Unravel Cancer: Experiences with family battling cancer: October 2009
31 October 2009
18:25   Sponsor

My sponsor left a message for me today saying she didn't want to work with me anymore. It's very sad.

She was one of the first people I met in my 12-step group that seemed to have something different than all the rest. Instead of having problems, she had solutions. The first time I met her, she was a speaker at a meeting I was attending regularly. Her share blew me away. People say you should ask someone to be your sponsor if they have something you want. Well, she had it.

She had hope, compassion, drive, and a method to working the steps that seemed radically different, and more active, than anything else I'd heard of before.

By being dishonest with her, I ruined my chance of experiencing the great recovery she has. Many program friends have said, one sponsor is not the end-all, be-all to the program. Everyone has something to teach.

With this sponsor, I felt like I was truly healing my past, cleansing myself of the hurt & pain I caused other people, and re-programming my heart to operate on a level closer to my Higher Power. It was so terrifying to admit what I was hiding. But, that one action, has brought me closer to God more than anything.

What's so sad for me, though, is that I feel there is so much more for me to learn from her. My eyes were finally opened to just how much my life becomes unmanageable when I date someone. My fears, resentments, assumptions, and past pain surface so quickly, causing my dating partner a lot of emotional harm.

My sponsor suffered from these same problems; now I'll never know how she overcame them. My fear is that I'll continue to wallow in this crazy dating pattern time & time again. I truly felt like my sponsor had found a way to break that cycle of madness with romantic relationships. I guess I"ll have to figure it out on my own.

It's also sad for me that she couldn't use this experience as grist for the mill. The last 2 weeks have been such a wealth of new understanding about myself, my disease of alcoholism, and how it affects my relationships, that it's a shame those lessons can't be brought into the fold of work with this sponsor.

There's a feeling of dread & doom lurking over my shoulders. It's been hard to shake this notion that I screwed my own self over, and my chance to recover & heal. What was I thinking?

I was thinking that this boy was really charming, that he was sweet & nice, that he really cared for me, and that "this time would be different". Somehow, I thought I could prove my sponsor wrong, that I wasn't as screwed up as she was. Instead, it was a very large #fail.

All I can do is move on, and trust that my HP has something else in store for me. My relationship with this sponsor had been rough-going quite often. But, it did humble me. Maybe now I can truly submit to my HP's plan. Maybe some wonderful amazing things will happen as a result! Who knows...

Meanwhile, it's time to shop around for another sponsor. The thought of starting the steps all over again is a true bummer. But, I have to do it. I can't stop now...

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27 October 2009
11:54   Blame

Boy, I almost got stuck in a quagmire of blame on that last post. Thankfully the ODAAT was in my desk drawer, and I remembered to crack it open. I looked up "blame" in the index, and read all the entries. These golden nuggets are from those pages.

--"On this day I promise God and myself that I will let go of the problem which is destroying my peace of mind. I pray for detachment from the situation..." (pg. 3)

--"Now I'm learning to look squarely at each difficulty, not seeking whom to "blame" but to discover how my attitude helped to create my problem or aggravate it. I must learn to face the consequences of my own actions and words, and to correct myself when I am wrong. Accepting responsibility is essential to becoming mature. There is no advantage, no profit, no growth, in deceiving myself merely to escape the consequences of my own mistakes." (pg. 78)

--"The bad moments will pass if I do not blow them up into tragedies. ...can help me accept these shocks with equanimity and send me on my way to a better tomorrow." (pg.147)

--"...we can get unlimited benefits from changing our way of thinking. Let's stop throwing blame around. What would happen if we stopped blaming anyone for anything? We would experience miracles of tolerance and grace - rich spiritual rewards, reflected in a life of real fulfillment. Whom have I the right to blame? Let me concentrate on keeping my own conduct from being at fault; more I cannot do." (pg. 268)

--"How great is the human need for a scapegoat, someone or something to blame for our disappointments. I must realize that every time I feel someone has offended or injured me, at least part of my unhappiness is due to the way I reacted. Much that happens to me, good or bad, is self-created. Blaming others for what happens to me would keep me at a spiritual standstill." (pg. 347)

These ideas can apply to all things, like the cancer that strikes a family member, or a passionate tryst with a young fellow, or failure for the home designate to take out the garbage on time, etc., etc.

Hope they are helpful for all of you.

