Saturday, February 5, 2011
A Life in Transition
What do you do when you've been diagnosed with a life threatening disease? Well, I was diagnosed with Leukemia at the end of November 2010. My first experience was denial.The doctors were just wrong and should have been talking to someone else. I thought, "This is another person's reality and future and not mine!" That frame of mind didn't last very long. With my admittance to the hospital and the nurses and doctors talking to me about MY Leukemia diagnosis, denial was no longer an option. After wards came anger. I do anger very well. I went through all of the "why me"," I'm not ready to go", "this doesn't fit into my life" diatribes. This stage was also fairly brief. I didn't want to take my diagnosis out on my family and friends. Then came fear. Fear was very difficult: "My kids, my grandson won't do well without a mother. My husband needs me. I'm not ready to go (also fits in nicely here too). My art is not yet fully developed. I need to travel further down my artistic road. What is going to happen to my dream of buying that Double Shotgun house in New Orleans?" Finally came acceptance. Well those doctors and nurses kept coming to me with my meds, updates on my condition. I knew there was no denying it was my disease and my present reality and future.
What do you do when you've been diagnosed with a life threatening disease? Well, I see that you only have two options: one is positive and the other is negative. Let's start with the negative. The negative is where you fight the doctors on every poking and prodding, every med you take with side effects. You ooze negativity in every dealing you have with your doctors and nurses. You are a VICTIM of the disease. Well, I didn't go that route. It just didn't work for me. I chose the positive acceptance. My attitude is: "Okay, here I am. This is not fun but I am strong enough to get through this. I will endure the tests, the meds, the sleep deprived nights, a bald head. I will keep the fear and anger at bay. I want to endure this journey because I want to survive this disease. Leukemia will not take me away from my family, friends and my art. I have too much to live for and THAT is the reason I will survive this disease.
What do you do when you've been diagnosed with a life threatening disease? Well, what I've learned is you listen to your doctors and nurses when they have information to pass on to you about your disease. You ask questions. You question their methods when necessary and you take notes. You make friends with your caretakers which helps with receiving the best care possible. You become your best advocate. You also accept the good and bad days. You will experience some of each. If you have a bad day, know that all you have to do is face it, accept it was difficult and that tomorrow you can start over again. I've taken on the 12 Steppers motto of: "One Day at a Time." It works.
What do you do when you've been diagnosed with a life threatening disease and you have 5 more months of treatment? You relish the good news. I'm currently in remission. My blood cell levels (red, white and platelets) are normal now. When I first went into the hospital they were at dangerously low levels. You take one day at a time. You work on your patience level. You also enjoy the love and support of your family and friends. My family and friends have been integral in my recovery. I have been enveloped by their love and support.
I'm at home now as I write this. My house is one bright sanctuary with bright orange walls and artwork. After my initial 3 week stay at the hospital in December, I was astounded by my home. It is not fancy or expensive but it feels like a place where a family lives. There is love here.
Next week I go back into the Oncology Clinic at UCSF to have more tests. Once the tests are in, I return to the hospital for another series of chemo.
This is my life for the next five months and I accept it.
As for now, I have a new outlook on my family and friends. They are so important to me. My work can wait for a few more months and by then I will have many things to express.
p.s. The artwork above is from a street artist who painted this on a garage door in the Mission. Its pretty darn FAB!