Through the Cancer Lens

It’s been a month since I’ve posted, for those of you keeping up. Since then, I’ve been collecting my thoughts and find myself with a lot to say. Since then, I had major surgery and one round of chemo. Since then, I have not been able to view my life without the cancer lens. All thoughts first are filtered through the cancer lens which is red in my imagination. Shocking, unmistakable, indelible. Like should I make long-term plans? Am I going to die? What do I actually believe happens after we die? Should I be soaking in every breeze on a warm day? Should I subject my body to more chemo? How does one “live with cancer”? I don’t think I know the answer to that yet, to any of these.

Cause, y’all, it’s awful. Not as awful or soul-wrenching as you see in movies. Well, not yet at least. Chemo is cumulative so it will make me much weaker, ralph more, eat less, and have that perma-metallic taste in my mouth. Oh and the mouth sores. And the hair falling out on my pillow, the couch, in the shower, in moments I do not want to be reminded of my illness. I can’t tell if it’s more taxing on my body or my spirit. Eight more months of chemo. One more major surgery, just like the one I had in April. How does one continue on knowing that’s the prognosis? So far, I just kind of do. I’m not back to work yet. I’ve been passing the time with puzzles that frustrate me, serial killer documentaries that I probably should not be watching before bed time, and ignoring a lot of things. Ignoring the constant nausea. Ignoring the multitude of vitamins that are healing but also one of the hardest parts of my day: swallowing thousands of IUs or whatever they’re called a day. Three times a day. Ignoring the growing pile of thank you cards that I have yet to send. Oh, lord, don’t even get me started on the vegan, no sugar diet which I was prescribed.

I hate to complain, friends. I have so much light and hope that my support system keeps instilling in me when it has left my eyes and spirit. My first round of chemo was not as bad as I’ve seen with family members, loved ones, friends, etc. I have a surgeon and a treatment team that I trust implicitly with my life and my future. I’m learning to plan around my chemo symptoms. I’m learning that if I don’t drink three liters of water a day, I’m going to feel like absolute shit the next day. I’m learning that there is so much goodness and grace in this world and in people. But everything I’m learning is soaked in the red cancer filter. Will I learn to remove that lens with time?

Here’s to learning to live with cancer and all the other maladies and trauma humans live with every day. Aren’t humans wonderfully resilient? I hope to be as resilient as I know humankind can be.

Thanks for letting me share my stream of consciousness.

Kindly,

Maegan

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Overcoming My Negative Self-Talk

The weather has just been glorious in Colorado Springs for the past week. So when M and I went to brunch, I wanted to show off some of my new warm-weather clothes that I had only been wearing around the house with sweat pants (I coined the term “sweat pant chic” in college cause ya girl lived in sweats, even in the sweltering Oklahoma summers).

As I put this outfit together and tried it on, my heart sank to my stomach. I did not look like the traditional idea of American beauty. I loved the outfit but couldn’t get over the feeling of a breeze on my tummy and my back. I felt so exposed. Physically and emotionally. It felt too wild for little ol’ me to wear, especially after months and months of sweaters, boots, and cold weather gear. But as soon as I recognized this feeling, I just said, “Fuck it.” Fuck the idea that thin women are healthier. Fuck the idea that people in large bodies should not wear crop tops. Fuck the idea that women deserve to be cat-called, sexually assaulted, etc. because of revealing clothes like these. Fuck the negative self-talk which is my same narrative, old story. But this time, I fought it. After chanting my mantra to myself, “our weight is not our worth”, I felt ready to take on brunch with my tummy and huge cancer scar showing, traditional beauty standards be damned!

