One on One
I type this part of the post Monday afternoon as I sit in the lobby waiting for the counselor to come and get me for my first one-on-one session. I'm seated very close to the doors that lead to the hospice patients. The looks of sadness, stress, and despair of loved ones coming out of that wing remind me of what I was dealing with almost four months ago, and reassure me of how well I am doing now, and how far I have come.
I don't remember everything about that final eight days that I did or that happened, like I did the first six weeks or so. It's getting foggy. PTSD? I don't think so. I think I am just going through the "time heals wounds" process I've heard and read so much about in a normal (although possibly accelerated) fashion.
Regardless, I want these bad thoughts to continue being fogged out and replaced with the good memories that were buried in an avalanche last fall.
Billy Jo's uncle Rich visited in those final days, five months after seeing his spouse/partner pass away from lung cancer. I recall asking him how he could even bear to be there with that experience so fresh in his mind. I said I would have experienced "Nam flashbacks" and dove under the bed and curled up in the fetal position for safety. He told me that it didn't have that effect on him, and he didn't know why. He just knew he needed to be there. I can see where he was coming from now. I am very thankful there is no one currently in my life in the same situation Billy Jo was in that final week, but if there was, I think I'd be able to handle being there for them and their family and friends. I do not think I'd be under that bed.
(end of Monday afternoon post)
It's just amazing to me how quickly things can change once the overwhelmingly stressful, painful, and unbelievably sad part is over and replaced by acceptance, healing, and yes... even relief. Relief for Billy Jo that she is no longer suffering and in pain, and relief for me as well. Relief in knowing I was there for her throughout all of this hell, that she always had me to lean on. Relief that for the first time in so so many years cancer is not ruling my life... I am. Billy Jo used to say to me how depressed she was because she felt like she was a burden to everyone and especially me. I told her that was never the case and I still believe that. She was never a burden. Cancer, on the other hand, can be a HUGE burden. Dealing with it as a spouse or loved one can feel like the weight of a skyscraper is on you. I can't even imagine what personally having it feels like. Speaking for myself, it wasn't until that skyscraper got off my chest that I realized how burdensome it can be. But remember, this is the cancer I am talking about and NOT Billy Jo. She certainly didn't ask for it. She certainly didn't want it too keep coming back and keep coming back.
However, knowing what I know now, what not being under that weight feels like, would I go back and take her up on one of those countless offers to leave over the years? No fucking way. If she were still alive of course I'd still be there, but she isn't. I love her and always will, I miss her and always will (but this is getting easier as days pile up), I wish none of this had ever happened but it did. As a result, our relationship has changed but still very much exists and will continue to. I feel as if she's watching out for me and making sure that I be as happy as I can be, because she wanted nothing less for me. Hell, she's probably still thinking she was a burden and is thrilled at how my life is moving on. It can be a difficult thing to grasp...moving on... but once you know that it's exactly what they'd want for you, it becomes quite easy to do.
My first one-on-one session went as well as I could have hoped for. She had laryngitis and told me I'd be doing most of the talking, which she already knew wasn't going to be a problem as I blabbered on for 40 minutes the first group meeting, of which she was the facilitator :) . I didn't let her down. The hour and ten minutes flew by. She doesn't think I am in the biggest case of denial at all. She really thinks that my opening up in this blog, coupled with my determination to reverse my declining health are to thank for this. She agrees with what I thought was the case... 17 years (the last 13 non-stop) of dealing with all the hardships of a spouse with cancer caused my grief period to be very very short once Billy Jo passed away. She has encouraged me to continue writing, which I plan on doing.
I asked her to be on the lookout for anything I might say that would raise a red flag and to then force it out of me. To rip me open no matter how much of a meltdown it could cause. I want to deal with anything like that NOW, while I still have the professional support rather than later when I don't. She told me at the end of the session that she heard nothing of the sort, but would definitely let me know. We talked about other concerns I had and was assured that I am truly doing everything in a normal fashion. I am healing. I am glad to hear this. Very very glad that the river of denial doesn't exist.
She thinks that I am doing well enough that she wants to see me every two weeks, not one, which I am more than happy to do. I am so glad she reached out to me because I wouldn't have done it on my own. And yes, I still plan on going to group meetings every month. This doesn't change that at all. I think it will be good for me, and I want to try my best to help others in the group who may need my help.
I follow a cycling club out of Texas on Facebook. Why? Well, not to ride with them but because they have some great motivational pictures that apply to life in general, not just to cycling. This morning there was a great one:
Damn straight. And if someone else puts up a wall in your path, only you can forge a new one.
On the fitness front, last week was great for cycling. In addition to Saturday the 23rd, I got out Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. My performance has seen a big big improvement over past years. I don't know what is causing it. It can't all be the new bike. Maybe the key to performance is lack of stress, better health, and dare I say it... happiness. Also, dragging a skyscraper with you can slow you down quite a bit ;)
RAGBRAI is going to be a friggin' walk in the park at this rate. A 420+ mile walk, but a walk nonetheless ;)
This post is long enough so I will spare you the maps. If you want to see my rides you can find them here.