This weekend, I feel broken.  When I think on the last year, I know I am broken.  I am not who I was last August.  My upcoming mammogram tomorrow along with the reminders of this season are all making me reflect on this past year.  What I feel now is brokenness.

Getting my last (I hope) chemo infusion

When I look in the mirror, I see scars and a mutilated body and completely different hair from a year ago.  When I try to live the busy life that most people in today’s society live, I can’t keep up.  When I think of a mammogram and appointment this week with my medical oncologist, I worry.  What if the cancer has come back?  What if this breast tenderness I’m experiencing is not healing but is cancer instead?  What if I have to go through more chemo and surgery?  What if?

But I know that worrying over the what ifs won’t change the future.

The last couple of months, I’ve jumped into more and more activity.  I’ve done more, been to more meetings, met more people for lunch or dinner, driven more, gotten out more, been more active.  But I had a hard lesson last week.  During my trip to Savannah, it became very clear that I’m still weak, that I can’t keep a busy schedule of activity, that I have to rest often, take days off, listen to my body even when it tells me what I don’t want to hear.

I was planning a driving trip to Montana to see friends at the end of this month.  I love traveling.  I especially love the West and driving there.  But when I was too tired to finish a celebratory dinner at my favorite Savannah restaurant, when I was literally too tired to sit up and had to go to the car so I could recline, I became painfully aware that I can’t drive to Montana this month.  I don’t have the stamina.  Though I can do lots more than I could two months ago, I still can’t do what I could a year ago.

And I became aware that I need to grieve that loss.  When I started feeling better, stronger, I pretty much jumped back into activity without considering my journey and where I was in it.  I just wanted to be better.  I wanted to be well.  But the upcoming mammogram and this fall season are making me look at my journey, where I am now, that I am indeed broken.

And that is not all bad.

I know tomorrow I’ll go into Battlefield Imaging, the place where I got a mammogram and ultrasound and biopsy last year.  The place I went for an echocardiogram and a PET scan.  And where I had the super-stinging shot for the nuclear medicine to find my sentinel nodes before my lumpectomy.  All of the emotions of that stressful, scary time are coming back.

So how do I deal with them?

I spent a lot of Friday and yesterday crying.  For my brokenness.  For what I’ve lost – the illusion that I am strong and fit and able to do just what I want, that all of my friends will support me through whatever journey I have, that I am always safe and protected.  Because all I have to do is look at my body to see the differences.  All I have to do is feel the pains that I have every day.  All I have to do is see that some friends have quietly disappeared.

I know I need to grieve what I’ve lost.  I have not fully grieved my losses, my brokenness.  But I know that grieving is healthy.  I agree with Rachel Naomi Remen when she says this in My Grandfather’s Blessings:  “Unless we learn to grieve, we may need to live life at a distance in order to protect ourselves from pain.  We may not be able to risk having anything that really matters to us or allow ourselves to be touched, to be intimate, to care or be cared about.  Untouched, we will suffer anyway.  We just will not be transformed by our suffering.  Grieving may be one of the most fundamental of life skills.  It is the way that the heart can heal from loss and go on to love again and grow wise.”

So the mammogram tomorrow and the medical oncologist’s appointment on Friday will help me remember what I’ve been through.  There will be more to go through, whether it’s more cancer treatment or whether it’s reemergence into health.  Either path will involve grief.  Even if I get a clear mammogram, I’ll still have college football games on television on Saturdays to remind me how sick I was on the Saturdays after Thursday chemo infusions.  I’ll still have the angle of the sun and cooler temperatures to remind me of last year and what I was feeling, what a difficult journey I was undertaking.

I’ll be reminded that I’ve been broken.

And I’ll be reminded of all that I’ve learned from brokenness.  That we are all connected, even when we don’t want to be and don’t acknowledge that connection.  That each of us will die one day.  That pain and illness will be a part of every one of our lives.  That disease, whether it’s cancer or some other one, will bring suffering to people of all ages.

Rocky Mountain National Park, Jubilee Trip Fall 2008

And that even in this reality, life is beautiful, shining through the cracks of my brokenness.  That the brokenness is helping to wake me up, to let me see the Light more easily.  That I can grieve loss as a way to acknowledge the journey, what it has brought me.  Brokenness and beauty.

And so I grieve this brokenness and try to live into it.  And so I am kind to myself today when the fall feeling in the air reminds me of my cancer journey and tomorrow’s mammogram and the unknown future.

Life is precarious.  I am broken.

And it’s all okay.

16 thoughts on “Broken

  1. Grieve on sister, we who cry and can keep our gaze on those who cry and never waver belong to a special ‘personhood’ , those who see and feel and understand impermanence and our helplessness if we want to believe we can control this . I too understand am beginning to understand the limits of my ‘goingness’. I tell people I am on an 18 month self retreat and so no doing extra, no roles, no jobs. I love and honor you with gratitude. Always for you.

  2. Your description of your journey lights a dark and scary path for others and illuminates the way to understanding how pain, suffering and fear accompany growth and create, in the end, beauty. I am honored to have shared the journey with you in even such a small way as following your blog.

  3. Dear One, you know that I associate the confirmation of your diagnosis with your trip to Birmingham and our time together at the Sidewalk Film Festival. That time together was a gift for me, because our previous associations were through the keeping of silence on retreats. It was rich to talk, dream, share stories and theories about life with each other and to sit in cool dark auditoriums and watch the heart work of film producers and directors. I remember also that the first time I met you, you were retreating from the labor of Sahkanaga and you were exhausted. Thank you for opening your heart and sharing your breast cancer story. I join the ranks of your loyal students and I am touched deeply by your words – the lessons you have absorbed and subsequently recycled to the rest of us are life changing. Thank you for writing. I am holding you in the healing light – that you are sustained through the uncertainty of the next many hours, that you will have moments of peace, humor, comfort, joy, longing, love, courage and bliss.

    • Thank you for reading, Lynn, and for that special time at the Sidewalk Festival. I’ve no doubt that I was to be there with you RIGHT THEN before my diagnosis. I don’t know why yet, but I feel it will become clear. Thank you for the healing light you’re sending.

  4. Krista, what a beautiful statement of vulnerability and Truth. Makes me think of the line attributed to Leonard Cohen: “Everything that’s beautiful is cracked, and that’s how the light gets in.”

  5. So good to read. The image that comes back again and again is the light coming in through the cracks. You describe a scab, a wound that could reopen again and again, all the while, the painful, vulnerable tissue underneath is growing new cells, new skin. My husband wrote a song once called “Scars of light.” Now I see in it a new meaning. You are so generous and open to share this.

  6. Embracing the grief is the first step on the healing path for your soul. You have had to spend so much energy focusing on the physical aspect in the past year now you will have the time to focus on the rest. As each mammogram, checkup, and anniversary passes you will become stronger- physically and mentally. Remember that you have beat this illness and so many of us are blessed to love and know you. Your wording of your journey applies to so many of the battles we have all faced in life. Best of all, you are not cancer and cancer patient is not who you are. You are Krista. An amazing, spiritual, brilliant, caring, thoughtful woman who has had an awful ordeal to contend with. And, you are emerging from this in your own way; maybe finally realizing that you are human (not an immortal super woman!) Love, energy, prayers, and good vibes from Texas!

  7. Maybe it is “shipwrecked” and you will find another shore, unexplored. Ortega Y Gasset said that all men are shipwrecked and do did Samuel Johmson.

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