Tuesday, January 15, 2019

The Importance of a Good Medical Team


A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series. 
Please join us on her journey!

As I am now in the "monitoring" stage of my recovery, I have been reflecting more on the medical aspect of my journey, especially because I see the medical professionals so seldom now and am missing them. They became such a part of my life during the treatment portion that it can feel like another loss at times. I have come to appreciate even more the importance of a good medical team. It is rare to find one great doctor, but even more rare to be blessed with an entire team of great practitioners!

If you have to face a medical issue, it is very important to choose a team that you trust and feel supported by. If that is your case, choose carefully and do your research to get a team you deserve and that you are confident in. In my case, all of my doctors were referrals. My OB, who was notified of my cancer after the first abnormal biopsy referred me to my oncologist and the team was referred to me by my oncologist.

I have been richly blessed in this aspect of my journey, having been given an amazing medical team. Given the nature of the medical profession, with doctors not being paid well by insurance, necessity to see many patients and therefore have little time with them, it is understandable when doctors do not seem supportive or invested in each patient. This has not been the case for me. All have been outstanding. Seven specific individuals (and numerous others for mammograms, tests and many medical staff) stand out as those people who have made this journey as smooth and easy as could be expected: Dr. Brandon Riggan, my OB; Kelly Lawson, Breast Health Nurse Navigator; Dr. Pat Whitworth, my Surgical Oncologist; Norma Krantz, my Nurse Practitioner who I see for most appointments; Andrea Cooper, Occupational Therapist who specializes in lymphedema; Dr. Steve Dunesing, my Chiropractor and Dr. Daniel Hatef, my Plastic Surgeon.

Dr. Brandon Riggan, my OB referred me for my first mammogram at age 40. My second mammogram, eight months later, a follow up from the first, was the time that the calcifications that were detected on my first mammogram were possibly suspicious and I was sent for a biopsy. Those results were sent to my OB and he called me personally with the results. He told me the news gently and with compassion. I have seen him several times since, and he is always concerned with my health and pays attention to where I am on my cancer journey.

Following the call from my OB, I received a call from Kelly Lawson, Breast Health Nurse Navigator. She answered my questions and referred me to my Surgical Oncologist. I was seen by him promptly after initial diagnosis (DCIS). Since then, I have called her many times and she has always been helpful and supportive. Recently she called me to check on me and see how I am doing and where I am on my journey.

Dr. Pat Whitworth has been named a Top Doctor in his field and it is obvious why. He is very knowledgeable and took a conservative approach, which I appreciated. From my first appointment, he was thorough, compassionate and made sure I understood everything about my condition. He made sure to run many tests after my initial diagnosis to get a clear picture of my specific cancer, including hormone and genetic testing and biopsies. He was honest with me about my options and welcomed me getting a second opinion. He performed my surgery with precision and excellence and as a result I had minimal pain, fast healing and quick muscular recovery.

Norma Krantz, who I see for most follow up appointments, and who worked with Dr. Whitworth during diagnosis and prognosis is also knowledgeable, compassionate and thorough. I am completely confident that in the case of a recurrence, she would catch it early. She listens, takes time to answer questions and has a great bedside manner.

Andrea Cooper, who I saw directly before surgery and continue to see for follow up, is also an excellent practitioner. She has a great sense of humor, so appointments are enjoyable as well as thorough. She made sure I understood exercises post-mastectomy and signs of lymphedema. 

My chiropractor, Dr. Steve Duensing has also been integral in this journey. I saw him directly before and after each surgery. I also see him for supplements that help with healing and inflammation. He is personable, kind, compassionate and even invited my family to his lake house to use his canoes when spring comes.

The doctor who I have had the most contact with is Dr. Daniel Hatef, my plastic surgeon. Like Dr. Whitworth, he has also received awards for his excellence. I have always felt like I was in good hands with him for my reconstruction. At my first appointment with him, he explained my options thoroughly, answered my questions and did not pressure me to make one specific decision, as I had a few options. He has also been honest about the limitations he had for reconstruction (namely the lack of fat for fat grafting). He has always struck me as a perfectionist, which gave me comfort that I would get the best result possible. He fully supported my decision to do bi-lateral mastectomy and worked with the insurance to make sure that it would be covered. He called me following my initial surgery to see how I was recovering and saw me every 1-4 weeks since February.

After my initial reconstruction (tissue expanders) I had a complication, which he took very seriously and did everything he could to help it clear up (and it did). Likewise, after another complication as a result of my second reconstruction surgery, he went above and beyond to address it, personally, even when he had no staff to help him. This is when I began to see how very much he cared and sees his patients as people. He saw me immediately and when it was obvious we would have to start over reconstruction on one side, scheduled it two days later. The day of surgery, insurance had not approved the repair. Rather than send me home and wait for it to be approved, he and his wife, along with other hospital staff, spent hours on the phone to get the insurance approved for surgery that day. He had to push back other surgeries and put me as a priority, given the situation. 

In October when I asked about twin to twin fat transfer (a possibility to use my twin sister's fat for the fat grafting step of reconstruction), he was immediately on board. He has been working with me on this since then and has taken a personal interest in making it a reality. It may or may not happen, but having his support has meant a lot to me, as I was afraid to even ask him about it.

