So I do not know if I will post this or not - I just am in a bit of an existential crisis, NBD.
I have spent the last decade of my life being a MOM capital letters needed. I did not have any help and I had to keep pretending I did not want to do anything other than be a mom because I felt I HAD to do it. My golden girls kept telling me to stop and to slow down but did I listen NOOO (my-golden-girls.html).
My husband, bless his heart, has struggled with issues (no nothing as cool as addiction <sarcasm>, just garden variety cray cray) and I was the person in charge of everything at home and the children and even taking care of him, too. We went out to lunch recently and once he removed the sharp knives from the table, he told me that he does not want me to work full time because he is not "ready". My mom, who I have written about here a-tale-of-two-novembers.html is often pressuring me to "think of the children" when she, you know, kind of didn't. And to round out the trifecta, my mother in law who is also kind of "anti-working full time" for me.
I get it, it is coming from love and they partly do not want to see me get sick again and also partly know I do a lot for my kids, the house, my husband and whoever else in my family I wind up helping as I am kind of a surrogate mom for everyone in my life... though I am trying to scale that back BIG TIME taking-back-control.html.
I recently had a job interview (one of like a handful I have been called for despite looking hard for a job since September 2017 but like that is a post for another day worth of bitching...) and I was very excited about it. Now for other reasons, I do not think this job is going to work out but still it was a great fantasy to think about having the support, the infrastructure to go back to being "executive" and having the budget to live on and so on and so forth. BIG BUBBLE POPPED though re no support...
So here I stand, in New York City today, Valentine's Day, because I needed a shot in the arse (my Lupron shot to keep my ovaries off) and I am now in an office that I can use for the day on Wall Street, my old haunting grounds - where I worked when I was young and free and focused and driven and wanted to be the CEO of a major company. That seems like another version of Lisa long gone...
This me, (hi!) is very much alive and in flux and also in this weird world of "in between" I believe I am cured but I have no proof of it - it is just something I believe in my heart until I am told otherwise (God willing never). Let's be real, anything can happen over the next 2, 5, 10 or even 20 years but I will not let this bitch of breast cancer fuck me up anymore than it has. I have scars mentally, physically, emotionally but I am ready to bounce them and to keep living to keep trying to do more.... but I am still confused over what that means.
I do know my budget is in shambles and real talk, we are broker than broke. BUT also another real talk confession, we have been this way since I stopped working full time in New York City in 2009. What makes it worse now is that, quite frankly, I do not want to have ANY stress in my life and finances, particularly when they are broken, are stressful.
I also see these women owning it, walking around in their matching bags and shoes and I lust after it, I really do. I wish I could be those women - I am sure of them many are moms, some are also the 1 in 8 who have dealt with breast cancer, but I do not know if that is where I need to be, either.
I am someplace in between (pun intended), I want to assert myself, be kick ass again, make the dollar bills BUT at what cost - what am I willing to give up? My kids just got used to the fact that I won't die (they have no other option but to think this way, too) do I want to uproot them further by going to a full time job and not seeing them except on weekends? I KNOW other people do it and they are amazing and making big and huge trade offs daily (I remember, I did it for 2 years after my daughter was born) but for me particularly, I do not want stress in my life - so which is the most stress? Having to scrimp and save to pay bills or to have the finances on point and instead miss your kids?
I know women can have it all and they can balance but I do not know how to do it or if I want to do it... It is a choice, always a choice. I did not choose to get cancer but I can now choose how my life post cancer will be... Now can you tell me what that should be? Thanks! :) XOXO Li
I keep writing this blog post and deleting it and then redoing it. There are things that I guess are better off left unsaid but sometimes in not saying the things, it eats away at you or at me - it eats away at me so I had to write it, feelings be damned.
As this year 2017 draws to a close, I have to believe that the comeback will be bigger than the setback. What do I mean by this? Have you ever met people who have been through the wringer? Like widowed with 3 young kids and needed to make it and turned around and got themselves through school ALONE and became a powerhouse attorney type of comeback?
I know some people who have done these types of things and I just want them all to write a book on how the hell they did it. As I sit here, post breast cancer plot twist having lost my job and trying to work on my own comeback, I want to have some guidance, some roadmap so to speak of how to do this.
