November: Expressing Gratitude

Transformation, Resurrection, and Gratitude

There is much healing to be found in belonging to oneself, in belonging everywhere and nowhere at once. To find peace in a moment and find that peace reflected in the hearts around you is to pass that peace amidst a universe of chaos.

Well, I showed up for my appointment, and panic hit as I walked through the door of the exam room. It was like time slowed and a switch flipped, like trying to stream a movie in HD with all the roommates using the Wi-Fi, and then the power goes out. I rambled all my worst-case-possible -scenarios to the doctor that comes to gauge my state of being before seeing my gyn-oncologist.  She listened to my many concerns, helped me parse out what I needed to share and what was out of proportion. 

And then I waited, and waited, and waited, and tried to sort myself out. Then finally, I saw my oncologist. She listened to my panicked concerns and assertively countered my panic with reassurances that I am “doing well”. I left the appointment feeling that I was panicked for no reason, and I was unhelpful during my UCSF appointment. I think that my doctor must think the worst of me – that I am the overwhelming reactive patient that blows things out of proportion, and that she has more important emergent patients to deal with. I am wasting her time. The tension of panic fills my lower abdomen, as I write this story. This is the story I build in my head as I leave my appointment.

Humans are hardwired for story, and this is the story I am telling myself; this is my shitty first draft. This is the story that I make​ ​up to fill in the missing data points to control uncertainty.

But the story can be rewritten.

I showed up to my appointment with all my concerns; I was open, honest, and vulnerable. I showed up and laid bare all my fears because cancer still strikes fear in my heart. Logically, I know I’ll be in amazing hands if I ever experience recurrence. Yet, my brain wants to follow the conditioned pathways: thinking and ruminating. I fear recurrence because I enjoy my quality of life. I fear weight gain because of not knowing what caused the cancerous growths. I fear uncertainty because I was not fully staged during my operation.

My story can still be written; this can be the beginning, middle, and end all wrapped into one.

Sharing my rewritten story with others who share my concerns showed me that I am “OK”, and my appointment went well. I still feel a bit off, a bit distracted, and unmotivated. I am tired, but I am following through. I’ve been reminded that I may feel like UCSF isn’t paying close attention, but I have the agency to speak up. I have a spectrum of support. I can email and reach out with my concerns. I can follow up with my primary doctor with other health concerns. I can make small changes along the way for myself. And I am.

Not all health concerns are life-threatening, but for the past several years they have felt pretty darn close. I am still figuring myself out. I am unlearning and healing 30 years of conditioning, trauma, and pain. I celebrate that I have come a long, long way in the last five or six years. It’s hard enough to survive cancer; I don’t need to be harder on myself, but I do need to rewrite my story.

Prompt 1: How did I get to this version of me? What is the story I tell myself? Is this the beginning, middle, or end of my story?

Prompt 2: Gratitude writing from The Story You Need to Tell by Sandra Marinella, MA. Gratitude writing is taking the time to regularly express what you are grateful for. Our brains recognize the pattern of story “the beginning, the middle, and end”, so when we practice gratitude writing we are helping hardwire our sense of safety, health, and overall well-being. Write about what you are grateful for today.

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