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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Leftover Hurricane Katrina MRE’s and Soulmates

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“I could relate to the part about eating spoiled food.. not initially, because it grossed me out.  I remember craving sugar soooo bad and being on a diet. There wasn’t any in the house.  I remember finding the half of a container of chocolate frosting, from that cake I had baked months ago.  I remember eating a little spoon of it to get my fix.  To get that sweet sugar embedded in all the preservatives.. that sweet sugar that somehow melts and swims around in the pits of my mouth.. prodding each and every taste bud.. seducing them until they want more.  I don’t know if that container was expired, but who in their right mind eats spoonfuls of month old opened frosting from  the pantry?  No one.. that’s the point.. the insanity is real.”

I could see the heads nodding as I spoke.  They were relating.  They were each reliving a memory of a time that they too had eaten something spoiled, or craved something that much.  The insanity of this disease is indeed real.  I shared about how I had gone thru every nook and cranny of my house, to throw food away that would never fit into  my new menu.  It’s what I had to do to get clean and sober.  I had to flush that pound of marijuana.  I had to throw away the vodka, the frozen gallons of daiquiris, and the loose alka pops.  The same thing applied here.  Anything that was packaged, processed, or didn’t fit into this plant based menu.. it had to go.  Initially I had started creating a side pile of food that I could give to my friend down the street.. she had kids, and I wouldn’t want it to go to waste.  I have such a HUGE hang up about food going to waste.  I set another pile aside of “Community food” for the travelers coming thru.  I remember the broke days of traveling, and how a pack of noodles, some butter, and maybe some cheese would constitute dinner.. all of which I had found in the cupboards of the hostel, left behind by previous  travelers.  My  friend came over, and I started to go thru each box of macaroni and can of soup to see if she wanted it.  It suddenly occurred to me that I had never bought mac and cheese.  I don’t like mac and cheese, and that was there from my ex… THREE YEARS AGO!  By the time we were done, there was barely anything left in the house.. which is good! Anything that is healthy for me wouldn’t last long anyway, and i am only one person.  I don’t need a pantry full of food.  A fridge and freezer stocked to full capacity.  But what would people say? They’d think I was poor.. that I can’t afford to eat… Where the fuck did that belief come from?

So what was I saving it for?  Hurricane Katrina 2? My fear of some day running out of food dictated so many of my decisions in the way I purchased food.  I had to have a variety of food to satisfy my cravings.. of course I always seemed to crave something I didn’t have, that led me back to the store, where I ultimately bought a ton of crap I didn’t need to eat.  I had to make sure I always had enough food in the house.  I still had MRE’s from hurricane Katrina!! 10 years ago, i hadn’t eaten them in the most desperate situation of my life… and yet somehow I thought an apocalypse would come, and my means of survival would be this box of military rationings that had been delivered during the aftermath!!!!!!!

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What in the actual fuck goes on in my mind?? These are actual thoughts that have floated on by and been accepted into my perception of normal behavior.  Like, how does that thought ever get past the gate?  It’s this little fucker of a disease.. the disease of compulsive eating.. the disease that HAS to know the plan for eating, or my whole world gets flipped upside down.  It’s the insanity of the mountains of clothes in various sizes because i will always need each size at some point in the weight loss gain cycle of my life.  It’s the insanity of the pain, torture, mental anguish and self hate that comes with the consequences of compulsive eating.. and yet I still want that fucking chocolate bar… its like russian roulette wrapped in foil every time.  The inner war that comes with this disease drives people to suicide.. every day.  That battle in the mirror every morning.  Am I going to love myself or hate myself today?  Seeing that reflection is certainly a handicap.. but when I look into the mirror.. can I look past the roll of fat? Can I look past the little black hairs that keep growing on my chin.. the same hairs I remember my great gran having… can I look past the scars where blades have severed the skin, and cigarettes have burned holes? Can I look past wrinkles that are beginning to appear around my eyes?  The wrinkles that remind me I’m getting older, and still alone.  Can I look past the tattoos of manic nights where it sounded like a great idea and the missing teeth from drunken brawls?  If I can just get past that, then I have a shot.. because past the looks of my vessel lies my soul.. my heart.. my love for the universe around me.. and that is what’s important.

