Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Pity Party

I’ve mentioned before that not every day is a great day… my positive hat falls off from time to time.  Some days I feel more at peace and full of joy than I even did before the diagnosis. Other days I get down and yes, even feel sorry for myself…call me a normal human being. 

One of my favorite parts of any normal day used to be after work when Ben and I would go to the gym and I’d have some “Athena time”.  Working out or running was my release, considering I office at home and need some time to separate work from life.  But lately, as you can imagine, the gym has been a tough place for me.  I will be honest, the first time I went to the gym without my hair was hard and honestly it hasn't gotten much easier.  My belly has been growing in rapid speed now and it shows clearly through my tight gym clothes.  I notice that everyone is looking at me out of the corner of their eyes.  That’s understandable. I would wonder what the heck was going on too.  A bald, pregnant woman?  I realize they are looking on with concern but still it’s tough to be the one that stands out as something that’s hard to understand.  Obviously pregnancy brings on quite a change to a woman’s body.  Couple that with the changes contributed from chemo and it’s a lot to take on when you look in the mirror.   I wish I could have every young woman/teenager experience this feeling.  You learn a lot about yourself when you are stripped of your physical attributes.  The gym no longer serves as a place to clear my thoughts but rather a place where they flood my brain and I have to deal with a lot of different emotions.  Again, this is a process of growth for me and some days it’s empowering and some days it’s hard. 
Chemo + Pregnancy = Muscle Fatigue…duh, no kidding.  It blows my mind how I can actually feel this drug cycle through my body.  The first couple days after an infusion my heart races from the steroids and I think I should go burn this off at the gym.  But as soon as I begin running it’s as if I did 100 squats right before.  My legs feel like jello within the first half mile even. I’ll do about 10 reps of free weights and it feels like I am at the tail end of a 3 hour workout.  I have 3 weeks between each treatment.  During my third week I gain my strength back and I actually feel quite sad when the “Sunday Before” comes around.  Then I know it starts all over again the next day.   About a month ago I was talking about how The Big C couldn’t keep me down and I was able to top off 5 miles still.  I knew it was only a matter of time where those miles would shorten and my run would come to a jog and even a walk.  After 4 infusions and 24 weeks of pregnancy I’ve had to set different goals that are more reachable.  But here’s the secret…I am still winning as long as my mind is in the right place.   When physical activity or a sport has a big part of your life it is tough to see these changes.  I’ve always correlated physical strength and endurance with inner strength and perseverance.  Now that inner strength needs to channel from elsewhere.   

You’ll find that inner strength is harder to come by when you’ve been stripped of many of the things that make you happy:  good health, energy, physical strength, looks.  And so Debbie Downer comes out to play for a day and she feels oh so sorry for herself.  “I’ve worked so hard to get where I am at.  Why do I have to go through this now?” “Ben and I are in the midst of starting a family, one of the happiest times of our life.  Why this dark cloud during what should be this sweet time?”  “This is not fair!  I lead a healthy lifestyle, why me?” “Why can’t I ever catch a break?  It’s one thing after another”….blah, blah blah… Debbie goes on and on. 
One of the hardest things to do during times of trial and tribulation is to count your blessings.  But, what I’ve found is that this is the most critical time to do so.  Otherwise you go down this path of self-pity and that gets you nowhere.  Then poof, inner strength diminishes and your fight becomes well…rough.  I’ve learned that concentrating on ways I’ve been blessed brings on healing- emotional and physical.

So here goes:
I am so blessed to have my friends and family beside me through this.  Even those that I don’t know well who have reached out, you touch my heart.  The visits, the thoughts, text messages, prayers, gifts, meals, chemo trips and outreach of help- they make me feel so so special. 

I am blessed to have the love of my family and in-laws.  They are always ready to help me take on anything.  They all call and visit me regularly, I feel spoiled.  My dad (who’s not a big phone talker) now calls me almost daily to check in.  I have to be honest, it’s quite the perk for this ordeal.   
I have been blessed with the best husband! Hey, if your relationship ever needs a pick-me-up you might want to try cancer!  Just kidding of course but there’s something that happens when a life-threatening illness interrupts your life and you realize that those little arguments were not worth it.  You stop taking each other for granted and make the most out of each moment you have with each other.  I feel like I’ve fallen in love again- only this time much harder.   The night of my first chemo treatment Ben (who is border-line narcoleptic) stayed up with me because I could not sleep and comforted me.  I will never forget that moment.  I cried myself to sleep that night and my tears were only a product of deep, abiding, overflowing love for him.  Thank you Cancer!  Without you, non-emotional old-me would have probably never felt that.  We now have a marriage that’s stronger than ever.  Just in time to welcome our new addition (I’d call that another blessing….and she’s healthy!  Need I say it?).

Certainly not last on the list….I’ve been blessed with life, this life on earth and eternal life from God.  I don’t have to live life in fear anymore…of those haunting statistics related to the grade of my tumor.   Constant worry of what might take place in the future is now changed to a focus of living each day like it may be my last.  If I live to be 100 years there is still not enough time to waste worrying about Cancer or whether I get everything done on my to-do list or if I’ll close a big deal or how the lady on the next treadmill keeps trying to sneak a look at me.  
And there we are!  See you later Debbie.  I feel much better…


  1. Hello Athena!
    We've only met a few times, but I wanted to tell you how inspiring you are! What a strong, beautiful person you are to go through all of this. You and Ben have been in our thoughts and prayers. Your attitude and upbeat spirit will get you through this. Sending love and light your way!
    Love, Carey and Josh Reckelberg

  2. What a great "Non-Blog"!!! It takes a much stronger person to share their weak moments rather than just the triumphs. It is okay to feel down. It is okay to feel sad. It is okay to feel mad. It is okay to FEEL! You strong, amazing, and inspiring! We pray for you, Ben and Baby K daily!

    With Love,
    Randy, Julie and Greyson