I did so well through brunch even when a couple with dogs started talking to us about Atticus (cause he’s just so damn cute and polite in public). I was so proud of myself until an old friend appeared with her girlfriend and the cutest puppy in tow, all of whom were so stylish and chic. Even their dog had a fashionable harness/leash situation. I was not prepared to let people I know see my outfit/exposed body. I was not prepared to stand up and expose myself to people I care about. I was awkward through the whole interaction, and it’s solely because I was thinking about how my body looked to my friends. I remember that my body immediately went into the I’m not taking up much space posture. You know the one, shoulders rounded, back hunched, eyes down, don’t look at me. It took me several minutes afterwards to regain my composure, to again be comfortable with taking up space, and to rescue my “fuck off, I look damn good” attitude.

There’s something deeply satisfying about the “fuck off” attitude in the face of self doubt. Have you tried it instead of falling into the dark pit of negative self-talk? It’s working wonders for me not giving a shit about what other people think of me and my body.

Daily Delights

I have wanted a Roomba for about four years now but have been dissuaded by the exorbitant price tag. As a pet owner of more than two, our house needs a good sweep almost every day to keep up with the hair and the little particles. So when this vacuum cleaning robot went on sale for $99 for one day only, I jumped on it. Malcolm, who gravitates toward all things technology/robotic/mechanical, loves it and follows this little guy around the house. If Deebot is there, Malcolm won’t be far behind with a huge smile on his face. That’s what he was doing when I snapped this shot. It brings me joyous delight when he refers to it as “Beebop” “Deebo” or “Beebo”, especially when he drops something on the floor and suddenly yells “Beebop!” Though I don’t love it as much as Malcolm does, I am forever walking around the house barefoot thanking Deebot for keeping the vexing clumps of hair and debris off the floors. The animals love it even less (you can see Taluah and Jackson in the back eyeing it suspiciously here), but this little guy is here to stay!

Daily Delights

This weekend was the first weekend warm enough to spend time outside. In desperate need of Vitamin D, M and I turned our flower beds/garden, did some much needed pruning, and relocating some iris bulbs. We brought all of the animals and potted plants outside for some sunshine as well. They were out there until the sun began to set. After watering them inside, I put my plant babies back in their homes. When I did that, I noticed that each plant had visibly stretched out. I could almost feel the relief of the plants to finally get some sun so they can make food. When I checked them today, I was exuberant when I noticed newly emerged buds on healthy stems. They are also a more vibrant shade of green. This plant lady thing is a lot of fun when you don’t have plants dying on you left and right 🙂

I hope you can find a small delight to relish today!

Maegan

Soul Searching and A Different Type of Self Care

Do you ever do some soul searching and discover something unpleasant? Like don’t want to touch that with a ten foot pole unpleasant? Recently I’ve been digging deeper into intuitive eating, positive body image, and, ultimately my own biases. I continue to unfollow pages that only serve American traditional beauty, usually white women in small bodies. I’m doing an inventory of my history with body shame and the shame that comes with eating the “bad” foods. In doing so, I unearthed a hard nugget of awful truth: my inner fat phobic. That was hard for me to say in my head, much less type it for anyone to see.

I grew up defending my mother from horrible insults with which she was accosted whenever we went to a pool, swam at a lake, or did anything in the Texas heat, really. I distinctly remember teenage boys being especially cruel, loudly cruel, about her body in public spaces. She never defended herself. She never talked about it. She would lower her gaze and we would exit the situation as soon as possible. I remember getting so angry I could have committed acts of violence. These things happened in public spaces. With other humans around. Who couldn’t not notice what was happening. No one defended her. None of the people in the mostly thin, fit bodies around us said a word. They just stared. No one said anything because they were silently agreeing with the assholes.

As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more and more like my mother every day. I look in the mirror, I see my mother at the pool trying to escape public verbal attacks. I see my friend in 5th grade getting endlessly taunted for her body size. I see 9 year old me getting bullied for my size. And I hate it. That fat phobia imprinted on my heart and soul. I have internalized the hate and the prejudice which, as you may imagine, has lead to self-hate. This is what I’m working against on my intuitive eating/body positivity sojourn: my own unconscious buy in to the small bodies are better rhetoric we see everywhere in our society. How are we expected to overcome that to truly love ourselves? I know I’m supposed to notice and not judge, but damn if I don’t feel even worse about myself now that I’m aware of my internal fat phobic. I’m not yet sure how to reconcile the dichotomy between my fierce body positivity and my internal fat phobe. Maybe it’s okay that these two exist simultaneously within me. How could they not after a lifetime of mixed messages about weight?

