Let That S*&T Go
I am done with cancer. I’m ready to move on to other things, whether I have cancer or not. I’m also done writing about it, at least for now. I’ve told you most of the story, but the next part of this journey doesn’t have anything to do with cancer anymore. It was caused by it, but cancer is no longer the central character, thank God.
I was really not happy last fall when I found out I may have more time on this planet than I thought. I was angry that everyone else was celebrating and happily moving on while I couldn’t. It felt like I was outside my own party and couldn’t get in the door. Or maybe it was me, just sitting outside pouting and refusing to enter in. I was more than a little confused about what in the hell was going on. I had put all this work into getting to the point of acceptance, being comfortable with the idea that I was going to die. I had worked through the grief and pain, the trauma and the loss, to get to the place of acceptance. I was finally feeling happy and at peace and didn’t want to let that go. What happens when the news turns bad again? It’s like being on a ride at the fair that you can’t get off of, even though you desperately want to and need to before you lose your lunch.
What was all of this for if I’m not going to die? I know it sounds weird to say that I was mad about NOT dying, but that's how I felt. I was pretty confused about the whole thing.
While all of this was going on I also decided to try a high dose cannabis protocol. Cannabis has a lot of cancer-fighting properties, and when taken at a high dose over a prolonged period of time, it can help your body to recognise cancer cells and start killing them off, at least that’s what some people say. When it was first suggested to me I didn’t want to do it. It can’t possibly be that easy to cure cancer! But there was also the “what if it works?” So I decided to give it a try. The friend who suggested it had contacts, and a pound of cannabis was provided to me free of charge, so I figured what the heck, it can’t hurt, so I’ll give it a shot.
It took me about a month to work up to one gram of cannabis per day. For those of you not in the know, most people take about 5 - 10 milligrams. One gram is 1000 milligrams, which means I was taking 100 - 200 times the average dose. Believe me, that is A LOT. I was in a local cannabis store a few months ago and when I told the staff there how much I usually take they looked at me with a kind of respect that I haven’t felt in a long time - I was a rock star!
After I reached the point where I could handle one gram a day without greening out I stayed at that level for another four or five weeks. I would take half of my dose in the evening before bed and then sleep about ten hours. Glenn would wake me up long enough in the morning to swallow the other half, and I’d sleep all day and drag myself out of bed around four in the afternoon, long enough to shower and think about making dinner before Glenn got home from work. I say think about making dinner, because most days that’s all I was up for - just thinking about it. I had virtually no social life because I was high all of the time. When we did go out all I could do was sit and drool the whole time. I couldn’t take part in any conversation because I wasn’t able to follow anything anyone was saying. I also spent a few days feeling totally paranoid, looking suspiciously at everyone around me.
Those few months were much harder on Glenn than they were on me. I was sleeping all the time so there wasn’t a whole lot of communication going on, and he was left to carry the weight of everything on his own.
Then one day I made the mistake of eating something I shouldn’t and ended up back in the hospital with another bowel obstruction. I sat in a chair in the emergency room, terrified of possibly being infected with COVID and not being able to stop throwing up. I did warn my nurses that I had been on a high-dose cannabis diet for a while, but they didn’t seem to think it was a big deal. I don’t think they realised just how much I had been taking, but after a few days of going cold turkey I was a mess. Add to that the fact that I was being pumped full of multiple drugs and going five nights with very little sleep, and you can imagine the state that I was in when I was finally discharged. I had spent the last two nights in hospital wandering the halls all night long, and was about to lose my marbles. I just didn’t know it yet.
After the ups and downs of believing that I was going to die, then finding out that I wasn’t, then being in the hospital and wanting to be put out of my misery, then changing my mind again, I finally lost it. I had a complete meltdown.
My first night home from the hospital I decided I needed to get right back to the high dose cannabis. I was afraid that I hadn’t been taking it long enough for it to have any effect on my tumour, so I wanted to get right back to it. I decided I would take half the dose that I had been taking, ignoring Glenn’s advice to take it slower. I woke up at least three or four times that night with night terrors. I'd wake up screaming at the top of my lungs and poor Glenn would have to wake me up and talk me down off whatever ledge I was on, after having been woken up by my screaming and having a heart attack himself.
I realised pretty quickly after that experience that I needed professional help. I was so messed up in my head that I really didn’t know which way was up, but I also saw that I was now hurting my husband and kids. They were scared for me because I wasn’t in my right mind, even thinking that maybe the cancer had gone to my brain and was affecting how I was acting. When I was finally aware enough to realise I was out of control I asked Glenn to hide my phone and give me my journal, and I started writing everything down instead of phoning someone on my contact list and sharing whatever profound bit of news I had to share. And if you were one of those people that I called or texted last October, I’m sorry, just know that I wasn’t in my right mind!
Sometimes when I think of everything I did and said during those few weeks I am overwhelmed by shame. It is so far removed from the controlled person that I had been. I’ve spent most of my adult life being carefully buttoned-down, and then to act like that and cause hurt to my husband and kids , it’s sometimes too much. But then I think of everything I’ve had to endure over the last four years and think “of course you had a break from reality - who wouldn’t?” They've forgiven me, but I find that I still have to forgive myself again and again.
I finally got up enough nerve to read what I had written in my journal during that time, and there were some really profound, insightful thoughts there, so maybe my texts and phone calls weren’t as off-the-wall as I had feared. Fingers crossed.
When I woke up the morning after the night terrors I was in quite a state. I had all of these painful memories popping into my head, things that I had buried deep inside from long ago, and I couldn’t control it. I called all of my Doctors for help but couldn’t reach anyone, and finally called my friend Dave, who reminded me to not fight against the memories, but to welcome them in and sit with them. To ask them what they want me to see or learn, to face them and feel them and then let them go when I'm ready.
I found a new therapist shortly after that, feeling like I needed someone I didn’t know and wasn’t friends with in my everyday life, so I could feel free to talk about whatever came up, and also a woman. It always amazes me how just talking honestly with someone about stuff helps. That’s really all that happens during a therapy session, you talk about what’s bothering you and then the therapist asks one question that makes you think about things in a different light. I usually left my therapy sessions thinking “Why didn’t I think of that?”. I guess it’s true: sometimes you can’t see the forest for the trees.
It took about two or three months to feel ‘normal’ again (what is normal, anyway?). I was listening to a podcast today while I was walking, and whoever I was listening to (chemo brain, I can’t remember) said something about the importance of going back and releasing the things that are holding you back, or anchoring you in place, before you can move on or grow, and I found that to be absolutely true.
There is one part of my first mushroom trip that I’ve never talked about to anyone, because I didn’t understand what it meant. I kept circling back to a little girl, sitting in a train station, tired from her journey and not wanting to keep going. It was clearly me, but what did it all mean?
Then it hit me a week or two ago. It was a call to me to go back and find that little girl, that carefree, silly and adventurous part of me that I had locked away a long time ago when the pressures and expectations of adulthood had taken over.
I also spent some time in that train station, metaphorically speaking. I put the baggage down that I had been carrying with me for so long. I spent time looking through it, deciding what was worth carrying with me and what I needed to let go of and leave behind.
Therapy helped me to do that, and that’s why I can honestly say that I’m so thankful for the journey. I have found myself again, and I really like what I’ve found.
More next week!
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