Staying open

It’s been awhile, friends.  Let’s hope I still remember how to write.  And, that my writing still has value to others now that I am out of the most intense aspects of the past few months.

Whew.  Did all that really just happen?  It is obvious to me that when I’m faced with something challenging and go into armor mode, the physical fight comes first and naturally, but the emotional part does not hit me until the immediate physical threat is over.  It is not so easy for me because it takes an effort to face the emotions.  And vulnerability.  Ugh.  Not my strong suit, for sure.

I have changed inside more than expected and I am still figuring out how to incorporate it into my daily life.  I feel much more.  I take in more.  I care.  I am not trying to say that I was icy before, but the emotions/thoughts/feelings are very close to the surface and accessible in a way they haven’t been in the past.  The differences show themselves to me both in small and more noticeable ways. Without thinking about it, I use a lot more terms of endearment.  With everyone.  It feels natural and easy for honey or sweetheart to roll off my tongue, even to strangers.  I need to say I love you to people I care about – to those who should have heard it earlier and more frequently.  I want to take all of your faces in my hands and give you a big smooch.  I want to cherish good times, be together, connect and be my real self.  Maybe not completely different to how I have felt all my life, just now it seems so much more crucial.

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, we were able to spend the week with extended family.  I sought out the advice of my future sister-in-law, Brandi (btw I love you) aka yoga master, about stretches I could do to help my tight pecs.  She got down on the floor with me and showed me numerous stretches, not only for my trouble spots, but to open all the way across my chest, shoulders, etc.  More importantly, she explained the feelings/meaning behind those stretches.  They are called “chest openers”.  They are challenging stretches for me, not just because my chest is physically tight right now, but because they do not feel natural.  You must be relaxed and allow yourself to be open and exposed to hold the stretch.  Curling up and closing in feels easier, but the importance of feeling open and vulnerable is essential.  The weeks following Thanksgiving, I found myself going back to the words “chest openers” over and over.  I realized it was such a good mantra for how I am feeling right now.  Physically my chest might still feel tight, but I am working on it.  Emotionally, I feel wide-open and have an aching desire to maintain it.  I hope by simply being cognizant of the feeling and continuing to work on my “chest openers”, I will be able to maintain openness in all areas.  This will be a major focus for me in 2014.

I continue to change and evolve in relation to my “new look”.  In the coming weeks I will do my “after” photo shoot with my friend, Robin.  I am ready and comfortable to capture how I look and feel in some new images.  I will share when they are done.  I focus less and less on how I look (thank goodness) and now getting dressed and going out seems uneventful.  I did have a recent shopping trip for a more “padded” option on the days I feel like having more shape, but mostly comfortable without.  I have been researching options for permanent ink (tattoo) for my chest to feel a bit more like myself.  There is a woman in Asheville, NC who specializes in areola tattoos for mastectomy patients and it is quite remarkable. This is a link to her website if you are interested in looking.  I share this, not intending to invade my own privacy, but to continue to be open.  I have met so many others who have been through my situation (reconstruction or not) – and if any of you know someone, please pass on the info for this type of resource.  I expect to make a road trip to Asheville this spring. 🙂  Also (with rheum doc approval) I hope to mark my body with a Takayasu tattoo.  After 25 years of this disease calling the shots, I want to make the decision about how my body is affected.  It will need to be small (less risk of infection) but the reality of adding something beautiful to my body is the ultimate in empowerment.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, I will try to stay in closer contact.  The time from Thanksgiving to the end of the year was a whirlwind.  A lot of processing, trying to get back to a daily routine after such a major event and the daily rushing of the holidays.  My next focus is on my overall health.  I am thrilled to be off Prednisone (going on 8 months!) and need to take advantage of having it out of my system.  I need to implement a much better fitness program – for cardio health/vessel health.  How cliché this time of year to be thinking of better fitness, right?  But, now that I am through the storm of this fall, I need to make sure I am taking care of the rest of me.  Take care of yourselves in 2014.  Thanks again for all of the continued support.  I love you all.  Openly.

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5 Responses to Staying open

  1. Linda Verceles says:

    Susie, this entry brought tears to my eyes. You have done such a good job of coping with this situation. It makes you even stronger, but I always thought of you as being strong! And loving, too. It was so good to see you over Thanksgiving and be able to determine how you were doing in person. Always a fan, Linda

  2. Susie, you should be very proud of yourself for going through what you did! It took great courage on your part and you came through with flying colors. Cancer and the fear of it changes us; we realize that many of the things we thought were important are not and many of the thing we took for granted should not have been! Cancer changes not only our bodies but also our minds. Your mind is still doing that and you need to be patient. Rejoice that you are surrounded by loved and people you never met that encouraged you wept for you and prayed for you. Don’t worry about the changes they makes better and more loving people!

  3. Susan says:

    Loved the theme of this post! That Asheville tattoo artist does amazing work. I’m curious what the Takayasu tattoo will look like. I’m planning to get a tattoo as well. (Of a flock of birds–no heavy meaning–I just like birds!)

  4. Jill says:

    Happy New Year and New You! I am so excited that you are feeling well and have such lovely goals for the future. The tattoo artisit is just incredible and I hope you can be one of her works of art. Keep up the good work of healing and stay positive. You’re going to be WAY better than just fine at this rate!

  5. Hi Susie,
    You are whole again and what you have written screams about your growth back into enjoying your new life with confidence in loving yourself and all of us that have shared your pain and suffering rejoice with you! Know that you are loved by many and also you have affected their lives by your recovery! I can only speak for myself and say your ordeal has made me stronger because you have demonstrated how humans minds can overcome the ravages disease inflicts upon us!

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