From “Fuck You” to “Thank You Cancer”

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Six months sober, and divorced… A few days after my final goodbye to my four year old son, I hit my knees.

the second cocktail of chemo drugs caused a reaction and hair loss

 No, I wasn’t praying.. I was in so much pain that my body collapsed into a ball without much thought.  One minute I was texting “sweet dreams” and by the time she responded I wrote back “I think I’m going to the hospital”.  I felt like I was going to DIE; like a gremlin and the monster from the Alien were doing the monster mash right there in my gut.  I panicked, not only because of the pain but because I lived alone.  What if I got worse before I could alert help? One of my fears of being alone coming to life.  I called my friend asking her if she could please take me to the hospital.  She asked what’s wrong and I told her “please just come quickly.” I debated calling an ambulance but I didn’t want the attention of the street.. My self consciousness still winning, even in an emergency.

  By the time she arrived I had slithered down the 18 stairs from my raised house and was sitting balled up on the bottom step counting the hour long milliseconds that it took for her to arrive.  Once at the hospital, it took 45 minutes to be seen, and another 30 to get any kind of pain relief.  They wanted to do testing first.  I can’t say I blame them, I’d hit every emergency room in the area in pain at one point or another, seeking pain medicine to get high. In the moment tho, I hated every last one of them.  Restraining myself from punching holes in the wall felt impossible.  Laying waiting in our little cubical of the ER, I felt the mess starting to kick in.  The edge of the cliff began to get distant, and the doctor came and asked my friend to step outside.  She returned in tears, the doctor behind her looking somewhat apprehensive.  They told me they had found a tumor… A 19cm tumor wrapped around my left ovary and Fallopian tube.  It was the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  I remember the doctor looking at me like I was crazy.  “You didn’t have any symptoms before now?” He asked.  I thought about it and told him that I did have an increase in pain but I assumed it was because I was sober, and I could actually feel pain now, or maybe because I had started walking and my body was adjusting.

Pictures from the initial surgery

A symptom of PTSD is unmanaged dissociation.  Everyone does it on some level whether it’s entering auto pilot while driving,  and you end up wherever you are going but you don’t remember getting there.  That’s the mild side of the unmanaged dissociation spectrum.  Extreme sides of the spectrum are cases are dissociative identity disorder or DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the psyche completely splits into separate identities to perform various roles to the host.  There are many stops along the way of that spectrum, and I fall in at about the 60-70 range.  If you want to know more on this feel free to ask!  The point is,  my ability to separate from the feeling of physical pain was so fine tuned that the magnitude of the symptoms weren’t registering.  There was a disconnect.

  So, back to my story.. It’ll be a miracle if this blog actually tells the story I opened it to tell!
  From there I was rushed into surgery, the tumor was removed, along with my ovary and Fallopian tube.  A week later I found out that it was indeed cancerous.  Another fear.. Both my gran and my mother were killed by cancer on my mothers side, and my dads mother was also killed by that monster, and now it had me.  I won’t go into all the specifics.. Maybe another blog piece, but that was where my faith really began.

It wasn’t in a foxhole prayer, “God, please save me… ” it was real faith.. It was where I stopped bartering with the “if there’s a God” and started accepting the current moment exactly as it was.  I had been working on my third step in AA, “we made a decision to turn our will and our life, over to the care of God as we understood him” and I was almost all in.. The only reservation I had about staying sober was “if I lose my son I’m getting fucked up” and then I’d lost my son, and stayed sober.

Truth be told, I was secretly in love with another recovering alcoholic and I wanted to prove how committed I was to sobriety.  She had so many years sober, and I had only months.  I thought if I could tackle these monsters of reasons to drink, without drinking, we could bypass the “sober for a year rule”.

  I fought, every day, well almost every day.  There were some days when I couldn’t fight, and I had to lay in bed and just rest.  I remember feeling so much anxiety and panic when I would try to lay down and rest.  This video pretty much depicts that part of the fight (i record and document everything because my memory isn’t too great, and i lose time a lot… a big part of my recovery has been trying to piece together and accept that these things will happen, but looking for ways that i can take care of myself to make them less intrusive)

I was so scared that while I was resting, the cancer was taking over. No imagined it to be like a black cloud that I’d dispersed with my light of my sun, but crept back over when I wasn’t looking.  If I stopped, my body would get weak and I’d lose the fight.. And that just wasn’t an option.  Most breakdowns actually served their purpose in bouncing me back for the next round…

I spent many manic nights awake.  I began painting.  I didn’t want to watch tv, and so I started painting and found that I could paint! I had no idea.  I was pretty amazing at it too!!

Painted from a photo of Chicago that I found online
My secret love challenged me to try spray painting after seeing a video of the NYC spray paint artist..


Time lapse Video of 48 hours of learning to spray paint… not bad!