I am standing and kicking butt and taking names, applying to jobs, managing my family life with a renewed focus on ME, my husband and my kids. I had been pulled in many different directions lately stemming from the needs of other family members and I had to stand up and say, “NO. Enough. It is now time to do what I need to do for me.”
In my life, I have been the caregiver for many, many people. I have been the person who keeps it all together. Who makes sure everyone feels welcome and well and, well, I am DONE. I am writing this more for me than anyone else so if you are confused already, sorry. This is a note to me to remember that I matter, that my health, well-being, sanity and time are all precious and important. That I am a good person who cannot get lost in being a people please-r. I have 2 children not 10.
I promise to keep putting me first - to stop trying to be the superwoman I have been acting like again. It is so hard to let go of bad habits. It is not my responsibility to care for everyone. I have to be focused on my small family, our home, our life and let the rest go.
This does not make me a bad person - it makes me ME.
My New Year’s Resolutions are unique this year - I did not make any last year except, “Survive” and this year, I want the same thing but with a bit more.
1- Survive - keep on keeping on in my training to be a survivor. Keep exercising, eating right, keeping myself positive and on track.
2- Letting go- know that I cannot hold on to the pain, the hurt or the betrayal but instead need to stay light, lighter than air to do what I need to do.
3- Work - find my next step, my perfect job/income generating plan to make my life work to be able to stop having so much free time but to balance it with my kids and family.
4-Health - See, survive is for me, health is for the other members of my family. Remove all sugar, get us all on a work out routine, stop my husband from smoking and other destructive habits (sugar, no exercise, etc).
What do you want to do for the upcoming year? What did you find were things you had to let go to survive? What do you know about your comeback? What is your comeback?
Today, I did something I have not done for a long time. It is my birthday, so it’s been 365 days since my last one so I guess I do not do that too often… But I went out and had lunch, by myself.
This is something I used to do all of the time, back in the day. I have lived alone in foreign countries, taken 27 hour flights to far flung destinations for work but something I stopped doing abruptly over the last ah 13-15 years is doing things by myself for ME and with ME. It seems weird because I was always a very solitary person who just went off to do my own thing quite often.
Somewhere in becoming “coupled” up for good and having children, I lost this ability to be alone. I was always alone but alone at home and busy or alone at work and busy but now, I am just enjoying my own company and having a good old time spending money I do not have to get some splurge items for this birthday, this birthday that I never doubted I would see - maybe because I am just stupid but I just did not doubt that I would see this birthday in the books and that I will see many, many more - at least past 70, right?
But, the truth is I do not know and as much as I am rah rah and cheerful and positive there are these little nags that sit on my soul - this tiny little doubts that flourish up at the most inopportune times and remind me - remind me that my days might be numbered to an extreme, that there are cells that might remain in me trying to wreck havok and/or cause issues all I can say to that is I AM DOING EVERYTHING I CAN POSSIBLY DO TO NOT HAVE THAT HAPPEN and also, HEY I DO NOT HAVE CONTROL OVER THAT BECAUSE IF I DID, I WOULD NEVER HAVE GOTTEN CANCER IN THE FIRST DAMN PLACE!
Excuse my yelling. Sometimes, there are things that try to take your joy. In the “old” days, I had many, many things that took my joy. Now there is only 1 - it is just the underlying fear of having been sick and the WHAT IF it happens again. So every day, especially on this day, my 41st birthday, I do what I can to exhume it, to get it out and to live my life because it is what it is and it could always be worse.
I got stuff to do, though, and it should be enough to keep me busy and focused. Finding a job, filing for my charitable company The Time Between Is, Inc (done today, for my birthday gift to me - I also got myself tons of earrings, an echo dot, a new bag, new dress and a belt oh and a pair of jeans - today was a treat yoself day!) and just living life. Tomorrow is birthday breakfast with my best friend forever and of course tonight is all about family. We will meet at a restaurant and have a big dinner and a bigger cake. It is time to go big or go home for me - it has been a long time since I had cake / sugar and stuff so Bring, It. On.
How do you celebrate your birthday after breast cancer? What do you do to make sure nothing steals your joy? How do you quiet your fears?
