Learning and Allowing Oneself To Live

It is a beautiful day here in New Hampshire.  The sun is shining and feels so so good.  I just got back from spending time with my close friend Beth at the dog park with our puppies followed by lunch outside at one of our favorite local spots.  Today reminded me of the days we would spend together before my cancer diagnosis.  Just  2 girlfriends chatting about life while watching our dogs run freely through the woods.  It felt so familiar and so comforting.  Yet it has been absent from my life for way too long.  But why?

Beth and I talked about this very subject today.  Why had it been so long since we spent time together doing what we love best?  Is it that life has just gotten too busy?  We all have busy lives with kids, work, sports, family obligations, etc……  But is that reason enough not to do that the simple things in life that bring us so much joy?

Lately during my runs, I have thinking about life since cancer, more specific life, since remission.  I have found that I have thrown myself back into completely dedicating myself to my family.  I have always loved being a mom and a wife.  It has brought me so much joy and happiness.  During the year of treatment and recovery from my transplant, it was torture for me to step back from my responsibilities.  We were fortunate to have my parents as well as close friends come in and help with the kids and many of the household duties, so Mike could focus on work and I could focus on getting better.  My children actually became very independent.  My parents had them trained like a well oiled machine.

Today, my kids have willingly allowed Mommy to come back and assume many responsibilities as I am willing to accept.  My poor mom and dad will be so disappointed when they come to visit and watch the kids in May.  All their hard work!  A part of me knows that I should be proud of the independent kids they became.  And I am, however, there is still a bigger piece of me that really missed being able to do for them.  I feel like they had to grow up so much when I was sick.  And I’m sure that guilt and sadness supports my desire to continue to do for them.  But digging deeper, I am realizing that I have not allowed myself to do once in a while step away and do more things for me, like spending time with girlfriends, embracing those beautiful relationships I am so fortunate to have.  It is almost as if I feel like I am selfish to want to spend time away from the family.  Crazy, huh?

  Today I confessed to Beth these feelings.  Fortunately for me, she is one of those special friends who truly support me and stands by me without judgement. In fact, she got it. Gosh I have missed her! She completely understood my crazy messed up thoughts.  It was as if a cloud of guilt I have been carrying was lifted away.  The guilt of not being a good friend and being active again with friends in life.  I have shut myself off from life in a lot of ways.  Filling my days with being the best mom and wife I can be and training for this marathon, all while trying to stay mentally and physically strong while living Multiple Myeloma.

The medications I am on have taken their toll on me.  I find myself very fatigued.  Who is tired these days right?  And add to that training for a marathon.  Anyone would be tired, right?  But I know myself better than that.  I used to be able to just go go go all day long like the energizer bunny.  And now, the long runs wipe me out.  No longer do I  relish in the “runner’s high”  I used to enjoy.  Instead, I physically pay for my runs with feeling wiped out and tired for the rest of the day until I collapse in bed.  Running this marathon is more than just a bucket item for me.  Training for it has played such a huge part for me in fighting off the depression of living with an incurable cancer.  It has proved to me that cancer has not robbed me of my strength.  It has showed my kids how strong I am and that Mommy is once again healthy.  I ran every step of the 26.2 through Boston back in 1992 with Suzi. It was a time when we just graduated college and we had our whole lives ahead of us.  Now 20 years later, married with children with lifetime experiences, ups and downs, and cancer, we are running it again together!  What a beautiful way to celebrate life all at the same time as raising money for the Multiple Myeloma Foundation, an organization near and dear to us.  I have come turns with the fact that my days of running a sub 8 mile are gone.  In fact lately I am lucky to run a 10.20 mile. How is this possible after months and months of hard training?   I struggle keeping my blood sugar level balanced and hydrating enough, side effects I believe are related to the Revlimid maintenance drug I am on.  So why do I feel the need to do this marathon, given all of this?

Beth and I talked about my anxiety about the race.  And she keeps telling me to stop calling it a race.  Call it a “day”.  She admitted that a part of her wishes I wasn’t doing it, because she knows how much I have been struggling.  However Beth is a competitive athlete herself and can understand the drive and desire that comes with endurance races. She did ask me what I see after this marathon? Will there be more in my future? And you know what, I finally admitted that I am looking forward to living more balanced.  Trying to find that runner’s high again.  Maybe that means only running a couple miles a day.  I used to think that settling like this would mean that I am accepting my limitations and my fate with this disease. Maybe it just in my head that I am hitting this rock wall with running.  Maybe it is not really a physical thing at all.   But slowly I am beginning to allow myself to start being more honest and accept it and not take it as a sign of weakness.

Living life with Multiple Myeloma.  This is a day to day learning experience.  There is no how to guide.  It’s getting up in the morning and doing what feels best that day.  The other day a fellow Multiple Myeloma friend called me to inform me that he has had a relapse.  This is only after a short 2 year remission.  This is a gentle reminder of how precious life is.  These days of feeling strong and being able run whether it’s 4 miles or 20 miles. No one knows what tomorrow will bring.  Today I know that I got up, had a great morning with my kids, ran 4 miles, and then spent the afternoon spending time with one of favorite people on this planet. And now I am able to share all of that with you while waiting for my kids to get off the bus and share their day with me.  Not a bad day!

Hope you were able to carve some precious moments to yourself as well.  If you would like to support me in my efforts to raise money for the Multiple Myeloma Research Foundation, please click on the link below: http://www.active.com/donate/2012mmrfBoston/JDreyer8

Love to you all-
Jeanie