I gladly accepted the challenge, and within 24 hours I was spray painting my way to a masterpiece. 🙂 I remember selling some of those to my friends on Facebook, helping to generate some money towards the mounting costs of prescriptions and co pays.  I delivered pizza part time for Papa Johns in the evenings, and worked the back drive thru window of McDonalds with my AA sponsor and good friend in the mornings.
Having fun on the job 😉
  I bounced between photography and painting when I didn’t have the energy to walk.  In finding the gift of artwork, I saw a reason for being sick.  I would’ve never known I could paint if I hadn’t slowed down.  I remember how I felt the first time I realized that.  I’m crying again now just remembering how intense that feeling of trust in the universe was.  I remember telling the universe that it could’ve been a little more subtle than the big C, but then I thought about all of the times that I could’ve slowed down, and should’ve slowed down, and I didn’t.  Always running running running because I didn’t want to feel, and if I slowed down or stopped then the feelings would come flooding thru me at an overwhelming rate and I didn’t know how to adjust the faucet.  It was stuck wide open and I couldn’t handle all of that so I ran, staying busy.  It’s why I got fucked up to begin with. Thank you cancer.
a dresser from my sons room that became a painting project
  Four surgeries, and five chemos into the fight I began researching what could I do to improve my chances.  I asked questions on Facebook, and you guys responded with juice recipes, plant based diets.. And so I tried it.  I remember I couldn’t eat much at the time, but I kept telling myself “if I’m going to force myself to eat something, it’s going to be something that will help kick this bitchs’ ass! And I’d add a spoonful of peanut butter to a very green leafy disgusting  cocktail, blend it up and drink up.  I remember making music videos and joining the happy days fb group where my newsfeed filled up with all of these reasons people were happy that day.  That’s where I met a lot of you guys!  There was something about knowing people were watching, or at least feeling like they were, that grounded me.  I didn’t want you to see the real me.  I didn’t want you to see the crazy me, so I attempted to hide it, failing miserably with those I got close to, but it served its purpose.  I kept striving to improve, to be a better person, to show all of you how amazing I really am.. Because I didn’t feel it.. And you guys would tell me I am, and for a moment I would feel it… And as a true addict, it felt good so I wanted more.

 I began a bucket list which I named the “remember when list” because it was a list of things I would one day sit on my front porch telling stories of “remember when” to what I’d hope to be, my love.. Sitting next to me, saying “yes dear” 🙂 – that fantasy pushed me.  It set a tone inside of me and I wrote that list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime!! As that list grew, I realized that I didn’t have time to have a job.. Not in the traditional sense.  I started thinking of ways I could make money without actually going to work, and reading nomad blogs, learning how to travel as cheap as possible.  Again the faith came in, as I thought about everything I had already survived, and I saw how each individual storm in my life created a piece of evidence that I would be okay, no matter what.  Dealing with mental illness, never actually killing myself despite many years of feeling that was my only safe place to live mentally… Katrina.. Being homeless.. Heartbreaks.. I had survived  many storms, it’s what I do! In that I found strength and courage.  I saved links, and took notes, learning and forming the vague outline of how I could actually start working on some of these bucket list ideas.  Sure.. I couldn’t go backpacking Europe that day, laying in bed feeling sick as a dog, hurting, and generally wanting to die on some level.. But I could start studying.. Figure out what id need to do.. What equipment would I need? I’d only been camping twice.  I started looking on craigslist, and reading more and more.

What could I sell to generate money? I started painting sand dollars, and furniture, and whatever else came my way.  I sat out on Saturdays at the farmers market, hoping to sell a piece.  I went to galleries and talked to the managers, showing my portfolio.. I read blogs on how photographers make money with their pictures.. And the majority of the money is in portrait photography.. It wasn’t something I felt I was good enough for, having seen others work.  I didn’t have the money for the equipment I really needed, but I took my Panasonic LUMIX camera and did the best I could.. Watching YouTube videos on how to edit portrait pictures.  Touch ups etc.  I had the eye, I just didn’t have the knowledge, but I learned!

Adorable little girl and her mother that responded to a FB ad

I posted questions in fb photography groups, and they came back with all the answers to help me improve.  It provided the money to travel some more, but I didn’t care for it enough to pursue it further.

I took on a couple of website gigs, rehashing skills from my earlier years, and hustled flipping a broke down car.

Changing out the brake calipers – gotta trust the Universe to learn this on YouTube!

There’s never an easy answer to “how do you afford to travel” I just do whatever the moment presents itself with, and I am always provided for.  The Universe takes care of me as long as I allow it to.  I never thought I’d be a paid blogger.. $5-$12 a day, but it’s something! Every little something adds up and creates opportunity for more experience, and with more experience comes more opportunity.  It’s an amazing circle of life.

  Now my hope is to use my blog to not only record doing all this with mental illness.. (Which I really want to write about the transition from traveling to home.. I definitely need a better plan for reentry.  The last few days have been rough and I feel very spacey, ungrounded), but not only that and frugal traveling, but I’ve been writing the story of the travels from a first hand perspective as if the reader is the one traveling.  Once the story is written I want to record it and put pictures and videos to it so that the viewer or reader feels as if they are really traveling the world.

Then I want to donate it to everyone fighting a terminal illness, so that they can dissociate into the story and maybe get a little relief from the reality of the pain and treatment that they are going thru.  I hope it inspires them to fight, to really see the world, or whatever their bucket list things are, and if that’s no longer an option, I hope I get to help fulfill at least one of them by having this experience to share.

