The Two Year Mark

I wanted to write this really profound piece about the joys of making it to year two of remission. I’d love to say it has been a breeze. I’d love to say that I’m thankful for every single day that I’m alive because I’ve stared straight into the business end of possible death. Don’t get me wrong! I am thankful to still be here when so many don’t have that opportunity. But has this journey been easy? No. Not even close.

Lets get the negative happenings out of the way so we can delve into the wonderful things that have happened this year.

My TSH will not and apparently cannot figure out where it wants to be. My dose of medicine gets adjusted quite often because of this and I get a three day migraine every single time they adjust it. I have to wait four weeks to have my blood re-checked because my most recent test came back…off. It explains everything though.

I’ve been in a lot of pain. This isn’t really new but when my levels are off it’s worse. Infinitely worse. I’ve stopped taking pain killers for it because I don’t see a point anymore. I was only taking ibuprofen before anyway but now I just kind of roll with it. I don’t want to kill other organs trying to fight off pain that won’t budge in the first place.

My sleeping patterns are all over the place but that is also not new. I’ve either slept for 12 hours solid or stayed awake for days since I was a teenager. Just add that on top of the pain and such and it makes for a really shit combo.

So in a nutshell my body is doing okay but feels like it’s falling apart. Constantly. And I’ve accepted that this is my new normal. However….

That brings me to the positives. A lot of good has happened in year two of remission.

I was finally convinced to talk to a doctor and therapist about starting back on Wellbutrin and let me tell you that that’s been one of the best decisions I’ve made in a long damn time. The depression – for the most part – is under control. I still have break through depression but it is short lived and I can generally talk myself out of it. Is it gone entirely? No. Do I still have days where I just want to throw in the towel because I’m overwhelmed and feel hopeless/useless/like things will never get better? Yep. Are they fewer and farther between than before? Also yep. I avoided medicine for my depression for years out of the fear that it made me a weak person. It doesn’t. I have clinical depression and that means that I have a chemical imbalance. It doesn’t make me weak any more than needing glasses makes anyone else weak. It just is what it is.

That’s another thing. My attitude is changing. SLOWLY but it is changing. It’s easier for me to see the silver lining or the end game of a situation now instead of being enveloped in a cloud of constant darkness and despair. The lies depression and anxiety tell you, am I right? That’s a blog post for another day.

I’ve been in a stable, loving, supportive relationship for 6 months. Me. In a normal, non heart breaking, non soul compromising, non bullshit relationship for 6 months and he’s awesome. I love him dearly and FOR FREAKING ONCE it’s mutual. For some weird reason he loves me back and accepts me for all of the weirdness that is me and I appreciate the fuck out of it.

I started going to the gym and am in the process of changing my diet because I am sick to death of feeling like a weak, tired and sick blob. Now that my body is somewhat stable? I need to start focusing on getting it healthier and stronger. I need to start doing these things so I can meet my body at least half way and give it a running chance at someday getting better. I need to do this to give the cancer less of a chance of coming back. Will it work? We’ll see. I’m not going to NOT try though.

The cancer is still very heavy on my mind. I won’t lie though. Every time I have a test or something feels off I start getting scared. Really scared. Hard to be around and deal with scared. But if there’s one thing that this whole ordeal has taught me – on top of the other crap I’ve been through in life and managed to survive – is that scared doesn’t mean you stop. Scared doesn’t have to be the end. Scared can be your super power. I’m the type of person who fights even harder when she’s scared or feels threatened. I’m never going to let fear stop me from living ever the hell again.

Overall things are going crazy well. My job is great, I have the love of an amazing man, my family is doing great, and I am focusing on getting my health back to at least some semblance of better. I’m not out of the woods yet but if anything wants to get me and stop me? It’s going to have to chase my ass down first. I don’t want to just keep existing. I want to live. Really live.

Attitude is half the battle. Keep fighting. Keep living. Keep THRIVING.

Love and Light,

Shannon

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Lights In The Darkness Pt. 2

After posting the last article I realized I missed a few key people.

There are also people who push you to do better, be better, think of creative ways to solve problems, and help keep you sane. They also are fantastic at reminding you that – at least on some level – you aren’t a total failure as a human being.

To my work family: We’ve had a lot of ups and downs. Crazy process changes, team changes, major changes in general. You guys are some of the most inspiring, amazing people I’ve ever met. True inspirations. You make every day as enjoyable as possible and it’s a true privilege to know all of you.

You’ve been there through major life events, losses, health scares, as well as accomplishments and triumphs.

Thank you for that.

