Today, I am okay.
I am writing this today before I get stitches removed from my face. I know I am okay deep in my core, even if I am not actually okay. I went for a normal skin check, thank you heritage and too much sun exposure, and then I heard Basal and the C word, and "we are doing a biopsy right now". I was stunned, but calm, knowing the "spot" wasn't normal for months and then fearing this moment. A pinch, burn, sting, and then driving myself home with my left eye half covered with a bandage. Then, just numb. Let me back up and explain why this is and isn't about cancer.
This last twelve months has been one of the hardest years of my life. Harder than living within a broken home as a little girl and having no idea that that hard wasn't normal. Harder than defying my mother and moving out and into a relationship she didn't approve of. More difficult than that same relationship failing and going through a two-plus year long, ugly divorce. Harder than parenting alone and even more difficult than surviving an abusive relationship for years. More impossible than recovering from the night I was raped. More difficult than battling health issues and family drama, mental health crisis's and living on less money than could stretch to feed us, and all of the uncertainty of life in normal day-to-day. This last 12 months shook me, changed me, and showed me how all of that suddenly seemed to pale in comparison.
To say I am resilient is a fact. I have survived things that should have killed me. But this last year, which contains the absolute hardest night of my life to date, also involves others, so some of it I have yet to open up about in an effort to protect them. In time I will find a way to share but for now, you'll just have to believe me when I say that I felt my life impossible to face under this set of events.
During all of that same time that my life was turning upside down, I was also faced with the wildly overwhelming idea of being on my own, with my son graduating and moving on with his life, and what that meant for me in what really was the first time in my life. I compounded the hardest time in my life with my fake sense of and need to control, the need to make clear who I was in what felt like an early midlife crisis. Good timing eh?
At the lowest point, when I struggled to get through the days I finally hit a place in my life where I could no longer get through alone. I knew I needed help, the kind that my loving family and friends could not provide. Not for lack of want to or effort, but simply because they were too close to be objective and also were supporting me no matter what. (Sidenote, I am eternally grateful for all of your support, you know who you are. Whether a passing conversation or those nearest and dearest on this journey, I appreciate you!) I knew I needed the kind of help that only a professional could direct and finally, finally after all of the hard times and suffering of my life, some even beyond what I touched on above, I decided I was worth it.
I was worth saving. I knew I had more work to do and feeling familiar with rock-bottom meant I was tired of being a rock-bottom frequent flyer/visitor. I knew I could overcome. I knew that my audacious tenacity would eventually pull me through, that years to come I would put in the work and be better for it, all, again. But now, this time, the cost to recover sooner, the desire to use my pain to launch me into this next phase of life was bigger than my concern over affording it. My value was worth every penny I put into getting help, every penny.
After all what good can I do in this world if I allowed this kind of suffering to hold me down? Again, again.
So, I made the decision to make an appointment with a therapist. I had seen several before and I knew that there is always the risk of it not being a fit. I have been to a therapist so bad that the urge to walk out mid-meeting was almost more than I could resist. I have tried therapists who coddle, downplay, judge and underestimate. They all gave me just what I needed to give up on relying on a professional for help, furthering my reluctance to ever need anyone for that matter. They all gave me enough incentive to say, "it is too expensive anyway." Or in other words, I am not worth it. But this time I had faith that I would find someone who would not deter me from the real work that needed to be done. I knew my life needed savings and the cost became an afterthought.
The facts are, that I could say out loud in the most monotone way, what I survived. I had stood in front of over one hundred people and told my story. And yet, I still had not felt my way through the traumas of my life. I disconnected feeling and emotion from the happenings of my life in an effort to numb, to survive. And it had served a purpose at some points. Unfortunately, it also became a habit.
But now, this time, this situation, was in the heart of my heart something I could no longer numb to. It was blaring in my face, "TRACY JEAN!!!! You have work to do. You cannot keep going this way. You have to get better, learn better, DO BETTER! You cannot give what you do not have! And, the last sip of you is never as good as the first of a full cup!" And so I found my person to help. Actually, within a few weeks, I found two. I found my therapist and my life coach. And when I say they helped me save my life, I mean it with all of the conviction I can muster.
My therapist, I came by through local word of mouth, my life coach, well I found him on Instagram funny enough. (He is also an amazing writer Thought Catalog so go check him out: Jeremy Goldberg, @longdistancelovebombs.) Let me say here that in my weakest moments something told me there was more for me in this business of helping others. So, I needed help but I also knew in order to become like my heroes, to fulfill my desires and passions for giving back, I needed to also learn from them. It was a faint voice under the tormented days but it was there, none the less.