  Having said that..
I’d like you help me out by clicking on all the ads you see on this page, clicking back to the blog between each one.  I get paid per reader and per ad click.. And that helps fund this adventure.
I’d also like you to shared story if you believe in me and want to be a part of it!
And lastly, there is a box to subscribe to the blog, if you want notifications of new posts to the blog.
With that.. I hope you enjoyed my story.. It’s what got me to where I am today.. This year I have seen 22 states in the USA.. Fallen in love with traveling, seen my nephew for the first time, seen my first concert, mastered camping, backpacked four cities, opened an Airbnb of my own, become a paid blogger, met sooo many amazing new people, and next month I am leaving to backpack Europe! It’s wild!  If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.  Thank you Cancer!
“It’s a perfect day for a perfect day!”
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Intercepting panic and morphing it into pride 101

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Damnit … I was supposed to go the whole time home without a panic attack ://////
Wtf? I wasn’t even doing anything. What was I doing? Wrapping the painting for Michele.. Ohh .. And thinking of how far I’ve come since I first started seeing her almost ten years ago. I’m remembering the panic attacks that brought me there. So technically this isn’t happening.. Technically this is a memory.. Of how I felt then.. That was a good try…
Ok fuck .. Breathe .. Stop trying to rush thru this to get back to what you were doing… Chill out .. Focus.. Walk thru it .. Stop running … No running!! :))) Courtney 🙂 here and now… That’s it .. Plug into another feeling physiologically … Omg .. Of course!!! Why else would I be so in tune with describing emotions on a physiological level .. So that I can slip in and out of them ? Maybe ..
Ok so I’m feeling panicked.. Chest is pounding.. Stretch it out by breathing .. Sit up straight .. But we need a new feeling … Instead of trying to fight it back down to “calm” which is the largest span to cross .. How about a feeling like happy .. Or excited .. Hmm excited is too close to anxiety .. I want my body to actually feel different.. Ok love … What does love feel like.. Grans kitchen .. That hug from behind when she came to check on my progress mixing the cake.. Being tucked in at night .. Having my back washed.. The warm towels out of the dryer .. Ok that feeling is too emotional .. I’m missing all those things .. Ok .. Happy thoughts … Umm .. Victory!!! The time I bowled a 299 in an adult junior competition with my dad .. That feeling of making him proud … :))) Yupp there we go .. Full Chest.. Standing tall.. Kinda embarrassed to be that focus of attention .. But fuck it! 11 strikes in a row!!! You’re a bowler .. A damn good bowler.. Let it shine!
Ok .. Let’s see if we are grounded .. Cos Adele is on and that shit sure doesn’t help calm the storm lmao .. Ahh Adele .. I love you .. Always adding your two scents on this journey … Not this time tho …
and I’m out the bathroom .. Time Check 9:47 .. Started at 9:33 … 14 minutes!! Woooohoooooooo under the 15 minute adrenaline dump time zone!!!!

I find it so fascinating when I go back and read what I write when i am in the midst of the storm.  This one I happened to read for the first time in therapy later that afternoon after a very exhausting morning of panic.  I felt better when I left, having gained some insight about where to go with it.. but it didn’t stop further panic attacks once I got back home.  Luckily I have a ton of homework from her to work on, so that’ll be fun <- note the sarcasm.

Yesterday seemed like a day where a lot of people seemed to be struggling.  I had to step back at one point and just take care of myself.  I wish I could plug my brain in and just let everyone check out the tools they need in the moments that they are needed, but it doesn’t work that way.  Not yet anyway.. I am sure that will be possible one day.

Over the next 8 weeks, I will be facing the monsters inside of me once again.  Thankfully I have already cleaned, swept and mopped my closet once, so this time won’t be so bad.  On a good note.. I have a whole lotta pictures and footage of my travels that i’ll also be unpacking, and working on when taking mental breaks.. maybe even some artwork.. who knows?

For everyone who asks me how to get from where I was to where I am (because it’s usually when I am flying high on life that they wanna know) it’s time to tune in.  Lemme know you’re tuned in and wanna know.. I’m undecided at the moment about just how much I wanna share publicly.. preferably all of it so that it can help others.. but not exactly sure yet.

Goals: complete abstinence from self harm, binge eating, dissociation, panic attacks

Ok.. time to stop avoiding!

 

To hyper vigilant and beyond!!! 

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In my world…

So I left the house for the first time today besides going to work and being sent home. I’m at the pier in long beach and there’s one man in his truck in the parking lot. The lot is under construction and I assume he is a worker .. A construction worker so of course I am paralyzed. I’m on the pier freezing my ass off scared to go to my car because he may see me. Now there is another car near my car and idk who is in it so I’m really panicking. That car is leaving so must be drugs now I’m really not going in there. I can’t breath I can’t calm down my chest in pounding and I’m fuckin cold. I keep trying to convince myself to walk walk fast towards the sand and pace but panic of I try to step tht way. Panic means freeze body locks up and doesn’t have any auto pilot. Every thought movement breath is an active process and feels confusing like ummm idk I forgot. Now I’m panicking bc I need to move to warm up but there’s another car and a man walking with a hoodie and gloves. I know he’s going to hurt me and I can’t deal with that. I won’t survive it this time bc I don’t have it in me. I can’t do this again. 
In your world…

Two guys met at the beach for a chat.. You probably didn’t even notice

“What’s the point?” 