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11:11   Promotion

Right now I'm terribly wrought with emotion. So much so, I don't know what to do except start writing.

I made a few program calls, but wasn't able to reach anyone. Maybe I should keep trying... Most people are at work now, though.

I found out today I lost out on a promotion at work. I didn't even know I was in the running for one. It went to another guy that deserves it, mostly, although I've never been a fan of his style. But on the whole, I'm happy for him.

The reason my boss stated was that I still needed to "work on things", like my time management, and meetings. This was a reference to the meeting I dialed-in late for while at the boi's house fooling around instead of working.

I can't even begin to tell you how badly I want to walk over to his office & just hit him. Obviously I played a role in this too. I admit that. But, I wasn't the person who tried to hi-jack him away from his work, and kept the groping going on with minutes to spare. He even looked at my phone's clock, and kept me flat on the bed when it was 3 minutes to the hour. Turns out my phone clock was off by a few minutes. I dialed in 5 minutes late on a call with two of the top executives of the company.

I'm also angry at myself. Why didn't I put my foot down harder? Why didn't I say no, and insist on going into the office in between those two meetings? I knew how important it was. I was scared I might hit traffic and not dial-in on time, or at least that's what I said in my mind to justify staying with him.

I wanted to please him, and make him happy. I didn't want him to be upset that I was "putting up walls" like he complained I was. How co-dependent is that? What the hell happened to me that day?

Blaming him or me won't get either of us anywhere. Fact is, we both screwed up. We both let our lust & passion get the better of us. We were both selfish: he was selfishly after my body, and I was selfishly letting him.

This is one of the most challenging mistakes I've had to accept in the last few years. I've been on a steadily improving career path for quite some time now, mostly as a result of working a 12-step program. Today is a very humbling day.

Despite my blood-thirsty rage, at the end of the day, there must be a bigger reason for all this. Everything will work out in the end. I have to trust that more will be revealed, and that my Higher Power has my back on this. Otherwise, I run the risk of going postal in his building, and specifically, in his aisle. This is an incredibly painful & difficult lesson.

But, at least I'm learning something. I'm learning to not trust the youthful exuberance of a 28-year old kid. I'm learning to not fall victim to someone's attention just because I feel lonely. I've learned to see when two personalities aren't a match for one another much earlier.

Also, I've learned to see the bright side. My boss really does want to help me, and I believe he is sincere in that. He said he talked with the HR guy about ways to help me improve my skills in the areas he feels I need it. Anybody who is willing to work with someone to help them be a better person is a good guy in my book.

In fact, as I broke the news of the "no more boi" story to my roommate last night, we talked about how what I really want is a partner who will help me improve myself, and offer me an opportunity to improve him. That element wasn't present with me & this boi. I never felt he had my best interests at heart. It only seemed like his interests were at the forefront of his mind, especially his physical interests.

My boss said he'd try to get me more money, at least. When I told him I was more interested in getting another person hired, he was sheepish in his reply of "we're working on it". If we don't hire another person, then maybe it's just as well. I don't have the bandwidth to try & train someone. Maybe what I'll do instead is try to take that finance class he offered, and just start looking for new jobs in Chicago, since I already felt compelled to move there. That'll take up at least 6 months.

The last time I lost out on a promotion, it was more about politics, not about my screw-ups. I was able to say to myself, "Ok, self. You better work so hard & well that the next time a position comes up, they won't think _twice_ about not promoting you." And, that's exactly what happened.

So, I can do the same now. I've drastically improved my time management since my boss yelled at me 2 weeks ago, and he even took notice of that today. If I keep steady-on, I won't be overlooked for the next promotion.

The blindness-inducing rage has diminished significantly. Wish me luck.

And, will someone please help me remove all the sharp objects in my office, just in case?

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26 October 2009
00:29   On my way home

For the second time this year, I arrived back in Oakland from visiting my mom and wanted to cry.

She's really not doing well. Probably she'll never be fully abled again. She's walking much better now, and doesn't need a cane. Her medication to stop the tremors on the right side of her body is really helping a lot.

But, there is much she can't do, like make her bed, clip her fingernails, and sit for any length of time. The sitting part is due to her substantial weight loss. Essentially, her butt fell off. So, now all the chairs feel uncomfortable. It's time to get her a butt pillow, to carry with her everywhere...