Therapy is reparative and helps you heal the past in order to move forward, coaching is the acceptance of the past with the directive of massive forward momentum. Healing and recovery plus goals and direction. In the overlap is the present and also the action. I knew I had my team. My family, my friends and this dynamic duo, completely unknown to each other were and are magnifying my worth and value, helping me, holding my pain in their hearts and encouraging my change. This unearthing of who I am meant to be. Besides my sons' mom, besides a broken girl, beyond all of the things that happened to me.
This recipe of humans enabling my ability to succeed.
I started the work, realizing it is never really done, I became my own accountability partner. Reading, immersing myself in everything I could to saturate my mind in the fuel that helped direct me, propel me, drive me through the acknowledgment, the facing, the overcoming and into the best me I have been yet.
It wasn't pretty on a lot of days, in fact, sometimes the monumental tasks kept me in bed, or shut down, or with a feeling of being a spinning top with more questions than answers. But then other days would bring a breakthrough and I found myself a step ahead of my pain, shoulder to shoulder with all of my experiences rather than them strapping me down as they had previously. I was working through it. I was getting up and pushing into all of the dark corners and connecting the dots where there was once only blank space. This puzzle of all of what makes me, me, was taking shape. There was no loud bang, no poof and a cure. It was in the constant and consistent connection to myself, meditations, journaling, reading, showing up for my appointments and myself. The day-to-day, one foot in front of the other, one breath at a time AND the grace in which I faced my failures. My grace allows me to be human, to know it is okay to not have it all together, all the time. It gifts me with the softness I need to recover and heal.
Throughout these past few months, I have come so far. My therapist helped me give me back my worth, my validation of events, my heart connected to soul and life. She helped me give myself back all of the grace I so easily handed out to others, she helped me forgive myself years after letting others off the hook so easily. My coach, Jeremy, man he exploded my brain so many times and still does. He helped me undo past damage but sent me forward with new perspectives that have helped me change my life. He guided me to my own truths and answers without judgment. He allowed me to shout my truths at the top of my lungs and then say, "job well done!" Together they have empowered me to rewrite my story. My way. I cannot change this life up to now but I absolutely can grasp this life and make it mine with audacious resiliency.
All good stuff and liberating, overcoming, strength, resiliency-based brain power! And then my body went, "Oh hey brain, good job! Well done, I am so proud of you... but uh we need some love now too."
Circling back around, I realized to the detriment of my health I had neglected really taking care of me. Not on purpose, not in a malicious way. But in the simple disregard in making an appointment a year earlier when I first noticed the spot on my face as an example.
I am writing this now, before I know the results because I truly, unwaveringly know and believe that I am okay. Better than that I am chock full of this life and even if there is another obstacle to face because they are bound to come, I trust myself and feel secure in my ability to get through. I can face things with all of the strength that has its basin and foundation in the depths of my pains... which is deep Y'all! I have work to do.
As always, I am not reaching out, also read as spilling my guts, for anything in return. My only hope is to reach those who need the encouragement today. To possibly fall into the inbox or be read on a post by someone I can help. This is not about comparison, just my story. My story being spoken loud enough so that those it can reach hear it with a compassionate hug of "me too".
Life is tough, but you are worth it.
My head is still spinning, the results were not good, BUT I AM STILL OKAY! I have been diagnosed with Basal Cell Carcinoma, but before your head starts to spin too, it is the best kind of skin cancer to have. It is very common, slow moving, and once removed it should be gone from my body completely. The reality of it's outcome, it being super common, it being curable and figure-out-able does bring a little relief.
Am I scared? Of course.
Has it fully sank in? Not really. And I am sure there will be emotionally charged moments, questions, and the fogginess I felt as the words from my doctor settled over me. I will be sure to continue to share and spill my guts here about it all in the future.
Do I know I will be okay and still mean everything I wrote yesterday? ABSOLUTELY.
I have cancer, I am going to face it with every ounce of strength and resiliency that has grown from within me through all of my experience up to this point.
I am a warrior. Today, I am okay.
PSA - Stop using your skin as payment to worship the sun. I spent half of my teens with sun-in and baby oil during my summers and my twenties in a tanning bed. I love the feeling I get from enjoying the sun and being tan... but if I have to look like Casper to keep doing this life, so be it. SUNSCREEN is your friend! Use it!