Quieting the Voices
I’m writing on the plane ride back from our vacation in Aruba. We booked our trip in December when I needed “a light.” And the warm, bright sun certainly fulfilled that need. I can’t believe we made it to March and that our trip happened, that I still feel good and that we’re already heading home. I’m reminded of the quote taped to our bathroom mirror, ”It’s astonishing how short a time it takes for very wonderful things to happen.”We had an awesome and relaxing time. Sam was such a good baby on the trip down and while we were there, he played in the ocean and the pool like a veteran vacationer. And about 10 minutes ago, I sat back down in seat 25C after locking both myself and Sam into the JetBlue airplane bathroom while he screamed his face off and I sang “Itsy Bitsy Spider” to him as calmly as possible until he fell asleep. While we were in there, Mike pounded 2 vodkas. Super. I spent a good amount of the vacation battling guilt and that fucking taunting voice inside my head. Back home, I have it trained to a whisper, something barely even audible. But given the new physical surroundings, I heard its evil and obnoxious cheerleader shrieks in Aruba. I felt guilty about going away and spending money when I haven’t worked since September. I felt guilty about using some of the money that was raised for us to help with the trip. My friend Katy, assured me that the whole reason for her fundraiser was to get together enough money just so that we would be able to “go somewhere nice as a family.” Thank you, Katy. I kept trying to repeat her words louder than the mean cheering squad. AND I felt guilty about drinking. I wanted to chill and enjoy countless margaritas but I could hear my doctor’s voice over and over again: “We don’t think alcohol has ANYTHING to do with why or how you got cancer but you’re young; that’s your risk.” Augh. Every sip was equal parts delicious, sweet and tart mixed with frightening, bitter and absolutely disgusting. Mid way through our stay, I checked Facebook and saw that a 40 year old country singer died from cancer leaving behind her 2 year old baby. I bawled my eyes out and couldn’t stop reading her story and looking at her pictures. Will that be me? It can’t be me. I don’t want it to be Sam sitting on my lap in the hospital bed while I try to squeeze in a lifetime of love. It can’t be me. Please don’t let it be us. Finally, I felt my first real pangs of mothers guilt. That shit is deep. Sam got a sunburn. I tried to win the mother of the year award by using organic sunblock on my sweet baby to keep cancer causing chemicals away from his perfect skin. FYI, organic sunblock does not work in Aruba. He was in a rash guard, in the shade and wearing a hat, but the sun got through to him (and me too… of course, Mike used Coppertone 8 and was FINE). Before we left home, my melanoma surviving friend said, “Just do your best, most damage is caused when they’re really little.” Her voice became Captain of the team and I couldn’t help but beat myself up over and over again. I spent a full day worrying, texting mom friends and googling sunburn baby remedies. I hate losing. The sunblock wasn’t the only organic thing I’ve added to my repertoire. I went a little crazy. Like hyper vigilant PTSD kind of crazy. After doing some research,I’ve come to the very real conclusion that everything causes cancer. How do we escape it? How can my 36 year old self stay safe and cancer free in 2016 living in Massachusetts? Everywhere I look I see plastic, chemicals, toxins in my beauty products, foods that have been tampered with in a lab, I see statistic rates; it throws me into a tornado of “we’re all going to hell in a hand basket!” and there is no cellar to avoid the storm. I have to strategically ride it and somehow not lose my shit and become obnoxious. I’ll let you know how it goes. I’ll let you know what I learn and what I can REALLY stand behind. Before we left for our vacation, I had an amazing talk with my friend, MaryAnn. MaryAnn is one of those gifted humans who help people “pass to the other side.” She helps people find peace while they are dying. Imagine? So many of us avoid death/after life talk and that’s what she DOES. That’s her passion. Fast backward 4 years ago to a talk I was having with my Guru, Jen. I was visiting her on Long Island and we were coming back from a yoga class that we had taken together. I was explaining to her how much she has helped me in my life: seeing my truth, trusting the Universe, questioning everything, and really LIVING. She quietly led me to become the person I am today just by asking simple questions. For some reason I said, “you should work with people who are dying, I bet you would be great at it.” She quickly and humbly said, “I don’t know if I could do THAT, it may be more than I can handle.” I kid you not… I knew in THAT moment that SHE would be the person to help me “pass to the other side.” It was like I could feel it in my gut. I didn’t WANT to feel it! I wanted nothing to do with it! But it was there. And this was way before I used hokey words like Spirituality and life force and authentic path… this was not-quite-divorced Jaime. But somehow I knew. And since my cancer diagnosis, I’ve been so worried that my death is sooner rather than later and I want to NOT be friends with my Guru anymore because then the whole thing can’t happen!! I told this story to MaryAnn. I was bawling. And she calmly said, “Jaime, you’re so lucky to know that someone is going to be there with you to die… and it doesn’t mean you’re dying now- she may help you in 40 years and she may even leave this earth before you do, but her Spirit will be with you. She’s there.” I was trying to control my hyperventilation crying. It was so real, and it felt so good to finally say this intimate truth out loud. In the following days, I felt more calm about the situation. I can still be friends with you, Jen. In fact, I nominate you my Head Cheerleader. My tests are coming up soon. Soon… as in the next time I update this blog, I’ll know if the cancer is still there or not. It’s so bizarre. I see this date ahead of me and when I wake up on that day, I’ll be staring at the same fork in the road that I have been looking at since treatment ended. My life will go one way or the other. My LIFE has been put on hold for this date, this test. And when I go to sleep that night, I will have taken a step in one direction or the other. I’m so fucking scared. It has consumed my thoughts and was the primary voice I heard on vacation. But I have to be stronger than the voice. I have to tell the voice to “go away,” to “bugger off” if I were British, to “eat shit and die” if I were my 8th grade self. Mike and I still don’t talk too much about the emotions surrounding these past 5 months. It’s not like we DON’T talk about it, but the truth is that we’re still IN it. We don’t get to say, “remember when…” yet. It’s still new and real and raw. So it caught me by surprise and made me instantly choke up when we were both at Sam’s doctor’s appointment together. Sam had just gotten his shots and Mike picked Sam up off of the doctor’s table and said, “You’re so brave. You’re brave like Mama.” I got this.