It's silly, but also sad. I helped her with a lot of stuff this weekend. We shopped at Kohl's for some much needed "shuffleboard outfits", which she likes to call that casual wear that's one step up from a tracksuit, but still is a matching pant & jacket set.

She hasn't asked me directly to move back to Chicago. She doesn't want me to give up my life or my career for her. But, it's really hard for me to see my oldest brother (not the cancer one) get stressed out at her all the time, for no reason. It's painful to hear that she is left out of their family plans until the last minute. Nobody likes to be ignored.

I don't know what I'm gonna do. I can't take care of her 24/7. She needs a home healthcare person to help with fingernails, and other grooming items. But, now there's a question on whether she can afford it.

I spent a night & a day in downtown Chicago for a conference, before my family visit in the suburbs. Even though the weather was poop, there were so many people in the South Loop! The neighborhood has really changed. I walked up to the Art Institute Friday afternoon, because I heard there was a new modern wing that opened up. It was fabulous! Almost better than the art, the view on the 3rd floor of Millennium park & the skyline behind was stunning. The architects did a great job of allowing that view in. Lots of big windows to gaze out at the fall colors in the park, and the majestic city beyond. All my favorite buildings were still there...

For the first time since I left home, I felt the calling to return home. Even though the Loop is only one small part of Chicago, it reignited a long-dulled flame in my heart for the city. It's why I lived in San Francisco for 12 years. Yet, the cool thing about Chicago, is you can easily find a neighborhood close to the action that's more residential & quiet, with single family homes even. My Aunt & Uncle live in a neighborhood like that. It's quite similar to where I live now in Oakland. I often comment to people how Oakland reminds me so much of Chicago.

Anyway, it just might be that I spend the next year climbing every rock I can find, so that I can get my fill. For when I return to Chicago, there won't be any rocks there.

"How will you get your fix?", you ask. Well, I'll just have to open my own climbing gym... :)

This is all just off-the-cuff emotional unloading since my return. But, still, the desire to be close to my mom, and my nieces is pretty strong. And, I'd really like to have a family of my own. There are just so many more eligible men there, men who know how to ask a woman on a real, actual date.

I saw a young couple in a cafe I had stopped at in the city, on a first date. The young man was so excited to talk to this girl. He was asking her all about herself, and really enjoying the things she said. Say what you want about dudes and their agenda, but he seemed really sweet & tuned into her. It was a lovely site.

Knowing my crazy self, it won't work out like that for me, but at least I'll have a better shot, in a city with cool dudes, like Chicago. All the dudes I met at the small climbing gym in Homewood seemed super down-to-earth, and cool.

So, like many things, we'll see...

PS: Did I mention the fall colors? Oh, man! They were so beautiful. Hearing the leaves crunch under my feet as I walked down the street brought me so much joy! I had forgotten how amazing a Midwestern Autumn is.

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22 October 2009
21:53   Perspective

My friends, both in and out of my 12-step program, are the most amazing people on the planet. I’m so truly lucky & blessed to have these people in my life.

Last weekend, an incident happened with a person I was dating for about 6 weeks. After he left, I felt gut-wrenched, and called a dear friend, whom I admire & respect, especially when it comes to relationships. She’s like a personal Dr. Ruth!

After I explained the situation, she helped bring some things to light for me. When we hung up, my heart sank to the pit of my belly. I realized what had happened and what I needed to do. But, I told myself to sleep on it, and see how I felt in the morning.

The next morning, I woke with a start, and the first thought in my head was, “I can’t see this person anymore. I’m repeating the same patterns of all my past relationships. This is unhealthy madness, and I need to stop it, if I have any chance at completing the steps.”

From there, the whole rest of the day was spent with mind a-spin, testing out one script after another, editing, cutting out sentences or words, to whittle my thoughts down into what I wanted to say.

I grabbed him for 15 min on the way out of work (yes, unfortunately, we work at the same company. Different departments, though, thankfully). I can’t recall being so nervous in a long while; later it occurred to me I didn’t know how he would react, so I was nervous and a little scared.

Now for some horn tooting: I expressed myself clearly, and articulately, without judgment, scorn or shame on him. I told him what I had done wrong, and apologized sincerely for it.

In his characteristic style, he didn’t respond much at all – a veiled facial expression at best. That was fine with me. I didn’t care at that point. What mattered was I put an end to a modus operendi that had been flourishing, not for lack of my emotional fertilizer, for most of my dating life. Part of my nervousness resulted in knowing just how big a deal this was.