Shannon

Lights In The Darkness

I’m no good with thank-yous.

I figure people know how I feel without me having to say it. Expressing emotions – even though I have tons of them and feel every single one deeply to the point of it burning a hole in my chest – has always been uncomfortable to me. I have been told my entire life that I am too emotional and too sensitive. So I keep a as tight of a lid as possible on it.

Sometimes it makes me seem cold.

It’s a defense mechanism.

But some people and some situations warrant dropping that guard and actually saying what I’m thinking and feeling.

When you live in a world of constant darkness the way I do, you come to appreciate the light in other people. They’re like bright shining lamp posts that say keep going, you’re doing fine, you’re headed the right way.

They take many forms. Siblings and parents who know exactly what to say and do to stop you from spiraling down and out of control. Who can literally force you back up when all you can do is dig yourself deeper into an all too familiar pit that always welcomes you back with opens arms.

To best friends who are always there no matter what. Who you can call at 3am when you’re losing it for whatever random reason your brain comes up with that day and whose door is always open, no phone call or knock on the door necessary.

To other best friends who always have a positive thing to say. Who send you videos of puppies and weird memes you might find funny and who go to lunch with you almost every day and make you feel a little bit less alone in the world.

So to all of you in my life who are my own personal lighthouses in a sea of darkness, I want to say thank you. Thank you for putting up with my damn near constant negativity. Thank you for never giving up on me. Thank you for being there. Even if you don’t know you’re doing it, you’re helping keep me afloat. And I’ll be forever grateful. ❤

 

Love and Light,

Shannon

Dear Dad

Dear Dad,

Another year, another Father’s Day.

TV commercials, e-mails at work, and Facebook posts are littered with Dads and Grads presents and messages from people to their Fathers and Grandfathers and all I can do is sit here and think “Damn, it’s been four years already.”

Work was giving away tickets to the MIS for a NASCAR race the year you died. I had high hopes that you’d be home in time so maybe I could surprise you and go to a live race since you loved NASCAR so much. Granted at that point if you HAD gotten out of the hospital in time you wouldn’t have been strong enough to go sit in the blazing hot sun for hours on end but the hope, the dream, was there. I hated and still do hate NASCAR but I would have gone just to see the gleam in your eyes.

It blows my mind that you’ve already been gone for four years. A few more days and it will be the anniversary of your passing and I am insanely glad I won’t be at work that day. It’s still too hard to adult on that day. It’s still too painful.

I wrote you a letter on the one year anniversary updating you on things that had happened since you died. I suppose I could do that again even though I am fully aware that you know exactly what’s going on. We talked about a LOT of things during that dream visit the other day didn’t we? Coffee and a lit oil lamp at a kitchen table just catching up. Thank you for that.

So, Mom graduated college last year with honors and then flew – YES, FLEW! – out to Seattle with Sara and I. We took her to see the ocean. She has a really killer job now, too. I have never been more proud of her in my entire life. She’s so strong and is always there when we need her. I’m clingy with her these days. Then again I guess I kind of always was.

You know all of the bad stuff that’s happened. You’ve shown up multiple times in dreams, visions, and other random avenues when I was going through testing and diagnosis and treatment, when Sara lost Alex, when Gabe was in the ER and you scared the nurse by showing up..etc. I don’t need to give you a run down of all the crazy horrible shit that has happened. You’ve been there. All I have to do is scream for you in my head and you’re there instantly.

I have the worst survivors guilt. I got thyroid cancer, I went through treatment, and I’m – overall – okay. My body is still pretty messed up from treatment and constant hormonal imbalances and fluctuations but generally speaking I’m okay and most days I feel horrifically guilty that I made it and you didn’t. It isn’t fucking fair. I also know, intellectually, that you’d find that ridiculous.

I’m alive now because of what happened to you. We knew what to look for, what questions to ask, what steps to take and it was all because of what you went through when you were sick. If any good came out of your cancer battle, it is that we knew what to do to save my life. I couldn’t possibly be more grateful for that if I tried but at the same time it is the worst feeling on Earth. I’d trade you in a heart beat. I didn’t and still don’t really have a purpose to being alive. You did. You had so much more left to do and that horrible bitch of a disease sucked the life and light out of you right in front of us. You deserve to still be here. I don’t. End of story. And yet, there you are and here I am.

I miss you. More than I can put into words. I miss being able to just call and talk to you. When the treatment was kicking my ass all I wanted to do was call and ask you “Was it like this for you?” “Does this part stop?” I still catch myself wanting to call and ask you questions when something odd happens. My calcium tanked out the other day. I knocked back a few calcium chews and thought “I wonder if Dad was ever on calcium supplements and how much he was on. I should call and ask….” and then I remembered. I can’t just call and ask you, can I? I cried for the rest of the hour and a half long drive to Sara and Mom’s house.