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“I couldn’t get my 270lb self over the side of the bridge fast enough before the cops got to me and pulled me down. “

I didn’t want to live anymore.  
Depression, memories, intrusive racing thoughts.. The internal anguish that festered inside of me on a day to day basis had worn me down. All I wanted was one day of peace. I wanted a lobotomy. I wanted someone to take my mind and erase it. I wanted nothing,more than anything else in the world I wanted it all to stop.. But it never did. I’d cycled thru the psych hospitals, doing the two step back to “balance” more times than I could count. Medications and therapy.. The magic cocktail.. But it had never worked for long periods of time. The medications turned me into a zombie if I took them, and therapy was pointless since I never really talked about the exact nature of my demons.
  February 13, 2013.. I reached the end of my ability to cope. My fiancé was cheating on me with my best friend.. My son had been sexually abused, and I had zero legal authority to protect him.. I was financially stressed, lonely, and haunted with memories from my past. Flashbacks and panic attacks came daily, and I just had zero desire to carry on.. And couldn’t fathom a worthy enough response to “what’s the point?”

  
  I used a bottle of vodka to swallow my meds, one every minute or so, until I felt full of liquid courage and made my way to the bridge. I’d always had a fantasy of free falling from a bridge at night.. The full moon reflecting off of the water, with Sarah Brightmans’ “Time to say Goodbye” filling my ears with her beautiful voice. That’s how I wanted to go out.. So poetic. I found the song, inserted the earphones and pressed play. Just as I got out of the car, a cop car pulled up behind me, lights flashing. I panicked. I was too intoxicated to be behind a wheel. I hurried to the front of the car, and began trying to get up onto the side. It wasn’t exactly how I’d imagined it to be, but there was no going back. I couldn’t get my 270lb self over the side of the bridge fast enough before the cops got to me and pulled me down. I’m thankful for that today.  
  While in the psych hospital, I protested to the same staff I had been institutionalized there with in the past. This time felt different. In the past I’d landed there following cries for help, and threats of suicide.. This time I felt so hopeless that being there merely felt like an obstacle to the inevitable. I repeatedly told them they were wasting their time.  

  
  I was outside on the patio smoking my first cigarette of the day… Staring out between the cracks in the fence, and I saw a bird land of the grass at the base of a tree. I watched as it pecked at the ground. It hopped around pecking away, feeding I was sure. I watched it for a few minutes, and thought about how it didn’t go to work.. It didn’t earn money.. and yet it was provided for. No matter what, it would find the resources to survive. I thought the things I had been through.. And even during times of homelessness, I never went hungry, I had clothes, I figured out places to sleep, and eat, and even provide orange juice and diapers for my son. In those moments something shifted in my perspective. The stress of finances were lifted. Technically, I didn’t need a home. All I needed was food, water, and a change of clothes.. And I would survive. Everything else outside of that were things I wanted, but I didn’t need. I never forgot that little bird.  

  
I never forgot that shift in thought. Over the next few years, it repeated in my mind as a reminder of the only things I really needed. I didn’t have a higher power at the time, and wasn’t even sure if I wanted to go on living.. But in later years, I would hold on to the minimization style of living, and find a freedom that has helped mold my life today. 
  Thru working the 12 steps, I came to believe in the universal energy of life as my higher power. I never know where the wind is going to blow me, I just know that I’m willing to go wherever that is, and do whatever being in those places provides me an opportunity to do. It’s taken me all over the world at this point.. Literally on a dime at times. In September 2015 I was in NYC with $19 to my name, a bus ticket to DC, and a flight from DC to New Orleans booked. I had ten days before I would land in New Orleans, so it was definitely a time to be frugal, but I wasn’t stressed.. I had a way home, and $19 can go a long way in oatmeal if need be. I’ve never gone hungry, yet I have stressed going hungry a million times. Part of me wonders if its that fear that causes my body to store food, but that’s another topic.  

   
 
  In March 2016, I found myself in Athens, Greece. I accompanied my friend on a trip of her lifetime. We were regular tourists, viewing the Acropolis, taking a ferry to the islands, buying the souvenirs, eating the food. On our 6th day we discovered that the Syrian refugees were at the port we had sailed from .. Hidden in terminals and tents around the other side. We decided to go and see what we could do to help. Boy did our hearts hurt. I don’t think either of us were prepared for what we would witness there. That too is another blog.  
  Upon returning to the United States, the images of the refugees stayed wit me. They filled me heart, and have had me questioning what I can do to make a difference. My heart has been pulled to the point I’ve found it difficult to take care of myself without feeling guilty. It’s no mistake that after flying into Houston, and staying with friends for a few days there, that I was introduced to a new person in my life. She has shared her experience with her faith in Jesus and God. These are two words that have always automatically shut me down, but Initially she tailored her belief to accommodate my belief in the Universe. Connecting about faith in general helped me to remove my premeditated stigmas of organized religion, and become open minded to the church.  

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  Yesterday I attended church with my AA sponsor and her son.. A family that has loved and adopted me as their own. I spent an hour crying as I related to the words of the songs and the sermon. At the end of the sermon, Brother Ben left us with two questions.. “When was the last time our hearts wept for others in the world?” And “when was the last time we wept for the brokenness of ourselves?”
The refugees came flooding to my mind as I wept again.. I then recalled the moment last week that I stood in a field of a dog park in Florida and cried from my gutt for my own pain and feelings of lost and alone. I decided to stay behind and talk to Brother Ben one on one about what was going on for me.. The feeling that I was being called for a higher purpose, but not really knowing how to go about serving that purpose. He spent 30-45 minutes with me, listening, and sharing his experience as a follower of Christ. He remained respectful of where I was in my beliefs, and refrained from telling me what I should do. He gave me a Bible.. A book I’ve vowed many times that I would never read.  
This morning I woke up near Baton Rouge, in a place where I had zero cellphone service. It gave me three hours of quiet time to sit and read.. I opened the Bible and flipped to random pages… And then I came across this… 
Matthew 6:24-37

No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.  
“That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life – whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing? Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your Heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are? Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?”