This was a perfect example to file under “evidence”.   I HAD survived Katrina! I survived without needing those MRE’s.  My higher power had provided a way.  He sent me to work in a store that had small shipments coming in.  A store in a less effected area.  A store with an RV in the parking lot that had a generator or some means of cooling.  My higher power took me out of the trenches to a place that I could be of assistance to others.. and I was!  I went above and beyond extending myself wherever I could, all in the name of rebuilding what we had all lost, and THAT came from my soul.  THAT is what I am made of.  That I would give the shirt off of my back, and I have.. because I know that I will be provided for.  That same higher power will be with me always, providing my needs.. so that I can continue being my purpose.  I won’t check out of this place until my purpose is completely served.. no matter what that road looks like.  For all I know, it could be to write this blog, that someone somewhere needs to read so they don’t jump off a bridge tonight?  Maybe saving that life in this moment is my purpose.. and that’s it.. ?  I personally hope I will be around a lot longer.  I believe that space time continuum carries on no matter what, and the way we are treating our planet.. I’m not sure how many lifetimes I want to stick around for.  What if how we treat this planet in this lifetime, determines the quality of the planet we are born to in the next?

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It’s the deep thinker that I am that I love.. and I hope to attract.. for those long conversations about the what ifs of life.. It is the familiarity of my soul that will attract the right partner to me.. not the exterior.  She is the other half of me, and that’s what matters to me the most.  Having said that, if that were true, then I wouldn’t be so concerned about my weight, and my outer appearance.  Maybe this is my lesson right now.. Learning to love myself unconditionally.. completely.

I sometimes wonder if the life my other half has been dealt this time is that of a straight man in Thailand or something of the sort.  Not all lifetimes are for learning and experiencing love like that tho.  Maybe this lifetime, my lessons are in the distant corners of our world? Maybe I’m not meant to meet a partner, and settle down like everyone else.  Maybe I am meant to make a difference, and leave my legacy???

Well.. if that is the case, then I’d better quit eating spoiled cake frosting, and preparing for Armageddon when it comes to food.. it’s not exactly like i have a stock pile of batteries, bottled water, and flashlights…

Thank God for step Two.. “we came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity” Oh thank goodness!!! I don’t even have to be the one that restores my fucked up mind! My higher power is going to do that for me!  I just have to show up.  I just have to believe that a life outside of compulsive eating is possible for me.  I too, can recover.

 

Tonights artichoke eggplant pizza!

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What about protein?

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Lunch – I made bean soup last night.. And didn’t bother to make rice because I realized.. I only eat rice when it’s a meal that’s “supposed to have rice” .. And I’d much rather save the carbs for something I desire than a “just because”. I added hot sauce and it was good .. But it wasn’t like WOW factor!!!

Today I put some on a tortilla made of organic whole spelt .. On a bed of spinach topped with olives and tomatoes..


Note to self: black olives didn’t taste like they belonged in that one..
If anyone has some bean recipes.. I’m all ears!

#whataboutprotein

Celebrating 18 months of travel today while getting ready to leave for Greece!  Mentally, I’m not where I was when I left for Europe last year, but I’ll be in good company.. Positive thinking.. Picture what I want it to look like.. Getting out there and doing it… Haven’t been wanting to leave my house, so this feels a bit like a mountain.

 


Breakfast was a slam dunk!

 

 I just feel so hungry all the time.. And thirsty.. Sooooo thirsty!

Plant based “bread”!! Thank you Airbnb!

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I love the things I learn from the guests that come thru my home.  Last week I had guests from the mountains of North Carolina.  Seriously.. They are practically living off the grid, and were on a vacation from that lifestyle, into our lifestyle of Netflix with a side of beach.  Diane was so excited to find yucca root here at a bargain price.  

  
I’d seen it at the store, but had no idea how to cook it, or eat it, or what it was! She peeled it, and juiced it to bring the pulp home for tortillas the next day.  

So I decided to try this stuff out for myself..

  

I peeled the root and it produced the juice, the pulp, and a floury consistency inside the blades..

  
Then I made patties with the pulp, and added the floury stuff while heating up coconut oil in a pan.

  

   

Used another pan to heat up my last sneaky chickpea and carrot burger…  

Spread creole mustard on each yucca patty, added spinach, and pickles (I have a lack of mushrooms, and other toppers available at home right now)

Cut it into quarters.. And voila! A complete meal made out of vegetables, roots and beans! What!?!