Bottom line is this, Dad. I love you. I miss you. I’ll never stop loving or missing you. I also want to thank you for everything. You weren’t always the greatest parent but I also wasn’t always the greatest kid. We all made mistakes, made decisions, that weren’t the best. But at the end of the day we all loved each other and would have died for each other and that’s all that matters.

I love you, I miss you, and happy Father’s Day. Go catch some fish in a lake there in Heaven. I’ll see you soon.

Love,

Shannon

To Alex

So, you’ve been gone almost a month now. They’re sinking your ashes into the Pacific Ocean off of the Channel Islands later today.

Sara has done everything she can to make sure your final wishes were honored exactly how you wanted them to be. She’s very tenacious. 🙂

I don’t want to sit here and ramble on about memories. I will say that you were the the most unexpected family member I’ve ever had. hehe 🙂 I was pretty shocked when Sara told me she was moving in with you, green with envy when you proposed to her in the living room in front of the whole family, and filled with love and pride and happiness for you both at the wedding. You were both so over the moon, and it was written all over your faces. The day had snags but they were handled and it ended up being a beautiful day. I remember seeing the pictures later and there’s one of just you obviously looking at Sara while the officiant read the poems and sonnets. Every woman deserves a man to look at her like that. Pure love and happiness. I couldn’t hate that. I couldn’t envy that. I was only glad that two people who deserved the best things in this world had finally found a piece of it in each other.

We didn’t always see eye to eye, you and I. We had many heated discussions and a few full on fights over the years. I always respected you for that, though. Do you know why? You challenged me. I appreciate that in people. You’re smart, brilliantly so, and challenged me to see things and situations in new ways. I will always be thankful for that. My world is a little less black and white because of it.

I learned many things from you. I can’t even begin to list all of them here.

When I got sick and was really down on myself; when that lady at Costco was going to put the note on the car because we parked in a handicap spot and she didn’t think it was appropriate; when I couldn’t sleep because I was afraid I wouldn’t wake up….you taught me that my illness didn’t define me as a person. That no one had the right to judge me because I was sick. That I didn’t need to be afraid. You said you had looked death right in the eye many times and that it was beatable. “Not today” you told me. What do we say to death? Not today. You and Sara both told me to put a sticky note that said that in my car. I still need to do that.

You were one of the first ones to jump down my throat whenever I said or did anything that showed I didn’t value myself and didn’t care if others did either. How many conversations did we have when I was so depressed that I couldn’t take it and you and Sara helped dig me back out of the hole? Too many to count. You wanted me to value myself. I still don’t but I promise you I am working on it. It pissed you off when I allowed others to treat me and make me feel like I wasn’t worthy or wasn’t worth the effort. I appreciate that greatly.

You loved and took care of Sara. Of all the things I could thank you for, that is the thing I am most thankful for. She believes in herself now. She has more strength than she did before. She doesn’t let people walk all over her. She shines.

So, thank you for being a part of this family Alex. For coming in and just being you. You had a hilarious sense of humor, a brilliant mind to spar with, and a strength of character rarely seen in this world.

Good bye, big brother. Catch you on the flip side. ❤319016_10150771464950274_582366_n

Hello Darkness My Old Friend

Hi everyone. It sure has been a while since I wrote one of these. Ah, life. Always busy.

So why post now, you ask? It’s pretty simple. I’m at the height of a depression wave and wanted to write a little blog about it. There, you’re forewarned.

I always thought that having depression made me weak somehow. I should be able to control my emotions and thoughts like everyone else. Why can’t I just be a little blue but then move on? The easy answer, I guess, is that my brain isn’t set up for it. The harsh reality is that I have a chemical imbalance that prevents me from being happy/non-anxious/not feeling like everything is crumbling down around me constantly.

I have moments have feeling fine and I cherish the living hell out of them. I’ve had this dark cloud over my head for as long as I can possibly remember. When the light does decide to break through I try to bask in it because I know it won’t last.

I’ve been told lots of things that would ‘fix’ me over the years. Take this herb, drink this tea, read this book, THINK POSITIVE, get over it, THINK POSITIVE, focus on the good things that happen, THINK POSITIVE. I’ve been told that thinking positively would cure me so many times since I was 10 that it’s sickening. Those of you who say this mean well, and I know that. But you’re off base. Why?

