Be gentle with yourself…

The daily messages of blessings from all of you is overwhelming lovely. I read everything you guys write me and your messages lift me up when I’m feeling low. I’ll never be able to thank you enough for your support. 🙂

This letter from Ilana in response to my Blah blog post is too good not to share with all of you so with her permission … please read. You may need a hankie after. I certain did. 🙂

Sarah, I’ve been checking in often, hoping to find you feeling miles better. I’m so sorry to see that’s not the case.

I’ve been battling so many of the same things (although, NOT the thrush – ugh.) I think Neulasta is helping with neutrophil production, but I feel like I have the hips and legs of a ninety year old. I feel utterly betrayed by my body, which has always been my willing and able accomplice in a busy life. It’s been a struggle for positivity, because I believe that your attitude has real impact on your body. In my struggle, I’ve been writing things that are going on, and hope you don’t mind if I share one of those here, because it has been pulling me up for the last couple of weeks. (Are there clowns where you get your chemo? Probably not, you’re in Canada, it’s a civilized nation. )

At my cancer center (oh, dear Buddha, I still can’t believe I have a CANCER CENTER) there’s a weird chemo clown thing – women with garish makeup and bulbous red noses – wait, that makes them sound like alcoholic hookers, not nearly alarming enough…women with rainbow suspenders and big shoes (I shit you not) walk around dispensing the most vapid of good cheer. Now, let’s be clear here – I am an adult. The value of a smiley face sticker given to me whilst I get poison pumped into my body is, shockingly, minimal, and in fact causes some out-of-proportion rage in my steroid-racked brain.

My husband, spying the approaching clown, immediately begins to murmur “be nice…be nice…” like a mantra. He’s the nicest person in the world, and he knows that sometimes…uh…I am not. But, I work hard, bite my tongue and remember what a friend of mine told me: Somebody likes the clown. By which she means: I am not the center of the universe (although, as a youngest child, I struggle to remember this fact) and while the clown doesn’t appeal to me, she appeals to someone. So, when she smiles and hands me a card, I smile back (probably a bit grimly) decline the smiley face sticker, and she keeps walking. I look at the paper in my hand, and it’s one of those barftastic affirmational messages: “I am…worthy…loveable…blah, blah, blah.” I stop reading when I get to “huggable” and tuck it into my book.

And then, I am sideswiped by the lesson. The clown walks to the next chair, and the woman occupying said chair, who has clearly been traveling this terrible road far longer than I, greets her like an old friend, even though their conversation makes it clear that they have never met before. She gratefully takes the smiley face sticker and proceeds to talk for at least twenty minutes. During this time the clown listens intently, occasionally murmurs softly, but mostly just listens. I am utterly shamed. Somebody likes the clown. Somebody NEEDS the clown.

And again it washes over me – a sense of my good fortune. My husband sits beside me through every chemo, hands me countless tissues, listens to every gripe and whine, tries to alter the axis of the earth so I’ll suffer just a tiny bit less. My family and friends give me food and books and gum and company, bring their dogs to visit, send me hats and funny emails and whatever else they can think of to make this awful journey a little less awful. I don’t need the clown. I am so lucky. And I’m ashamed of my reaction to her.

But even here, the clown gives me a pass. Later, I go back to my book, and I pull out the little piece of paper, and I see the other side. All it says is “Be gentle with yourself.”

So, be gentle with yourself and if you can manage it, remember how lucky you are to be loved. Sending you all the strength I can share – Ilana

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