Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Monsters

Second week of radiation treatments have been completed and thus far I seem to be faring well.  It is still too early to tell whether or not I will be one of the lucky ones and escape unscathed... but I am keeping my fingers crossed.  The side effects that I am noticing at this moment include some itchiness, internal tingling sensations, and exhaustion.

I am lucky in that I have an amazing online support group where we often share those things that people who aren't battling cancer can't understand.  This beautiful group of women remind each other constantly of how strong we all are and how stupid cancer is. When we are feeling anxious and scared, we lift each other with a chorus of "you got this" and know that we will get through it.  We share information We post pictures documenting hair growth and encouraging each other to go "topless" - which for the uninitiated, means without a hat or wig.  We share our fears, and feel relief to know that we aren't alone.  We discuss sassy comeback lines that we imagine using when people make rude comments about our hair or tell us about yet another person they know who died of breast cancer.  And we also laugh and find comedy in this frightening period in our lives.  I have said many a prayer for each of them and treasure their friendship.  It has been one of the biggest blessings that breast cancer has given me.  They are also incredibly witty and intelligent.  We are hoping to meet sometime later this year.  I know that as soon as I see them, I will be an emotional mess.   I can not imagine how alone I would have been without them.   Anyway....

The other day, I clicked on something I shouldn't have.  It was an article about breast cancer recurrence rates and subsequent survival.  I became paralyzed with fear.  The sad thing is that once I read one story, I begin searching around the internet looking for some story that will in some way disprove the last story I read... unfortunately, often it only leads to more terrifying stories.  The fear a cancer patient experiences can be intense.  My head was already pounding from not drinking enough water during radiation, and then I began crying, which triggered a rapid succession of hot flashes.  I posted about my fears and one of my survivor friends, Kelley, called it the "google monster"... and that was the impetus for this post.  I wanted to make art about some of the monsters that have been squatting in my psyche.  My hope is that if I know what they look like, what feeds them, and how best to tame them - then perhaps, I can control them and they will no longer control me.  At this point, I have named at least five little monsters.  I wanted to finish a few to share today... but only completed one.  (One of my monsters zaps all of my energy and leaves me completely lethargic, but you will hear more about that monster later).  So - I think that means this will be MONSTER week.... and what better place to begin than with Google Monster.

Google Monster

So, I have kind of explained the Google Monster already.  I heard an author once liken the internet to the sirens in Greek Mythology.  (I have searched everywhere for her name, but have come up empty.  If you know, please leave it in the comments section)  Sirens were enchanted creatures that would lure sailors to their death with their beautiful song.  In the story of the Odyssey, the sirens promised Odysseus comprehensive and absolute knowledge about everything on earth.  Sounds very much like the internet.  I can sit at my computer   to quickly check my e-mail and go on facebook, and before long I am lost at sea... searching for hours trying to find the perfect Vegan recipes to include on my pinterest board.  So, what I know about this monster is that it feeds on my hunger for knowledge.  When Odysseus was to face the sirens, the goddess Circe advised him to fill the ears of his men with beeswax.  Odysseus wanted to hear the song, so she told him to have his men tie him to the mast of the ship and not release him until they were out of danger.  He apparently begged to be released, but they refused.  In another myth, Jason (of Argonaut fame) brought Orpheus to help him traverse Siren infested waters.  When Orpheus heard the Siren's song, he immediately began to play  his lyre - a song so beautiful it drowned out the tempting voices of the sirens. So how do I metaphorically fill my ears with beeswax?  How do I tie myself to the mast of my ship?  How do I drown out the Siren's song?   I may not be able to stuff my ears with beeswax, but I can fill them with my children's laughter (which is one of the most beautiful sounds that I know of) or I can fill my ears with conversations with my husband - with the support of friends and family.   It is difficult because Sirens do not make up the entirety of the ocean.  So much of what I find on the internet is powerful and healing - such as my support group.  I just need to find ways to stay in safe waters.  It is said that once Odysseus heard the Siren's song and (with the help of some strong rope) resisted its call, the sirens  hurled themselves in the ocean and drowned.  This part of the story resonates with me.  I know that if I don't listen to the call of the Google Monster, the monster can not survive, just like the sirens.  Of course, writing this post made me think of my favorite This Mortal Coil song (Siren's Song)... which led me to find it on You Tube... and share it here (and when I finish this post, I think I will look up whatever happened to Elizabeth Frasier (the singer) on Google -see how great the internet is!)

Speaking of music, here are the songs I heard while lying on the radiation table this last week.  I have 10 down and 23 sessions to go!  I can't wait until the to go number is smaller than the down number.  The first week, I didn't really have to request any music because it was set to a good station.  The second week the radio was off.  I asked for an oldies station.  He gave me a station of big band music.  I have nothing against big band music, but I just kept seeing myself in some old musical with the radiologists dancing in unison as they dotted my chest to the trombone solo.  It was distracting.  The second day, I tried for sixties and seventies music.  It was an off day.  Lots of music that I really didn't like at all.  There is nothing worse than not being able to move and having some song you find excruciating playing in the background.  By Thursday, enough was enough.  I asked for a nice eighties station... and things went much better.  By Friday, there were so many great songs to choose from it was rather challenging.  I didn't choose this one (it has never been one of my favorites), but I did have a good time listening to "Another one bites the dust" and imagining my cancer cells blowing up to the beat.

Hopefully I will finish another monster and post it this week!  Thanks Kelley for the inspiration!  And thank you to everyone for checking in with me.   Feel free to leave me a comment so I know you are there.  Sending blessings.


  1. I wish I had known about "google monsters" when I went through this -- your google monster would have been just the ticket to remind me --!! The thing with all those statistics...they're old, they're not as current as we would like them to be so I kept telling myself it was like reading history books about wars that happened before I was born. It helped. It didn't stop the fear or the tears, but it helped.

    Having the support group that you do is a heaven sent gift...being able to laugh and cry and share with others going through this is so important. Sometimes we don't have as much strength on a given day and reaching out (as you did with Kelley) gives us that strength. And when someone else is suffering, you are there to offer your strength. Being part of a community makes such a difference in the journey.

    And happy to hear that the rads are going well and you are coming through with minor side effects. Long may that continue!!

    1. I love the idea that it is like reading something from a history book! I will have to try that next time.... and remember that those battles were different than the one I am fighting. Thanks for the encouragement.