I want to help others who are faced with the plot twist of cancer and I want to help them the only way I know how - to get them back to work. Right now, I am focused on doing this for myself and it is an all consuming focus. I have finally redone my OWN resume - see it here --> how-to-take-the-next-step-after-cancer.html after spending decades helping others get resume ready through my old small business www.thenextstep1234.com. This resume makeover and help on how to interview are big parts of my "talents" that I was writing about a few weeks ago using-your-talents.html.
To do this, I need to figure out more about the specifics. I mean helping people get back to work is a huge positive especially after I have been learning more and more about people who have lost their jobs during or after diagnosis/treatment - you can read my unfiltered thoughts on that here --> www.whatnext.com/blog/posts/after-cancer-treatment-how-do-i-get-back-to-being-me,
Not having a job means you do not feel "whole" yet. It means you do not have the necessary distraction from thinking about cancer and death. Most importantly, it means you have financial issues to pay your bills or to have healthcare or to afford your medication. It is a big deal.
I also want to think about how I can use funds that I can perhaps raise to do something for others or for research in addition to this skill I have in my tool house. I am not yet sure how it will come together. It is a priority to me and it is why I upgraded my URL via Weebly from www.thetimebetweenis.weebly.com to www.thetimebetweenis.org and also got the ability to use more programming options for this blog, too. I am looking at different ways to pay homage and to help others.
On a related note regarding the fact that I am currently unemployed, I am still trying not to get triggered when I hear of someone dying from breast cancer. I am trying so damn hard; today I just spoke to a friend of the family whose 47 year old sister just died from breast cancer after an 8 year fight - you do the math, as I did - she was 39 at diagnosis; so was I. It is times like these that I get down and want to cry but I know that will not help and I know that although it does statistically maybe look worse for me that it could happen to anyone and it does happen to anyone - random deaths happen all the time, it is part of what keeps newspapers in business.
All of this pushes me to get busier, because if I stay focused on busy, I have less time to think. Thinking is never good. I was an over thinker in the past and it was never "good". It is especially not "good" now. So I am going to throw myself into a couple of projects to keep myself occupied and therefore out of trouble. They are:
So it is time for me to work on these things and get into gear. Of course, I will always blog - well as long as it continues to connect me to my community, to help me grieve, celebrate, unload and move my needle back to "full" when I am on "empty". It has led to amazing friendships and to different opportunities to share my story (check out my Press & Promotion Page --> www.thetimebetweenis.org/my-story-in-the-press.html.
As always, thanks for reading and especially for reaching out and/or sharing my story. I hope one day this story is just that a fiction that we remember having once existed that "cancer" is eradicated and no longer a mystery to those who die from it.
To my (new) friend's sister, I know you are no longer in pain and that you are at peace. Please help the other women and men who have been dealt the plot twist of breast cancer with your prayers and I will pray for you, too.
It is true I am more buoyant even with one boob. I spend a lot of time trying to re-condition my brain and my I guess reptilian ways. I used to be the person who would hold a grudge, replay the day and who said what when and what I should have said would keep me up at night.
Now, I am actively trying each and every damn day to just continue to rise above. To not fall for the pettiness, the silliness, the stupidity when I can just enjoy my life every damn day - NO MATTER WHAT.
This is a big thing, this "no matter what". It means when another mom says something I consider 'unkind' to my kid, I have to just let it go. It means when someone is not as nice to me as I think I am to them, I have to just let it go. It means that when family members are acting a fool (collectively), I have to just let it go.
It is harder to do than I am making it sound. It can hurt when someone you think is in your "crew" shows that they are not. It can be hard when a relationship dynamic changes from being girlfriends to being just like "hey" and man when I was younger these are the things that made me crazy.
I know now that not everyone has to like me. I know now that I don't have to like everyone. I also know that I am not here for big vendettas and clearing the air because I want to live above the air. I am in my space, my world where last year the ability to do what I did this weekend (and every weekend since chemotherapy ended just over 7 months ago) seemed like a miracle, a dream, something I would never be able to do again. But yet, I am doing it.
I am kicking ass and taking names in terms of my life, my health and how I want my world to be. I am job hunting, I am focused on being the good for those who are good for me. I am focused on my kids and family but I am totally now down to taking care of ME first and getting away, doing things with the girls, my girls.