For this time around, my self-destructive and relationship-destructive behavior came to the forefront. I recognized how self-obsessed I am about my feelings in relation to another person’s action. Constantly nit-picking at someone what I don’t like about their actions, consequently making their actions all about me, would drive any halfway sane person to madness. I did this.

Adding to the mix, is the fact I kept my clandestine dating away from my sponsor. All of me and the boi’s interactions where behind my sponsor’s back. Just like the fellow in the Big Book that thinks drinking whiskey with milk won’t affect him, so to I fell into the same “it can’t possibly happen to me” mentality.

Beyond risking my step-work, my relationship to my sponsor, as well as my relationship to my Higher Power, I also risked my job. At one point the addiction to lust was so great, I dialed-in late to a very important meeting, with executives attending, because the boi & I were fooling around one morning at his place instead of working. My boss read me the riot act. The next week, again exhausted from a late night at his house, I was late for another meeting. I thought I’d lose my job.

All this for a boi.

Now the perspective of my foolishness has come into the light. Now my understanding of the disease of alcoholism has revealed its scaly underbelly to me. Now I know just how truly sick I am.

Don’t take this the wrong way – I’m not self-flagellating in a co-dependent way. Obviously the boi played a part in this too. But how much of his actions were a result of my mad selfishness? How much did his ugly side come out as a result of my manipulation & judgment?

One of my program friends said that we attract people that are the same emotional level as us. The sting of this truth could only be healed with spiritual Neosporin. (Deosporin?) At the end of the day, in looking at all my failed romantic relationships, the common denominator was me. After all sorts of guys, from all walks of life, dating me was the only thread throughout.

By the grace of a Power greater than myself, it is now plainly in my vision the lack of respect I have for myself, the ways I slip into physical intimacy so easily, and my selfish handling of requests of my time. I’ve hurt a lot of people, including myself.

The other challenge I face, is women all around me seem to not have this problem. They can hop in the sack with someone fairly early on and still develop a relationship based on that. My desire for old-fashioned courtship seems out-of-touch. Maybe what drove me to this tryst was the fear that if I asked for what I really wanted, I wouldn’t get it. If I had asked him to put the entire relationship on ice, he’d say no. But what if he had said yes? What if I gave him the opportunity to be chivalrous & respectful? Maybe he would have walked down that path… And, maybe we’d be in a totally different place right now - one of mutual respect and understanding.

And if he had said no, Eff ‘em.

My only hope is that gaining this perspective can lead me to healing & peace, a life truly without fear. Now that the thick moat of Denial has been sieged, and the castle walls of my self-absorption are crumbling, maybe these character defects will truly be removed.

And a gracious, humble, and love-filled Thank You to my friends for your support, and help in giving me perspective.

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18 October 2009
13:39   Today's Climbing

A strange thing happened at the gym this morning...

I was looking for a climbing partner after bouldering, and a guy in a nice couple said I could join him & his girlfriend. Turns out, I went on a climbing date with him a couple years ago. It didn't work out. He seemed kinda controlling, and really weird when we tried to make another meetup to climb outdoors.

But, he's been dating this nice gal for about a year, and they seem to be happy! He seemed mellow & great, not agro & egotistical like when I met him before.

The girlfriend was nice, and she told me she started climbing because otherwise she would never see her beau. Turns out she had tried it once before, and loved it, but didn't know how to meet others & get better. (Seems like a case of shyness to me, since climbers are generally friendly folk & like to help newbies) Anyway, the dude taught her everything she knew, which an observer could tell, because she climbed all with muscle & not much technique. Doh...

But, this instance reminded me of a convo with some friends of mine in town last Tuesday. When I mentioned I was dating, my pal from CO was aghast (!) that the guy was not a climber. Yup, shocking as it might seem, I'm not dating a climber. He said if he ever wanted to travel on an overseas trip, it would be to climb, so he couldn't share it with his girlfriend if she didn't climb. My other pal said he thought that was ok, because it's good to have a thing you do outside of the relationship. He said it's good for a person to be passionate about something.

Both sides have great points that I agree with. My story is that I tried to date a climber here or there, but it didn't work out. It often was hard to listen to the guy instruct me & school me. If I had learned of something different or wanted to try something new, it became a point of tension. One guy was really patronizing, talking to me like I was 5 years old. :( At the end of the day, the high level of controlling behavior and extreme opinionated-ness, killed the romance.

