Last month marked the first time in a year that I was not on a chemotherapy cycle. Going into the month, I thought that I would be jumping up and down and doing a little jig, to done. The truth was that I wasn’t. I felt like I was supposed to be stoked, like I just won the lottery or something. However I would say that I felt just more relieved than joyous. Typically I am the type of person that remains pretty even keel. Not too high, but not too low, either, so my lack of complete excitement is not totally a shock to me. However it has bugged me that I am not more joyous, more excited. Maybe its the anti-seizure medication that I am still on as they do alter your moods and list depression as a side affect, maybe Goliath has altered my brain permanently, he sits where that is possible, maybe its the reality that even after the chemo rounds when I am asked if I am cured, my answer is “No, I still have brain cancer, I am just done with chemo.” It is still the cold reality that I face. Sometimes I think that it was easier to deal with that fact when I was on chemo. I felt like crap and was enduring hardship, like somehow that it was cancer is supposed to be like. Now it is different, it is a game of waiting, wondering, hoping, trying to block out the negative thoughts and be “normal”. Whatever “normal” is.
Maybe I thought after chemo, that things would be less mentally challenging, that it would be easier to deal with this whole process. But so far, that has not been the case. I am still living with a volcano, it may not be spewing lava and ash at this moment, but it is still there, still alive, still capable of destruction. It is still a part of me. Maybe chemo became my own “mastodon” my pursuit of a the mythical creature that once capture and slain, will put everything in place and allow me to understand why I have been chosen to face this battle with Goliath. It will provide answers to all the questions and fears that I have. As I have written before, the “mastodon” is mythical, and hunting it down does not provide peace, comfort and understanding as you think and believe it will. No once you have slain the beast you are still left empty and longing for something more. Maybe just maybe I turned my rounds of chemo into this and now I am left without the understanding that I thought it would provide and that I craved.
Maybe its just all in my head and I am keeping myself from being too happy because of the fear of watching that happiness turn to fear if an MRI comes back with bad results. That is something that I do constantly. I prepare for the worst and hope for the best. When I climb, I am constantly running “what ifs” through my mind, so that I will always be prepared for anything that may happen. Where would I go, what would I do if an avalanche hits. How would I self belay if I slip on an exposed slope. I remember years ago hiking the Narrows in Zion – a trail that takes you through a narrow canyon in Southwest Utah at Zion National Park, where the trail eventually leads you into the Virgin river and you are actually forced to wade through the river to walk through the canyon. I was in it with Jessica and a huge thunderstorm hit. It was pouring down rain. The big fear – flash flooding. We were in the narrowest part of the canyon, no way out, no retreat, the water in the river was already up to our waists. I was constantly looking at the walls and finding were we could climb up to some higher ground, in the event that a 25 foot wall of water was on its way to crush us. I was running through the scenario non-stop in my mind in order to be ready for a flash flood. That was several hours of hiking. Again I was preparing for the worst. We obviously made it out fine as the storm was heading up-river rather than down river, meaning that we were not in danger of a flash flood, however when we got back to the Park and finished the hike, the power to the park and the surrounding areas was knocked out by the storm.
My mind is constantly running the worst case scenario, regardless of the circumstances or what I am doing. I believe that has left me able and capable to deal with things when they go sideways. I am always ready for the bad stuff. I can weather the storm with the best of them. However now I wonder if some of what has allowed me to handle Goliath is now leaving me devoid of joy and happiness. My plan for the worst case situation, means that I am always looking at what could go wrong and how to adapt to that rather than focusing on the good parts and the hope that is there. I need to learn to prepare for the best and then hope for the best. That will be my goal – to find joy. Joy in the fact that I am done with chemo, the fact that Goliath has gotten smaller, the fact that my surgery went well, the fact that I am doing great, the fact that in the realm of brain tumors, I have one of the better types of tumors, the fact that I am still strong and capable of winning this battle. Yes there is lots to be happy about, my goal is to plan for that happiness, to plan for that joy. To stop always thinking about the worst. To find that joy that has been eluding me. Not to worry that I can’t be “cured”. But to focus on the truth that I am still here, still going strong, ready for future battles with Goliath. I need to focus on the path in front of me one step, one laugh, one smile, at a time. If I do that I do think that I will find that joy that I am searching for and only then will I have truly slain the “mastodon.”