As I posted on Instagram (see below), I lived through what remains in most people's bad dreams. I am a monster high doll with scars and things where my breast used to be. I am here to live and enjoy, to work and do what I can with the time I have left as we ALL have only so much time left because no one has lived forever in this world. I am prayful and fun, focused and relaxed. I am me, I am proud and I am the 1 in 8.
This is what I do in the time between...
365 days ago, I heard the words, "expect the call that is is cancer." - not quite as clean as the more direct, "You have cancer." but it was the first inkling I got that this whole mammogram/ultrasound/biopsy routine was going to be different for me than my usual experiences in the medical realm.
Normally, when I went to doctors and such, I would find out something minor - like the flu, bronchitis, allergy induced asthma or even my blood clotting disorder managing-diagnosis-from-super-woman-to-cancer-patient-in-two-seconds-flat.html. This was something that was more, I guess you can say, earth shattering.
I set up a countdown to this date (because I am a nerd) about 80 days ago. I know that time is what heals or it is what can kill me - you see, when I was first diagnosed I knew nothing about breast cancer and I remained blissfully ignorant for a long time. I remember being triggered by a Facebook post about someone who had died from the disease and it shook me so much I deactivated my account and did not go back until I grew a pair of balls - a new pair of balls that is because in my life I have always been pretty ballsy.
I left the country when I was 21 after being raised to "stay in the gate" by an uber-overprotective dad and grandparents. My mom left the family when I was 13 and almost died when I was 15. I got married despite knowing all I knew about how marriages can suck. I had two children despite helping raise my brothers and knowing that being a parent is one of those things that just does not make sense - my heart no longer resides in my body and all that crap. I present and speak in front of large crowds. I have written books and share them relentlessly because damn, I wrote stuff. None of that mattered though because when I was diagnosed, those reserves of bravery were like puffs of air, they were gone.
Sure some of those things are just normal things that everyone does but for me, they were all acts of bravery of defiance of being balls to the wall brave. Then I got diagnosed with cancer and all I knew was fear and more fear. I could not share my story - I was physically unable to do it. There was a block and it was me.
Once I began sharing, I began learning. I opened my heart and mind to others who have been through this plot twist and learned the hard way that some of them do not make it on-mourning-forbeth.html. Some of them do not get to see their kids grow up. Some of them do not get to even get to the point where they want to have kids. Some of them will never be able to have kids because of their treatments. Everyone has a story and it is not always a happy ending.
I was focused on getting to this year's "cancerversary" because in my heart, it means something. It means that I survived this year, this year when everything changed, when I could not be me, when I lost my hair, my breast, my job, my voice. I survived it and I am still here - I am loud and obnoxious, I use social media, I tweet too much, I post naked photos of my chest, I am here, I am trying to make sense of it all but I do not have all of the answers. No one does. I do not have a crystal ball. I have no clue what the future brings for me or my friends who find themselves to be the 1 in 8 but I do now that sharing and celebrating this tiny little achievement with all of you means something to me.
I was diagnosed a year ago, I went through diagnosis, surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and continued treatments (hormone meds and clinical trial); I went bald, I stayed half flat, I lost my job, I saw what my children went through to see their mom "sick" - really sick; I know what it is like to fear/plan for death, I pray every day that I am here to see my kids grow up, I know that breast cancer can still kill me but I pray and hope that it will not.
I celebrate because it was a year ago, time is passing, I am still here, I share my story and it DOES help others, people are in my life now I never would have met if I did not get cancer, I know more about how to manage life stresses because nothing is as bad as being told you have cancer (God willing, this will be the worst thing that happens in my life; it is not as bad at all as hearing your child God forbid has cancer so I will keep my diagnosis, thank you very much and pray for the families who have to deal with a child getting chemotherapy).
This is what I do in the time between. I originally had wanted to do something big today with decorated cookies and a celebration but instead, I am going to do the exact opposite. I am just going to live like I do every day since those words were told to me - I am going to survive and enjoy my day with my family and just decorate for the holidays knowing and believing there is no cancer in my body. Last year at this time, I could not say that and all of a sudden everything else was in perspective. So, this year, decorating my house without cancer in my body and going to focus on all that I have done in these 365 days and on what I can do today because that is all anyone is "promised" is today.