Sometimes self care looks nothing like a bubble bath. Sometimes it’s finding the rotten fruit in the garden of our conscious soul and relieving the plant of its burden.

Cheers to painful growth,

Maegan

Daily Delights

In the age of delivery and Amazon Prime I’ve gotten into the habit of “one click orders” and then forgetting about them. I’ll think I need to order something, I get out my phone, and in one click, it’s on its way. Because it requires so little time and effort, I completely forget that I ordered something until I pull up to my house and see a package on my porch. It is utterly delightful to come home from a long day of work to find a new book waiting for me to crack open its spine or a few gold stacking rings that ache to be stacked. Sometimes I order items so frequently, I don’t know what I’m opening until I slide scissors across packaging tape. This, friends, is true joy. It immediately invokes the feeling of popping the tape off taut wrapping paper to reveal the hidden, unexpected treasure within. I can’t help but smile and perhaps express my jubilance by yelling, “Eeek!”

Daily Delights

NYT Crossword Calendar: In college, I did the campus newspaper crossword religiously in research class with my left hand to stay awake. I now grab every copy of the Colorado Springs Independent in hopes of filling out the crossword puzzle in record time. My friends and family have caught on to my intense love for challenging word puzzles. For my birthday, M’s mom gave me this daily crossword calendar. It gives me great pleasure to drink my morning coffee and wake up my brain with a fresh puzzle. There’s something about the rhythm of reading the clues, filling in the boxes, and then crossing off the clue. When my life is chaotic, somehow it’s calming and reassuring that a crossword will greet me every day. I collect the puzzles on the days that I can’t fill one out, and I share those every so often with a dear friend who is an avid crossword geek like me. It makes me so happy to share the delight.

Thanks for reading!

Maegan

Photo Friday

Book

So excited for this that I couldn’t wait until Friday. The second annual book tree is up in the Brundage-Durham household! This year we found a Santa from my Poppie’s Christmas stash that he gave to me before he died. Of all the things that were not returned to me or were subsequently stolen, I’m happy I have his Christmas ornaments. I no longer have much else of his, so this weird white ass Santa  is extra special. The curious kitties have been stealing the little ornaments and batting them around the house which I don’t love, but they’ve got to participate in the holiday cheer somehow, I suppose. Maybe next year we’ll do a book menorah to replace my menorah that is currently COVERED in wax. We’ll see!

Thanks for letting me share the picture and my disjointed thoughts about it.

Warmly,

Maegan

Six Things I Learned in 2016

I know this is four months into 2017, but it took me a long time to write this because I really tried to reflect and process. For so many people, 2016 was a tough year filled with unexpected challenges and hard lessons. In the way of self-discovery and personal growth, my year was just as arduous. But it was also a wonderful opportunity to get to know myself a bit better. I read a quote somewhere on the internet that resonated with me as I reflect on my past year of growth: you have not met all of yourself yet. Amazing and frightening all at the same time. Here are a few things I learned in 2016:

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  1. When moving, I need to set up my house within the first month of moving in, or I won’t ever finish. We moved into this house in May of 2016 and there are STILL boxes that aren’t unpacked and rooms that serve no purpose other than being a place for those boxes. I lost energy about three weeks into getting the house in order. Now I know that if I can’t conjure up some natural energy, I can always make lots and lots of coffee!
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  2. Small dogs are the hardest to house train, so you have to start early and be very consistent. Yeah, didn’t know that until we adopted a mini Aussie in August. He still has trouble. He’s lucky he’s so damn cute.

    img_0039Photography basics: I purchased my first DSLR in 2016, and I knew NOTHING about my camera when I bought it. Over the past year, I’ve done some travel photography, landscape photography, and I’m currently working on my portraits. K taught me some basics, and I learned some things online. My next step is to take a photography class which is one of my goals for early 2017.