Since July and through this last surgery, December 6, he has encouraged me on many occasions. He is always responsive when I have questions, returns messages promptly and is personally available for pressing issues. I have been able to be honest about my feelings about things (reconstruction, setbacks, etc) and he has taken them seriously (both practical and emotional concerns). He has been understanding about my frustrations and done what he could to ease my mind and normalize what I was going through. If he thought anything negative about my reactions to things, he definitely never expressed that or treated me with anything but kindness.

A few months ago when I was doubting whether I should have even had reconstruction, he listened and was very encouraging. He told me to please not doubt having gone through with reconstruction and not to feel it was superfluous. He has also told me he was proud of me on a few occasions. This is rare to find in a doctor.

Another rarity with a doctor is spiritual encouragement. On several occasions he has mentioned my faith, God's plan and prayer. This is a risky thing for a doctor to do and I was comforted by these things immensely. He has read my blog posts on occasion and has expressed finding them encouraging as well. I have so appreciated the vulnerability in this.

I will forever be grateful for the blessing of Dr. Hatef. He could easily give up reconstruction and other insurance cases altogether, given his skill level, and make a lot more money as a purely cosmetic surgeon. However, he chooses to get paid very little for these cases, and for that I am extremely grateful! 

I sincerely appreciate my whole medical team. This could be a lot more difficult to journey through with a less supportive team. I can really see God working and I will never forget what God has done in my life through them. I sincerely hope I will be able to keep in touch with them all. 

I am counting every blessing given to me on this journey. A great medical team is not the least of these!



Monday, December 31, 2018

How New Trauma Can Heal Past Trauma: Staying Present and Letting Go


A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series. 
Please join us on her journey!

Can experiencing a new trauma heal an old trauma? I was wondering this yesterday as I realized past traumas now hold very little space in my life (hallelujah!). I even texted my therapist to ask her if this was possible. It seems strange to me that trauma can be healed simply by experiencing a new trauma. I am facing enough current trauma to work through to have to worry about old traumas, so this is such a blessing. 

I have had many traumatic experiences in my lifetime, the most recent being two unwanted cesareans and then pelvic organ prolapse after my traumatic VBA2C with my last child. These life events that once held a lot of negative connotations at the least and caused a lot of suffering at most seem so insignificant to me now. A lot of my suffering was caused by the stories I had around these events - who I was, how I failed, etc. My identity was tied so much in my mind to these things that I found it impossible to let go of them.  

As I thought about the REAL reason my current circumstances have led to healed past trauma, three things came to me - perspective, staying present and letting go. These are things I always had some control over, though this new trauma is what caused my mindset shift (prompted by the Holy Spirit). One does not have to experience a new trauma in order to heal from past ones. In my case, it was just the push I needed to change.
  • Perspective - going through any kind of cancer diagnosis and treatment can drastically change your perspective on past and current events. For me, all of my past traumas shifted in my mind from devastating to events in my life that I experienced. They did not have to hold so much weight. They changed me and are a part of who I am, but they do not define me. Cancer has minimized my past traumas in my mind and the effect they have on me and my everyday life from debilitating at times to very insignificant in the scheme of life. 
  • Staying Present - it is very difficult for past trauma to have a hold while staying present. I truly believe that much of my healing came because of the necessity to stay present while dealing with cancer. Honestly, I didn't have time to focus on much else besides taking care of my family. In this case, I was forced to stay present. However, I can always make the choice to be present, even when not in a situation that forces me to be present. Bing present has always been a struggle for me. I did not fully recognize the need to stay present nor did I feel like I had the luxury to do so. Now, though, I see the value in it more than I ever did.
  • Letting Go - Letting go of the past is much easier said than done. I have not made a habit of dwelling on the past, but I have allowed it to haunt me and hurt me. I do not know what the method for letting go is right now, just that it is a very important step for healing. I am definitely going to do the work of letting go, especially in processing the trauma that has resulted from cancer. I have managed to let go of most past traumas, so I am confident I can learn to let go of these most recent traumas and any that are a part of my future.
I hope I can use what I have learned about trauma through my experience with cancer and apply it to my life so I do not have to needlessly suffer. I do not have to experience a more significant trauma for this to happen. I can shift my perspective, learn to stay present and learn to let go to heal any trauma. The Holy Spirit has helped me along this path and to come to these conclusions. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that I will continue to heal if I continue to rely on Him.

Mercy Me - The Hurt and the Healer


Thursday, December 27, 2018

"The End" is Not The End



A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series. 
Please join us on her journey!

I'm in this odd place at the moment. I am a cancer survivor in a very real way - I'm cancer free and really have been since my mastectomy in February! How profound. Even more profound is the sense that this is not the end of my journey. No one tells those going through cancer treatment that part. It's never really "over". A cancer survivor doesn't just go back to life as it was before cancer. That was always my plan. I thought I could just forget I even had to go through it, especially since because it was caught early, I was able to escape things like chemotherapy and radiation and felt like I was never really facing much danger. Everything I went through was to ensure I would not have to go through even more later. I do not regret my decisions, especially given the emotional toll having faced cancer has taken on me, my family and my relationships. Up until mid-December, I was just looking forward to being "done". In my mind, once I had my last necessary surgery, I would be "done". I was sorely mistaken. This journey is far from over.

