I am a Go-Go, not in a dancer, in thigh high black leather boots kinda way but in a I can’t seem to make myself sit still and take a minute kinda way. I am seemingly incapable of saying no. When my schedule is already bloated and bursting at the seams, I still cannot seem to say no. I over promise, I over commit and then I run myself ragged trying to fit it all in, and I LOVE IT!
However, this year is different. I was diagnosed with cancer 25 weeks ago. It feels like both a lifetime ago and last week. When I received my diagnosis, I wrinkled up my nose and came up with my plan, cancer was not going to change my life. I was going to simply fit it into a cancer pocket of time that I would shove into my already crowded schedule. 25 weeks later, I am slowly learning to be selfish. 25 weeks later I am learning to say no because I have to. I am cashing in my cancer card and choosing to be selfish.
This morning, I am waking from my latest chemo week, sleepy and in a cold sweat of a panic at the thought of Christmas being in 10 days (real time – cancer time). 30 minutes after whatever ungodly hour of the morning that my eyes fluttered open, I found myself doing slow calming breaths to calm my racing heart. I had awoken in panic as I tried to fit just todays’ tasks into some semblance of order.
We have a babysitter this afternoon, so I lay next to my husband, listening to his rhythmic breathing, trying to map out a shopping route that would let us hit 30 stores in our 2 hours of free time. How would I hit all our stops in a calm manner that would not result in me turning into a snarky, passive aggressive gem of a wife stomping her feet in a rain puddle filled parking lot. I mentally wrote out my day in 15 minute increments, trying to include time to catch up on a weighty work project, time to get to the office to help my department prepare for upcoming holiday events, time to put away the mountain of clean laundry sitting beside the bed, time to wrap the presents stacked on the kitchen table, time to prepare for tomorrows adventure to Philadelphia for my sisters last radiation treatment, hell, time to drink a cup of coffee. Every task is vital and every task needs a half day dedicated to it and the math will simply not work itself out.
At some point, I realized it simply will not all fit and I felt my chest grow tight with panic. I can cram it in as tightly as possible but the fact is, that I am just waking from a chemo week. I am still crazy tired, and thanks to a lil bone pain, my latest chemo side effect, I feel like I was in one hell of a bar fight last night. This morning, I am starting to feel normal which makes me WANT to bust out of the front door guns blazing, to-do list in hand, but I know that 60 minutes of that pace will have me grumpy and exhausted. I know that if I force it all to happen, I will dissolve into a hot sloppy mess, with my mascara running into my Starbucks as I sob over not being able to do it all.
I am the one that does it all. I am the one that does not dissolve into a sloppy mess, I barrel through and get it done. The realization that I cannot, is crushing me. I know that if I try, I will rush the Christmas decisions and spend the next week returning everything. My work will not be up to par with what I normally do. I will be working to check items off my list as I inwardly panic over all the items that I know will not receive a check mark. I fear that others are judging me as harshly as I am judging myself as my undone tasks pile up around my feet.
I am learning to say no… slowly but I don’t want to say no to everything. I love the shopping, I love the walking through the stores agonizing over the perfect bargain as Silent Night plays in the background. I love planning menus, I love making my grandmothers potato stuffing recipe that has been passed down for who knows how many generations. I love cutting down our Christmas Tree and trips to Santa. I love my work.
I want to pass out apologies to everyone that I pass.
“ I apologize for not getting more done.”
“ I apologize for not being more creative.”
“ I apologize for being selfish and continually throwing up my arms as I say F&#% it, I have cancer.”
It has been a rough 25 weeks, and I feel as if I am standing in pit of dropped balls. I have 6 weeks left until I can say goodbye to chemo, so for the time being, apologies will simply have to do. Parties will be missed, presents may be gift wrapped in the store, I will not be cementing my reputation as a creative and fun loving friend and team player. For the next 6 weeks, I will be treading water to make the end of this year as magical as I can for myself and my family because that is all I can do.
6 weeks from now, I promise I will regroup, I will over commit and I will dig my A-Game out of the closet. But for today, I am going to have a second cup of coffee, I am going to take a nap and I am going to try not to cry over all the unchecked boxes on my to-do list. I am cashing in my cancer card and simply picking me.