February 5, 2012

February 5th, 2012 at 10:43 pm by under Deanna's Journey

I’m filled with gratitude this morning.  When I look back at the past year, I see the blessings, the generosity, and the goodness of friends, family and strangers who are strangers no more.

I’ve not written in months, and I have to tell you why.  I finished chemotherapy in July and shortly thereafter a cloud descended shrouding my reality with a darkness I simply couldn’t clear away.  Depression has been my constant companion, the unwelcome visitor who brought not only luggage, but also his own furniture, moving into my place and space with a recalcitrant arrogance I’ve not experienced before.

Depression isn’t uncommon among those battling the big C.  According to the American Cancer Society, the rate of depression among cancer survivors is 25 percent compared to 7 percent in the general population.  You can imagine all the reasons why, the biggest of which is dealing with the stark unrelenting reminder of your mortality.  I’ve now had cancer three times – Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, acute myelogenous leukemia, and triple negative breast cancer.  Triple negative – the name so painfully, profoundly appropriate – especially in my case.  After three unrelated cancers, I have to come to the conclusion that I’m a biological misfit marked by an unseen, unidentified, vulnerability to cellular mutation.  And that’s scary.  Every cancer survivor lives with the fear that the cancer will return.  In my case, the fear is three fold.

Fear and anger turned inward is depression.  It’s that simple and not that simple.  I was haunted by an ever- gray existence.  And then there was guilt.  I’ve met so many in my journey not doing as well as I.  “How dare I be depressed,” I told myself.  After all, I’d been given life – another chance.  I’d beat myself up for not being able to just get on with it.  And that made things worse.   I couldn’t write about it; I was overwhelmed by the thought of writing about this gray force I couldn’t define.  But writing about anything else seemed disingenuous.  So I wrote about nothing – leaving viewers asking, “Are you okay?”  I always responded in the affirmative.  Physically, I was better than expected.  But emotionally, every day was a slog.  Because depression is not uncommon among survivors I’ve provided a link to the National Cancer Institute with information on cancer and depression. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/coping/life-after-treatment/page6

I also strongly suggest survivors seek the support of other survivors.  I serve on the board of the Cancer Support Community and have provided a link there as well. http://www.twc-indy.org/faq.html

I finally began to feel the fog lift at Christmas when my mother got out of the hospital.  I’ll save that story for another post.  But suffice it to say, Mom’s illness and recovery brought about my epiphany.  And I vowed to start the new year with a new focus on emotional and mental clarity.

I exercise daily – hard cardio that forces me to focus on nothing else.  And only when the fog finally began to clear, was I able to write about it.  I’m facing each day with a brighter outlook, and that’s why it’s sadly ironic that my first post in months is about the death of my collie.

Those following my blog for the last year know how beautifully instrumental Tipper was in my recovery.  She was my rock, possessing a doggy intuition that helped keep me sane, grounded, and grateful.  Three

weeks ago she was diagnosed with a brain tumor.  The vet prescribed steroids which had an amazing effect.  She was energetic and happy.  I had my dog back.  I was able to fool myself into thinking she was improving.

But in truth, the medicine provided only a temporary reprieve – a few wonderful weeks with the beautiful girl that has been an integral furry member of our family since we adopted her from the humane society in 2006.  We rescued her, but in truth, she rescued us.  She was a dog who taught us the essence of our humanity.  I learned from Tipper that every time someone you love comes to the door of your heart, it’s cause for celebration.   I learned that no perceived slight is beyond forgiveness.  And I learned that showing love without fear of rejection is its own reward.

Yesterday morning Tipper woke me at 3:00 a.m.  She wasn’t feeling well.  I sat on the floor and held her for hours.  By yesterday afternoon, she was gone.  And while I miss her terribly, I’m filled with gratitude.  She was so beautiful – inside and out – and she let me love her and returned that love with a purity of heart only a dog can possess.  That’s a gift.  She was our gift from a good and gracious God.

I’ve said it before, and it bears repeating.  God made dogs.  And yes, God is good.

 

 

 

7 Responses to “February 5, 2012”

  1. Rita says:

    All the time! God is Good!

  2. Linda says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and your humble heart. As a survivor myself, I fought the guilt that comes wtih surviving…when I was so undeserving. But we know that God’s grace has NOTHING to do with deserving or works or anything but His unconditional love for us and His desire to be in relationship with us. I’m sure you know you have been covered in prayer, whether you posted or not. I found the battle within my heart was harder than the battle of cancer (if that’s possible). I’m so sorry also to hear of the loss of Tipper. Pets do show that unconditional love as well. Again, thank you for sharing your heart. None of us understands the difficulty of pain and emotional hurt like our Lord and Savior. I hope you continue to look to Him, and know that it is faith and not feelings….and His Grace that leads us to tomorrow. In His strength, by His Power, for His Glory,
    Linda

  3. Mary Jane says:

    Thank you, Deanna, for sharing your story. I am one of those who has been wondering about you, but seeing you on the news, I had no clue that you were suffering. It has been a year since I lost my sweet husband to pancreatic cancer, and there were times throughout that year that I questioned God. He, however, continues to give me everything (and everyone) I need. What else did I expect? I am so sorry for the loss of your precious dog. May you someday be ready to open your hearts to another dog who needs a family. God bless you!

  4. Patti Waddick says:

    Deanna, I am so sorry about your little friend Tipper. I’m sure she was like your little angel.
    You are a true inspiration. I’m glad your on the air and that you were able to share your
    experience with the big C. My mother had lung cancer in 2010. She went through the
    treatments and radiation. Lost her hair. Then had her upper left lung removed in early 2011.
    She is 73 and doing quite well. I have always told she has 9 lives. In 2008 she had empyema,
    two months later she had a major heart attack, then open heart surgery. She had the occasional
    moment of sadness but never gave up. Keep your positive spirit and may you stay well.

  5. Steve Goodman says:

    Deanna – Today is the first I’ve heard about your nearly year-long battle with breast cancer. I admire your strength and tenacity in overcoming this third hurdle. I just wanted you to know I’m thinking about you and praying for your full recovery. Stay strong. Steve G.

  6. Vicky says:

    Deanna, I am just now reading your blog. I am so sorry for your health problems and so sorry you lost your dog who gave you so much joy. It is a hard pain when we lose a pet, been there, and boy does it hurt!! There is a quote in my vet’s office that says one day our pets must return to God who loaned them to us. It doesn’t take away the pain, but it helps the perspective a little bit. My prayers are with you. Keep fighting for good health, don’t give up. Love and hugs to you.

  7. Joyce says:

    Deanna, Cancer is hard to deal with as I personally have had 3 surgeries (2 for left breast and one for uterine)and 33 radiation treatments. I was unable to get treatment at first signs of cancer since I was taking care of my husband who had a Non-Hodgins B Lymphoma of the brain stem. After his death I started taking care of myself. I found, quite by accident, that going Gluten free helped w/the depression greatly. Two years free of breast cancer now and almost one year free of uterine cancer. I have since been diagnosed w/celiac disease and have to be totally Gluten Free! The radiation damaged my tissues so much that my expander had to be removed due to an allergic reaction. So now, one year later, I’m dealing w/an open wound. You have written so eloquently of your journey w/cancer and I truly appreciate your sharing with all of us what it is like. So sorry for loss of your precious pet. Hang in there and keep the Faith….God will never let us down. I miss you; Love to One from Another