Because I literally CAN’T. If it were as easy as just think about happy positive things don’t you think I’d have tried that years ago? I have. It doesn’t work. My brain won’t let me. Not for long. And all thinking about positive stuff does is make me feel more sad.

I know I’ve survived a lot of really shitty stuff in my life. Child abuse, harassment at school, stalkers terrorizing my family, grandma dying and all of the horrors that came with it, dad dying and all of the horrors that came with a three year cancer battle, my own cancer journey, and I have managed to survive my own mind being against me despite the fact that it tells me every day “you don’t have to deal with this, you know..there’s another way”.

Ah yes the uncomfortable one. Not all depression leads to suicidal thoughts or tendencies. I have clinical depression with suicidal thoughts and tendencies. I think Mom and Sara call it Suicidal Ideation.

Side note: I just googled Suicidal Ideation and google popped up with a thing that said “you aren’t alone, contact us for help” with the number for the suicide prevention hotline and a  way to online chat with someone. That’s amazing. I wish they’d had the chat option when I was a teenager. I’d have used the hell out of it.

I was told a year or so ago that those who attempt suicide/commit suicide are stupid. People, hear me when I tell you this. That isn’t true. I won’t pretend to know the reason everyone commits suicide. I don’t. Some people do it for extremely selfish reasons. But not all of us do. And none of us are stupid for it.

I tried to commit suicide the first time when I was 10 1/2. The last time was when I was 20, not long after my grandma died. I’m almost 31. If you think for one second that the urge has gone away? You’re wrong. Once that option pops into your head, it’s there. Period. There’s no getting that thought out. You can fight it, for sure. Absolutely. And you should! I fight it every damn day.

Rationally I know that I have a lot to live for. I have a great job that I love. I have great family who I adore. I have a niece and nephew who would freak the hell out if I weren’t around.

What does the depression tell me though? “They’ll get over it.” “They’ll thank you someday.” “You’re a loser so who cares if you’re still around?” “You’re stupid.” “You’re worthless.” “They don’t know they want you gone but they’ll be glad when you are,” Etc.

But I keep fighting. And I’ll continue to fight. Because rationally I’m aware that I’m wrong. I also don’t really want to die. And I don’t like being melancholy and anxious all the time.

But I deal with it. I take the antidepressants that make me feel like a failure as a human being and make me feel weak. I try to put on a happy face for those around me. And for now? That’s enough.

 

 

 

 

2015

2015, oh what a year you have been.

Started out with surgery, hypo hell, and radiation. That was a really rough way to start out the new year. But I did it. I got through it. I had a lot of help but I got through it. Lesson one from this year: I actually want to live.

When I was a teenager and young adult I spent a LOT of time trying to die. I wanted out. Shit, there are days when I still want out. But having a potentially life threatening illness will put that all into perspective REALLY quickly. I have bad days, weeks, months. I am weak and in pain and struggling. But goddamn it I’m still here, still breathing, still fighting and I will do so until the day I flat out can’t anymore. I can promise you that.

Going back to work after all of that was hard. Really hard. My doctor didn’t want me to do it hard. He asked me to please consider taking another few weeks off of work. But I couldn’t. I needed to get back to something normal. I was still in BAD shape when I went back. Could barely walk, was super emotional, and didn’t know how to handle all of it. But working has always helped me get over bad patches. It makes me feel useful instead of entirely useless. I pretty much always feel like there’s no point to my existing. Which brings me to the kicker.

I was in love for the first time in my life in 2015. Truly honest to the Gods in love. Bend over backwards, do all kinds of ridiculously stupid shit for him in love. From April until the end of December I thought everything was great, perfect, and going in a really positive direction.

I was wrong. So, so, so unbearably wrong.

It turns out that – ironically – I was dating what turned out to be a pure psychopath and pathological liar. Why’s that ironic you ask? I study them. I should have seen it. But no, the heart overtook the head. I refused to see what was right in front of my face. And I got burned for it.

But here’s the thing. I’m glad. I’m actually glad. You know why? I won’t be dragging this drama, heart break fest into the new year. I am going into 2016 with better health than last year, lots of amazing friends and family who will cross oceans for me, a successful career at a job I love, and free and clear of this insane situation that went on for far too long. I did this schtick for almost 5 years. 2016 will be different. It has to be.

I’m not the same person I was even a week ago. This year has changed me quite a lot and for once in my life? I don’t think it’s a bad thing.

So here’s to 2016. May you be a better, brighter, more positive year. Thank you for the fresh start and the relief of not having the burden of his psychological bullshit bogging me down.

Love and light,

Shannon