  
My story of how that little bird had lit a small spark of faith.. Right there in black and white inside the pages of the Bible.  
I don’t know where this road is leading, but I know I’m on the right road. As I talk about my experiences in Greece, and how heavy my heart is for the refugees, I often hear “you’re just one person, you can’t save the world” and a feeling of defensiveness comes over me, because I disagree. Mother Theresa was one person. Nelson Mandela was one person. Martin Luther King Jr and Princess Diana … Jesus Christ was one person. One person can make a difference.  

I truly believe my purpose is to make a difference.  I don’t yet know what that looks like.. Whether it’s giving a voice to those whose cries go unheard, whether it’s doing missionary work, or sharing my experience of recovering from life with PTSD and addiction… Maybe even something I don’t yet have the capability to imagine?
 I DO know that I can make a difference.  I WILL make a difference.  

Ask and Ye Shall Receive

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I wrote a private blog a couple of weeks ago.. I guess it was like my way of saying a silent prayer.. manifesting what it is that I am looking for in life.   My life is already so blessed that I felt somewhat greedy asking for more than I have, but I have been taught that I can manifest what it is I want to create in my life, and the yearning to share life with an amazing partner has never truly gone away.

The silent prayer began as a reintroduction of myself to someone that I thought knew me well enough, but when I really listened, I realized they didn’t know me at all.  I wonder how many times that shows up in my life.  As I wrote, the vision became clearer and clearer.. in fact so clear, that I felt I reached a finishing point.  I saved it.. sending it out in the Universe, and went on about my plans to research converting the minivan and travel.

 My name is Storme 🙂

I’m a fucking amazing person who is passionate about anything I put my hands and mind on… Those things often change.. It used to be painting.. And photography .. Lately it’s been writing and traveling.. Helping others.. Dulling the suffering that goes on in the world even its just putting a smile on someone’s face. I seem pretty social but I like my me time too. I’m the kind of ex that every ex wants back, but I don’t look backwards. I crave a family more than anything.. A home filled with love. I’ve rarely known either. I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the last three years mostly on my own discovering who I am and what I enjoy.. I’ve been able to do some of the things I always resented past relationships for preventing me doing. The grass is always greener on the other side. It’s been pretty awesome but none of it has filled that hole.

I love campfires, beaches, swimming in salt water, mountain views, and the great outdoors. I don’t care for materialistic stuff. I’m a simple person that just loves to love. I’d give the shirt off my back even if it were my last.. Well maybe not my last bc i am insecure about my body image lol I’m easy to fall in love with but I don’t fall too easy.. I’m skeptical and I’m not willing to change the dynamic of my life unless I know that I love that person unconditionally .. That means you need to piss me off a few times and I need to be able to see that I won’t just say fuck it. It’s rare that that happens. I’ve beaten enough dead horses and life’s too short.

The most valuable thing to me is time. I don’t believe in waiting for anything because who knows how long I have left. I want a life partner.. Not someone that’s gonna be up my ass 24/7 .. Like I said .. I like my me time and I want someone who enjoys their own space. I’m not a babysitter. I want someone who is passionate about things in their life. Someone who loves themselves and isn’t looking for a partner just to feel validated. Someone who wants to take the time to really get to know each other .. I’m not about the uhauling. I am ready to build a home with that person whenever that person appears in my life. I wish for it. I tell the universe all the time that that’s what I want.. And when I meet new people., I access them to see if they match what I’m looking for.. Just in case the universe is sending them my way. If they hit enough points, I spend more time talking to them.. Making great friends along the way, but when it becomes apparent that this isn’t going to blossom into something further, I tend to drift away. That’s something I need to work on.. Communicating what’s going on. I want life with a partner as opposed to without but It’s not a necessity.. I’ve had the best three years of my life in the last three years.. Falling in love with me.. and implementing a lifestyle that keeps me mentally healthier than I’ve ever been before. It’s in both of our best interests that that isn’t disrupted too much, which really narrows down the pool. Not too many people can genuinely be okay and understanding that no matter what it is that we were about to do.. I’m having a panic attack and simply cannot do it.. It leads to lateness or even being absent.. Social gatherings.. Needing help with something.. I understand it can be frustrating.. Another reason it’s mandatory that we spend time getting to know each other.
I want to build a house from scratch.. I don’t know where yet and was hoping traveling would answer that but it hasn’t.
I am diagnosed as mentally ill for various reasons and symptoms, but I don’t take meds. I was on and off them from the age of 16 and I think they’ve made things worse rather than better. Ive now been off them for over a year, and been able to manage my symptoms effectively. That doesn’t mean life is normal.. It just means it’s as contained as it can be and doesn’t stop me living life anymore.
Things i am working on.. Using my voice. I still struggle with standing up for myself. I pick my fights .. I’m mostly laid back and would prefer To avoid confrontation.. But if it starts affecting my mental health and becomes an obsessive thought then I speak up. I’d like to get to a place where I speak up before it effects me. I’m still working on managing my PTSD. It’s like a spiral Spiraling up wider and wider. There was a time I was afraid of my own shadow.. Now I travel across seas and stay at men’s houses that I don’t even know.. Creating pretty cool friendships. My zone has gotten so wide that it throws me off when something triggers me again and I get pretty angry at myself initially.. But part of loving myself is accepting that it’s going to happen.. And knowing that I have the tools.
My goal is to never work for an employer ever again. I don’t like having an authority figure over me. My parents weren’t active parents and I raised myself practically so it’s difficult for me to respect elders and law enforcement.. Bosses.. Anyone that comes across as having power over me. I’m the boss of my life, and so far I’ve been successfully unemployed or self employed for 6 years.
My savings plan for my future financial security is real estate. You really can’t go wrong with it. I want to own a couple of houses internationally .. Mostly because I have a paranoia about being stuck to one place should a world war break out or Mother Nature go nuts.
And that’s pretty much me in a nutshell.
Until I remember something else