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  3. You absolutely need waterproof and tall boots when traveling to Canada in the winter. This may seem obvious, but the last time I was in Canada in the winter, it wasn’t all that cold. When we went to ring in the new year, the snow was up to my waist in some parts. We all had to make a trip to the underground mall to purchase waterproof boots. I finally bought the cranberry docs that I had lusted over for about a year. If I could go back and do it again, I would have chosen taller boots. I can chalk that one up as a rookie mistake for sure.

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  4. Don’t sweep relationship issues under the rug. Even if you talk about them with your partner, I learned that trying to share my feelings all the time isn’t the way to really listen, understand, and empathize. I’ve always heard that communication is key. I thought I was communicating well because I can talk about my feelings all day every day. Apparently there’s more to it than just expressing feelings 🙂 It also takes effort every day to effectively listen and understand. It sounds so simple, but sometimes it’s easy to slip into the hum drum of every day life and forget what’s really important.

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  5. The perfect taco is pretty hard to find, but I discovered I can come pretty close to making it at home. My friend and I had embarked on a quest to find the perfect taco in Colorado Springs and Pueblo. We found several new places, one of which I was obsessed with for about two months. I ate there three or four times in the first week I knew about it. Tlaquepaque, (pronounced T-lock-uh-pock-ee) you have my heart. But when I couldn’t get to Tlaquepaque, I tried perfecting my recipe at home, and I am SO pleased with the outcome. Maybe I’ll share that recipe soon! I’m especially proud because I made it myself! Food blogging, here I come (eh… maybe.)

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  6. How to make friends as an adult: This is often so hard for me. To me making new friends was like embarking on a delicate platonic courtship. I used to be very rigid about my friend standards– I only spent time with people with whom I vibed 100%. This year I have learned how to reach out to friends for casual hang outs, I’ve learned how to be comfortable in a casual get together at our house where we order pizza and drink cheap and craft beer, and I’ve learned to relax my structured thinking about with whom I spend time. This has all allowed me to realize that I actually like hosting, cooking, decorating, cleaning, and prepping for hangouts in general. I’ve also realized that being around people that vibe with me on all wavelengths is wonderful, but that also creates an echo chamber of the things that I already value and believe. I’ve discovered that being around people with very different view points allows me to open up my mind and empathize with certain view points, especially politically, that I would not have otherwise. A lot of this I attribute to learning from K and his naturally calm, relaxed, and open demeanor. It also helps to make ridiculous faces. That’s how you can tell who’s part of your tribe 🙂

Thanks for letting me share! I know there are a lot of sad things happening around the world that hurt my heart, but I’m still holding out hope for the rest of 2017.

Kindly,
Maegan

New Beginnings

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View of the Sound from Tiger Mountain

Hello, friends! I have an exciting announcement–no, I’m not pregnant–but I am relocating to an area just south of Seattle, Washington. My three years in Colorado Springs have been challenging, heart wrenching, beautiful, inspiring, motivating, and I could go on. So many things have happened in the last three years. I value the people I’ve met in Colorado Springs and Denver, and I’m so honored to have the privilege of being part of the community.

Now this blogger goes West again! Stay tuned for new life experiences and inspiration.

Sending out so much love and light,

Maegan

P.S. I’m in Seattle presenting at the National CASA conference. I am so inspired by all the connections that I’ve made here. I also became galvanized to actually sit down and write the book that I’ve been writing in my head for years. On a particularly rainy day in Seattle, I dreamed up my first chapters over a burger and fries in a downtown bar in grill. If anyone has any knowledge about publishing, I would love to learn from you!