Today, I was inspired to write this post from the sermon at Mass. I have been going to mass throughout this plot twist of cancer; though I did miss some weeks. I did, however, give up on getting my kids to go every week. I would run out on a Sunday night at get the last mass in my town at 7:30pm, the last ditch attempt to getting in that hour of peace.
One week, months ago, I was feeling very anxious - thinking what would happen if the cancer progressed, fearing death and I dragged myself out to mass, though I felt like curling up in bed and crying. That day, the mass was about Jesus curing the lepers and how He cures us and it gave me peace - I get it if this is not your thing - you can find your thing that gives you peace, I pray you do.
Today, both kids came to mass with me and my dad and my mom (which is ironic and funny if you know anything about my family history or just read this a-tale-of-two-novembers.html or this the-oh-sht-playbook-or-being-my-dads-daughter.html) and it was about talents and using your talents the way you are meant to use them.
This got me thinking and hence it got me writing - I always thought my talents were well, I did not know because I always thought of talents as being singing or drawing but in reality your "talent(s)"are your mission - the things you can do better than anyone else or that come easy for you AND that I guess, you enjoy doing.
In that case, my talents include writing, resumes, writing, educating (BUT not less than college aged; I learned this the hard way) and I guess balancing lots of stuff oh and of course being positive.
A former friend of mine had called me "Positivo" before I had anything that I really needed to be positive about to survive. But, being positive has been integral to my life and my survival, in general long before I heard the words, "You have cancer."
As I look for my next step (ha, it never gets old - see www.thenextstep1234.com), I am thinking about the different things I am good at and how those skills and talents can be used in a way to help others and I am just open to it. I know I can do more and that I should do more. I know that I want to create a non profit as soon as I fix my full time situation how-to-take-the-next-step-after-cancer.html.
How do you use your talents? What are your talents?
I wanted to showcase the new makeup I got that is in theory safer and let's just say, there is a reason why I have never done this before and probably will never do it again - if you want to pee your pants, check it out below...
So I am not going to lie - I rarely do because I always get caught but lately I have been feeling overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with the day to day stuff - the job hunt, the groceries, the family commitments, the running around from place to place for follow ups and other stuff.
Then it hit me, like a ton of bricks. I can consider all of this "work" and "tedious" or I can say, "Today, I am choosing to do these 10 things..." or however many things. It is all about perspective, I guess.
I am laying in bed today after having an endoscopy this morning and thinking about how short and complicated life can be if we choose to keep it that way - so I am going to embrace simplicity and just focus on what I want to do and when. I am re-framing my mind or trying to anyway.
The endoscopy did some biopsies and of course, right away, I am thinking "OMG OMG CANCER?" but the doctor looked at me and said, "It is not cancer; we are just doing it as procedure."
I still think to myself though, "what if..." but I know I cannot think that way, I know that I cannot think that way. I have to just keep positive and not think about anything other than the day at hand.
So for today, I am laying in bed in my robe and my pajamas with my puppy. I am looking for jobs and thinking about how I can change my perspective and manage the fact that I had cancer and not let that define everything about me from here forward.
As someone who after every test said, "I failed" (spoiler alert: I never failed) I am wired to expect the worst and hope for the best. Almost one year ago, when I was diagnosed with breast cancer, it was a huge thing that hit and said, "Wow, you did fail!" and yet, I constantly thought about how lucky I was - that I was diagnosed, that it was operable and that I could do it. I made it look easy; it was not easy - but I guess I come from strong stock and just smiled my way through it.
My job was taken from me, my breast, my hair and my twin illusions of control and immortality. What was left was just the grit and determination that NO MATTER WHAT I will do what I have to do, what I can do and that ultimately, I will understand that there is no "control" there is no "immortal" people - there is just me and how I look at things and think about them.
I named this blog The Time Between Is for a reason so I could fill in my own "is" - I can make the time between is about stress and anxiety and waiting for the inevitable (because we all die you know) or I can just make it The Time Between Is about living life and going day by day because that is all we can do no matter what anyone told you about planning and thinking about the future, no one is promised tomorrow.
This is what I do in the time between....
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