Upon returning home I visited the animal shelter in Conroe Texas.. And there I found Athena.. A mixed dog that stole my heart in an hour.  My prayer was answered.. I would no longer be alone.. And in her companionship, I no longer needed to find a person to share my life with.  We make pretty awesome road buddies.. And I am truly blessed to have her.  It’s definitely an adjustment, but she’s my child now, and in that, all adjustments are possible.

“but that’s about you” – owning my anger towards cancer

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It doesn’t take much for me to get distracted.. but you can bet your boots that reading a post where someone wishes cancer on someone else.. that will do it everytime.  Not just one person, but this person wished cancer on all the management people at their cable provider because 300GB of data just isn’t enough to keep up with her gaming lifestyle.

  
I debated for a few minutes after reading it, to figure out if I even wanted to respond to that.  I couldn’t wrap my head around it.  Why would anyone WISH CANCER ON SOMEONE?????  And over bandwidth??? Seriously? I responded.. and responded to the response.. and then decided to walk away.

  
  
  I was so fuming mad that I took screenshots of the post and sent them to a friend.. needing some sort of validation to my anger from some rational thinking person.. to which I got back “but that’s about you”

What?? What the fuck?? I wanted to pour out all the anger that came along with this whole conversation.. but she was right. It was about me.  It was totally about me that I was so entirely pissed off that this person would wish cancer on someone because with that statement, a thousand images of what that one word, “cancer”, brings.

fcancer
  The hours I spent vomiting, long after there was nothing left to vomit.  The longing to go outside and feel the sun on my face, but not having the strength to get out of bed.  The pain. The pain of feeling my cells fight each other inside of me. The pain of radiation killing cells inside of me.  The sores and blisters inside my mouth.  The lockdown to prevent further illness with such a low immune system.  The rooms of other patients, and faces that change, or don’t make it back for the next round.  The fear.  The fear that death was knocking on my door.  That I could die.  The smiles I put on my face so people wouldn’t worry… because I didn’t want them to go through what I went through when my mother was dying of cancer.  

  
I remember watching her fade in and out of sleep.. her breath stopping for longer than it should until she gasped for another breath.  I remember her going thru the stages of grief, knowing that she wasn’t going to beat this thing.  I remember the blood transfusions, and the tests.. each result almost unbearable to wait for.  Every answer weighing down on just how much time we had left together.  I remember watching her favorite movies with her, and putting her in the wheel chair to keep getting out and living to the best of her ability.. even if that was only a 10 minute wheel around the block.  I REMEMBER WATCHING MY MOTHER DIE A SLOW AND PAINFUL DEATH .. and do it with SO MUCH dignity.

  

I remember my gran fighting this same beast .. Like a champ! And the other family members that have ALL been taken by this monster.

   
    
   I REMEMBER FIGHTING MY ASS OFF so that I didn’t die that same slow painful death.  Walking miles after surgeries against doctors advice.  Getting out and about when I was supposed to be on bedrest.  Drinking those foul green smoothies and juices, if I could eat or drink anything at all.. because if I was going to force it down me, it was going to work towards the fight.  I remember avoiding tv, and finding things I loved to do.. discovering I could paint.. and write.. and sing.. although I rarely had the breath and energy to get thru a song at that time.

This upcoming week makes 10 years since my mother passed away.  It doesn’t feel like it’s even been 10 months.  She was only 49 when she died… ironically, because she always said “I’ll be lucky if I make it to 50”.  I wish she were still around.  We didn’t have a very close relationship, but in those months that I was able to spend with her before she died, we grew close..  what could’ve been the beginning of the kind of relationship I had always wanted with my mother.

I wish she were still around.  I wish she could see her grandson.. and experience being a grandparent.  I wish she hadn’t been diagnosed with Cancer.  I wish that no one would ever be diagnosed with cancer ever again.  So yes… when I read someone wishing this awful illness on a group of people just carrying out their job descriptions to cap data to 300GB per month.. I take it quite personally.
/rant

From Fuck You to Thank you Cancer for my “Remember When” list

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Monday, October 12, 2015

Six months sober, and divorced… A few days after my final goodbye to my four year old son, I hit my knees.

the second cocktail of chemo drugs caused a reaction and hair loss

 No, I wasn’t praying.. I was in so much pain that my body collapsed into a ball without much thought.  One minute I was texting “sweet dreams” and by the time she responded I wrote back “I think I’m going to the hospital”.  I felt like I was going to DIE; like a gremlin and the monster from the Alien were doing the monster mash right there in my gut.  I panicked, not only because of the pain but because I lived alone.  What if I got worse before I could alert help? One of my fears of being alone coming to life.  I called my friend asking her if she could please take me to the hospital.  She asked what’s wrong and I told her “please just come quickly.” I debated calling an ambulance but I didn’t want the attention of the street.. My self consciousness still winning, even in an emergency.