I've also tried to date non-climbers recently, and that's hard too. My recent boi expressed his observation about my addiction to climbing. He said I was "obsessed". Since all the evidence pointed to that, I had to concede, albeit sheepishly.

What's making it hard, is he is the type of person that demands my full attention all the time. When we are together, it's not satisfying to him if we're in the same room just reading, or doing chores & chatting. He wants me on his lap & riveted on him. While this is really fun, it's also made it hard for me to get all my stuff done.

More on the hardness of relationships in a few.

Meanwhile, I'm not sure what to do. I'm trying to make more time for him, primarily by doing less yoga. That has now come back to haunt me in a right hip pain that won't quit. Not to worry - it's the same one that surfaces when I'm stressed, under slept, too active, and not taking care of myself...

I'm also trying to suggest non-active things to do together, like a play or a show. At the beginning, he suggested lots of stuff too. But, since 12-step meetings & climbing are essential to my mental health, he's backed off.

Now I wonder if we'll survive. I really like this person, and think he's great in so many ways. The more we talk, the more we stay open & strive to get to know one another, the happier I become. I just hope we can find a way to keep spending time with each other, while not having to compromise a core part of the other's life.

So, we carry on. I pray, I ask my Higher Power for help, and to take away the spinning craziness in my mind about this, and just accept whatever is meant to be. It's hard to let go, but that's the only way for _me_ to be at peace, and for our budding romance to have a chance.

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01 October 2009
08:56   Rollercoaster: Mom

As blogged before, my mom was in the hospital in recent weeks for Parkinsonian-like tremors on the right side of her body. For two weeks, she was in an intensive rehab place, to help her get back to caring for herself. She's had to re-learn how to fold clothes, dress herself, bathe, etc. She's now back at my brother's house.

I can't imagine how demoralizing this might be for her. She's one tough cookie. Two brain tumors in a year and a half, one cancerous, plus the cancer of her son...it's amazing she hasn't gone postal.

So, I want to have compassion and forgiveness for her. But this was quite an emotional rollercoaster...

I called her a few days after she'd been in rehab to check on her. Her voice was slurred and she seemed out of it. She said it was a new drug to stop the shaking. Later on, after she left, she told me of an incident with a really crabby nurse, and other mistakes around drugs, etc. It was frightening, for sure. Those old familiar feelings of helplessness came back, as I trudge through my work-a-day life, thousands of miles away, and unable to help her or do anything for her.

She's now got outpatient rehab 3 times a week at a clinic that is 1 zillion times better than the in-patient place. She's also planning to get a home healthcare person for the days she's not going to rehab, to help her. I don't know all the details, but I think the rehab place would only release her if she had someone to watch her daily. Since my brother & sister-in-law both work, she has to hire someone.

She now sounds a million times better. It turns out the anti-shaking drug was at too high of a dose. Her oncologist discovered the snafu. I'm very lucky that my mom is feisty, and asks a lot of questions. Without her constantly asking for explanations and discussion, she could have been in an over-medicated state for a long time. No matter what people say about proposed healthcare systems, etc., things are really broken; we've got to do something, even if it isn't perfect out of the gate. If we as a nation do nothing, it'll continue to deteriorate. That's my editorialization for the day. :)

Fox knows I have no idea what she's going through, but gosh, it's hard to hear her up & down emotional state about all this. I can't recall hearing her so down the first time we talked while she was in rehab. Her low attitude really scared me, because if she doesn't keep fighting, then she's a goner.

*exhale*

So we carry on. Most of my life has been really great. Even when friends I haven't seen for a while ask me how my mom is doing, I'm able to tell them without being negative, mopey, or teary-eyed.

Lot's of good stuff with the 12-step program - stay tuned for more!

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about this blog

I'm a 30-something professional woman who's mother & brother were both diagnosed with Grade 3 Astrocytoma tumors within about a week of each other. My mother's tumor is in her brain, and my brother's tumor is in his spinal cord, causing him to lose feeling in his arms & legs. These writings are about my experiences dealing with them, coping, loving them, loving myself, and living my life knowing that they are both dying. I hope you find inspiration and courage from my writings to help you get through whatever is going on in your life.


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