need to.

Thankfully and gratefully, I did not have a choice.   I don't think I would have willfully took such a journey: I was so young and embroiled in my own patterns and afraid.  Yes, yes: I was involved in a small group, and therapy group, and etc, etc.  Yes - I desired to.  But my circumstances found my need all the more better; God did.

I was so undone, that suddenly I had some boldness that I had not had before.  Boldness to be brutally honest with my family, my friends, myself, and my God.  And it was there and within that I began to find some healing that I did not imagine was available to people like me.  Especially with a body that was going through the wringer.

I Still Baby My Right Side

I have been writing this blog mostly about my life change that happened seven years ago.  Mostly because, after years of surviving the ripple effect of this bomb (these bombs? and other associated land mines?) that dropped into my life, I find myself in a new place of acceptance.

And it was this week, that a spunky, loud spin instructor helped me along.  (She sold herself as a centered, peaceful, yoga-spin-combo spinner; I need to talk to her about her packaging.  Calm waters blue should not wrap a firecracker).

The music was thumping, but with a sitar in the mix, "Interesting..." I thought.  But I was down.  After all, my usual spin lady climaxes our workout with the Chili Peppers.

And we were off: legs spinning, heart pumping, breathing heavy.

"Lizzy!," she shouts, "Do you favor your right side?"
"Do you favor your right side?  Do you have an injury on your right side?"

I mean, how do I answer this?  How?  Enter Lizzy A and Lizzy B.  Lizzy A speaks out loud.  Lizzy B uses lots of profanity, but keeps that to herself.

Lizzy A, "No, why? ... I mean, years ago, but..."
"Well, you are favoring your right side.  You are so young!  You are going to injure yourself.  Use your right side evenly."
Lizzy B, already as angry as a swatted hornet, "Um...okay.  Give me a f***ing second while I tell my body to please forget that it was HALF F***ING numb and took years to recover to where I am now.  And GOING to injure myself...going to..."  This is the mild version...
Lizzy A was honest, "I don't know how to fix that."
"Stick your right elbow out."   Lizzy A and Lizzy B, "Okay.  Thanks."
Mind you, the music is pounding and there is a workout class as our audience.

20 minutes later: "Lizzy!  Your right side!"
Lizzy A, "I'm trying!!!"  (My friend in the class laughed sympathetically - bless her).
Lizzy B, "And F*** you."  Lizzy A said this through her body language.

Some unearthed anger, much?  Yes.  And it says a lot of F-yous.  (Say an amen if grace sounds even sweeter). Thankfully, I have a filter that has functioned pretty well through these years of having a hidden handicap.  I know it is not HER fault.  It is my story still finding its voice.  And truthfully, this anger is mostly helpful, as it shows the places I have not yet healed.  If the F-bomb pops up, I know I've got something to move through.

And bless my spin instructor.  God bless her.  She really helped me; she saw me.  She saw even what I could not see: I still baby my right side.

Afterwards we talked for quite a while.  I shared bits of my story and she did hers too.  She has survived lymphoma: "It totally changed the way I did sit-ups."  Well, there you go.

My right side is sore this week and I am exhausted after my work outs.  Elbow out and this baby is growing up.