  By the time she arrived I had slithered down the 18 stairs from my raised house and was sitting balled up on the bottom step counting the hour long milliseconds that it took for her to arrive.  Once at the hospital, it took 45 minutes to be seen, and another 30 to get any kind of pain relief.  They wanted to do testing first.  I can’t say I blame them, I’d hit every emergency room in the area in pain at one point or another, seeking pain medicine to get high. In the moment tho, I hated every last one of them.  Restraining myself from punching holes in the wall felt impossible.  Laying waiting in our little cubical of the ER, I felt the mess starting to kick in.  The edge of the cliff began to get distant, and the doctor came and asked my friend to step outside.  She returned in tears, the doctor behind her looking somewhat apprehensive.  They told me they had found a tumor… A 19cm tumor wrapped around my left ovary and Fallopian tube.  It was the size of a 5 month pregnancy.  I remember the doctor looking at me like I was crazy.  “You didn’t have any symptoms before now?” He asked.  I thought about it and told him that I did have an increase in pain but I assumed it was because I was sober, and I could actually feel pain now, or maybe because I had started walking and my body was adjusting.

Pictures from the initial surgery

A symptom of PTSD is unmanaged dissociation.  Everyone does it on some level whether it’s entering auto pilot while driving,  and you end up wherever you are going but you don’t remember getting there.  That’s the mild side of the unmanaged dissociation spectrum.  Extreme sides of the spectrum are cases are dissociative identity disorder or DID (formerly known as multiple personality disorder) where the psyche completely splits into separate identities to perform various roles to the host.  There are many stops along the way of that spectrum, and I fall in at about the 60-70 range.  If you want to know more on this feel free to ask!  The point is,  my ability to separate from the feeling of physical pain was so fine tuned that the magnitude of the symptoms weren’t registering.  There was a disconnect.

  So, back to my story.. It’ll be a miracle if this blog actually tells the story I opened it to tell!
  From there I was rushed into surgery, the tumor was removed, along with my ovary and Fallopian tube.  A week later I found out that it was indeed cancerous.  Another fear.. Both my gran and my mother were killed by cancer on my mothers side, and my dads mother was also killed by that monster, and now it had me.  I won’t go into all the specifics.. Maybe another blog piece, but that was where my faith really began.

It wasn’t in a foxhole prayer, “God, please save me… ” it was real faith.. It was where I stopped bartering with the “if there’s a God” and started accepting the current moment exactly as it was.  I had been working on my third step in AA, “we made a decision to turn our will and our life, over to the care of God as we understood him” and I was almost all in.. The only reservation I had about staying sober was “if I lose my son I’m getting fucked up” and then I’d lost my son, and stayed sober.

Truth be told, I was secretly in love with another recovering alcoholic and I wanted to prove how committed I was to sobriety.  She had so many years sober, and I had only months.  I thought if I could tackle these monsters of reasons to drink, without drinking, we could bypass the “sober for a year rule”.

  I fought, every day, well almost every day.  There were some days when I couldn’t fight, and I had to lay in bed and just rest.  I remember feeling so much anxiety and panic when I would try to lay down and rest.  This video pretty much depicts that part of the fight (i record and document everything because my memory isn’t too great, and i lose time a lot… a big part of my recovery has been trying to piece together and accept that these things will happen, but looking for ways that i can take care of myself to make them less intrusive)

I was so scared that while I was resting, the cancer was taking over. No imagined it to be like a black cloud that I’d dispersed with my light of my sun, but crept back over when I wasn’t looking.  If I stopped, my body would get weak and I’d lose the fight.. And that just wasn’t an option.  Most breakdowns actually served their purpose in bouncing me back for the next round…

I spent many manic nights awake.  I began painting.  I didn’t want to watch tv, and so I started painting and found that I could paint! I had no idea.  I was pretty amazing at it too!!

Painted from a photo of Chicago that I found online
My secret love challenged me to try spray painting after seeing a video of the NYC spray paint artist..


Time lapse Video of 48 hours of learning to spray paint… not bad!

