Sunday, March 27, 2011

How I Choose to Battle Cancer

Over the past few weeks I have given a great deal of thought about  my decision to go public with my disease.  For those closest to me, you know that I am a very private person.   Matters that are sensitive and personal in nature I like to keep to myself or share with family and friends that I feel I am the safest with.  It's not that I keep things completely inside, it's just that I believe there are certain subjects that are sacred, and that my privacy deserves to be protected.  

The fact that I have been so front and center about battling Cancer, as well as exposing many of my fears, and inner demons along the way, has given me reason to pause.

So why did I choose to blog, post photos and publicly discuss my battle?  And why am I finding this process therapeutic and empowering?

In recent years, I experienced a trauma that I found to be very shaming. It tried to rob me of aspects of who I was, and created internal scars that people were unable to see.  This experience left me feeling paralyzed, and unable to access my voice.

I am a social worker- and my job is to advocate.  The fact that I felt so disempowered and unable to speak up for myself, furthered my realization that something significant had been taken from me.  At the time  I was unable and unclear of how I could reclaim that part of my identity. As the scars grew deeper beneath the skin- I retreated. Once I realized what was happening, I started to work through a lot of the emotions surrounding the trauma, and finally was able to start the healing process. I still am upset my by choice to retreat, and I have struggled to come to terms with the pieces of me that were were taken.

When I was diagnosed with Cancer, I wasn't able to point a finger at a person that had caused my disease, or  mistreated me. There was no one to accuse, and no one to be angry at. I am unaware as to  how I contracted Grey Zone Lymphoma, and I have never asked myself why I was chosen.  I still to this day don't feel angry, and I most importantly do not feel ashamed.

I believe the approach that I have taken in handling my disease has a lot to do with my life experiences. I think the tenacity in which I have chosen to fight Cancer, is reflective of the fact that I spent a great deal of time hiding and retreating from my previous experience.   My inability to have a voice at that time, has affected my need  to be more public in discussing this more recent trauma.

I have been thinking a lot about what it means to reclaim my voice and why the power of expression is so important. I had a lengthy conversation with a dear friend who is a writer and she got me thinking about esoteric ideas on why writers write, why artists create, why musicians make music. Writers, artists and musicians all create out of the fear that they wont be read, seen, or heard.  My blog has become a forum in which I am able to express what I feel needs and should be read and heard.

During my chemo recovery period when I inhabit the 600 pound lady that suffocates me and silences me, I am unable to think and speak.  The feeling of voicelessness, and disempowerment is terrifying. When  I eventually leave her body, I contemplate what is it that I wanted to say? What was so important for me to communicate?  I am often unsure about what words or thoughts were actually held hostage at this time.  What I do know is that these feelings coupled with my previous trauma in many ways has lead me to where I am now- talking to you about how I am choosing to battle Cancer.  By discussing such a sensitive subject publicly, I am able to reconnect with the Jenna that was once lost, and that is desperately trying to reclaim her place.

What I am realizing is there is no right or wrong way to handle this disease. Generally people choose to battle their illness in the best way they know how- in the way their life has taught them to do so. You rarely hear about individuals who choose to completely rearrange their life and their perceptive in order to  fight from a different vantage point.

I have always been hard working, positive, and determined. The fight I have waged against Cancer, is driven by the way I have always lived my life. The experiences that I have gone through have further shaped the decisions I have made throughout this journey.

My need to blog and be public about my struggles and my victories is also for you. By going public I have been able to show you the many sides of Cancer, the terror, the joy, the laughter and the sadness. I hope that in doing so I have been able  to make Cancer feel more real and perhaps less scary. I have tried to highlight that there still can be hope, laughter, and blessings within this nightmare.

And finally I write because this blog allows me to connect to you.  At the end of the day this is a very private battle, one that I fight alone. This means that I need you more than ever to make me feel supported and loved.  Your continued support, prayers, cheers, and willingness  to follow me  and connect with my story is perhaps the greatest reason why I continue to write.

My fight is not over- far from that. But at least now, I am enjoying a temporary exhale- which has allowed me  to take a step outside of survival mode and reflect upon how I ended up here.

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