I gladly accepted the challenge, and within 24 hours I was spray painting my way to a masterpiece. 🙂 I remember selling some of those to my friends on Facebook, helping to generate some money towards the mounting costs of prescriptions and co pays.  I delivered pizza part time for Papa Johns in the evenings, and worked the back drive thru window of McDonalds with my AA sponsor and good friend in the mornings.
Having fun on the job 😉
  I bounced between photography and painting when I didn’t have the energy to walk.  In finding the gift of artwork, I saw a reason for being sick.  I would’ve never known I could paint if I hadn’t slowed down.  I remember how I felt the first time I realized that.  I’m crying again now just remembering how intense that feeling of trust in the universe was.  I remember telling the universe that it could’ve been a little more subtle than the big C, but then I thought about all of the times that I could’ve slowed down, and should’ve slowed down, and I didn’t.  Always running running running because I didn’t want to feel, and if I slowed down or stopped then the feelings would come flooding thru me at an overwhelming rate and I didn’t know how to adjust the faucet.  It was stuck wide open and I couldn’t handle all of that so I ran, staying busy.  It’s why I got fucked up to begin with. Thank you cancer.
a dresser from my sons room that became a painting project
  Four surgeries, and five chemos into the fight I began researching what could I do to improve my chances.  I asked questions on Facebook, and you guys responded with juice recipes, plant based diets.. And so I tried it.  I remember I couldn’t eat much at the time, but I kept telling myself “if I’m going to force myself to eat something, it’s going to be something that will help kick this bitchs’ ass! And I’d add a spoonful of peanut butter to a very green leafy disgusting  cocktail, blend it up and drink up.  I remember making music videos and joining the happy days fb group where my newsfeed filled up with all of these reasons people were happy that day.  That’s where I met a lot of you guys!  There was something about knowing people were watching, or at least feeling like they were, that grounded me.  I didn’t want you to see the real me.  I didn’t want you to see the crazy me, so I attempted to hide it, failing miserably with those I got close to, but it served its purpose.  I kept striving to improve, to be a better person, to show all of you how amazing I really am.. Because I didn’t feel it.. And you guys would tell me I am, and for a moment I would feel it… And as a true addict, it felt good so I wanted more.

 I began a bucket list which I named the “remember when list” because it was a list of things I would one day sit on my front porch telling stories of “remember when” to what I’d hope to be, my love.. Sitting next to me, saying “yes dear” 🙂 – that fantasy pushed me.  It set a tone inside of me and I wrote that list of things I wanted to do in my lifetime!! As that list grew, I realized that I didn’t have time to have a job.. Not in the traditional sense.  I started thinking of ways I could make money without actually going to work, and reading nomad blogs, learning how to travel as cheap as possible.  Again the faith came in, as I thought about everything I had already survived, and I saw how each individual storm in my life created a piece of evidence that I would be okay, no matter what.  Dealing with mental illness, never actually killing myself despite many years of feeling that was my only safe place to live mentally… Katrina.. Being homeless.. Heartbreaks.. I had survived  many storms, it’s what I do! In that I found strength and courage.  I saved links, and took notes, learning and forming the vague outline of how I could actually start working on some of these bucket list ideas.  Sure.. I couldn’t go backpacking Europe that day, laying in bed feeling sick as a dog, hurting, and generally wanting to die on some level.. But I could start studying.. Figure out what id need to do.. What equipment would I need? I’d only been camping twice.  I started looking on craigslist, and reading more and more.

What could I sell to generate money? I started painting sand dollars, and furniture, and whatever else came my way.  I sat out on Saturdays at the farmers market, hoping to sell a piece.  I went to galleries and talked to the managers, showing my portfolio.. I read blogs on how photographers make money with their pictures.. And the majority of the money is in portrait photography.. It wasn’t something I felt I was good enough for, having seen others work.  I didn’t have the money for the equipment I really needed, but I took my Panasonic LUMIX camera and did the best I could.. Watching YouTube videos on how to edit portrait pictures.  Touch ups etc.  I had the eye, I just didn’t have the knowledge, but I learned!

Adorable little girl and her mother that responded to a FB ad

I posted questions in fb photography groups, and they came back with all the answers to help me improve.  It provided the money to travel some more, but I didn’t care for it enough to pursue it further.

I took on a couple of website gigs, rehashing skills from my earlier years, and hustled flipping a broke down car.

Changing out the brake calipers – gotta trust the Universe to learn this on YouTube!

There’s never an easy answer to “how do you afford to travel” I just do whatever the moment presents itself with, and I am always provided for.  The Universe takes care of me as long as I allow it to.  I never thought I’d be a paid blogger.. $5-$12 a day, but it’s something! Every little something adds up and creates opportunity for more experience, and with more experience comes more opportunity.  It’s an amazing circle of life.

  Now my hope is to use my blog to not only record doing all this with mental illness.. (Which I really want to write about the transition from traveling to home.. I definitely need a better plan for reentry.  The last few days have been rough and I feel very spacey, ungrounded), but not only that and frugal traveling, but I’ve been writing the story of the travels from a first hand perspective as if the reader is the one traveling.  Once the story is written I want to record it and put pictures and videos to it so that the viewer or reader feels as if they are really traveling the world.

Then I want to donate it to everyone fighting a terminal illness, so that they can dissociate into the story and maybe get a little relief from the reality of the pain and treatment that they are going thru.  I hope it inspires them to fight, to really see the world, or whatever their bucket list things are, and if that’s no longer an option, I hope I get to help fulfill at least one of them by having this experience to share.

  Having said that..
I’d like you help me out by clicking on all the ads you see on this page, clicking back to the blog between each one.  I get paid per reader and per ad click.. And that helps fund this adventure.
I’d also like you to shared story if you believe in me and want to be a part of it!
And lastly, there is a box to subscribe to the blog, if you want notifications of new posts to the blog.
With that.. I hope you enjoyed my story.. It’s what got me to where I am today.. This year I have seen 22 states in the USA.. Fallen in love with traveling, seen my nephew for the first time, seen my first concert, mastered camping, backpacked four cities, opened an Airbnb of my own, become a paid blogger, met sooo many amazing new people, and next month I am leaving to backpack Europe! It’s wild!  If this is a dream, I never want to wake up.  Thank you Cancer!
“It’s a perfect day for a perfect day!”