On December 6, as I was driving home from my first post-surgery follow up, I had this deep sense of loss, sadness, grief, depression. I could not figure out why. I thought "What in the world! I should be overjoyed! I thought I just had to make it to my last surgery". Two days later I met with the coordinator for the YMCA ABC (After Breast Cancer) program and was enlightened as to some of the reasons I am feeling this way.  Since then I have come to realize more and more why the last surgery or treatment is not the end. Apparently, according to my doctor, my therapist and the ABC Coordinator, these are typical and not an exception. 
  1. Adrenaline - During treatment / ongoing care, a person is mostly just trying to put one foot in front of the other. A lot of focus is on the "next" - the next appointment, treatment, surgery. This causes a lot of adrenaline rushes. The body essentially becomes dependent on this adrenaline, like a drug. Once these things are coming to an end - sometimes abruptly - the body craves that adrenaline and the drop can create a crash/depression. Many cancer survivors start taking anti-depressants sometime after treatment ends. 
  2. Body Image Issues - with cancer comes body changes. Body changes and body image issues can also affect marriage and intimacy. For me, I have many scars and ripples that may be permanent. We are still working to raise funds for a fat transfer from my twin sister to do fat grafting, which covers the ripples and gives a better chance to regain sensation (GoFundMe). I think this would also help me feel more whole. Whether or not I have that surgery, I have a lot of emotional healing to do regarding the changes in my body due to all of the surgeries. 
  3. Grief - again - during treatment, there is not the luxury to deal with every loss that is experienced. Many times, the losses experienced have to be dealt with after treatment is completed. This means going through all the stages of grief for every loss. A grief related emotion can be experienced when least expected.
  4. Fear-based response - One thing typical with cancer is fear. Fear, if not handled, can turn into anxiety or rage. This response can be incorrectly directed toward others, especially those closest to the survivor, or can be directed inward. Both can be very damaging.
  5. Cancer concerns - for me, about six months ago I became very concerned about having another type of cancer I am not aware of. Every ache.  or pain I have, I wonder if it is cancer. Sometimes, out of the blue I wonder. This is an ongoing, many times daily thing in the front of my mind always. I would describe it as being like a fly buzzing around my head - not debilitating but impossible to ignore.
  6. Relationships - all of the things above can profoundly affect relationships. Especially if loved ones do not understand or try to figure out the root of the behavior, a lot of damage can be done (sometimes irreparably) to relationships. I have seen the result of this in my own journey, unfortunately. It hurts my heart the damage that my behavior  has caused in my relationships. I have learned from every hurt I have felt or caused. 
I am currently facing all of the above things, on top of being utterly exhausted from so many surgeries. It takes up to a year for anesthesia to be out of the body. I am doing what I can to take good care of myself to navigate these difficult things. I am finding a lot of hope in God! I have to remember to surrender my fears and anxieties daily, sometimes many times! These two songs have helped me tremendously!

Maybe It's Ok - We Are Messengers

Known - Tauren Wells




Saturday, December 8, 2018

Brave




A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series.
Please join us on her journey!

I just completed my next (and maybe last) surgery for reconstruction on Dec.6. This surgery included taking out the tissue expander and putting an implant in on my left side, nipple repair and I had my fallopian tubes taken out. I did this for birth control, but also to check for cancerous cells. Many cases of uterine or ovarian cancer start in the tubes. So we can get the tubes biopsied and see if there are any signs of cancer, which will give me some peace of mind. I am so glad to be done with this step. Last night a friend called me "so strong and brave" after my surgery. I thought "having surgery isn't brave, It's annoying and necessary, but a lot of other things on this journey require much more bravery than surgery". 

brave/brāv/
adjective
ready to face and endure danger or pain; showing courage.


Throughout this journey, I have been called brave more times than I can remember. Brave to face my diagnosis, brave to make decisions, brave to handle complications, brave to have so many surgeries, brave to endure. Oddly, these are not the areas that I have felt I needed to be brave. These were just the practical things that needed to be done, like a chore. It has not been the obvious things, the noticeable things. It has been the less obvious, underlying things instead.




Here are some areas I have had to be brave:
  1. Asking difficult questions: I have had to ask questions of my doctors, other survivors, myself, God. It would be much easier to not ask anythingHowever, it is necessary for so many instances - to be informed of options and to get complete information.
  2. Sharing about my journey / being vulnerable: For a long time, I did not share about my experience, especially in the beginning. I have only shared face to face a few times. Only this past month have I shared with most people. Until November only a select few people knew about my diagnosis and journey.
  3. Writing this blog series: It is not easy to pour my guts out onto paper. I really do not like it. At some point, I had to get over it, be brave, and get my truth and experience out there!  This, I knew, was a call from God. So I listened and followed through, but it was not easy.
  4. Admitting I needed some help navigating this journey: Several months after my diagnosis I joined a cancer support group. Just recently, I started going to a group to address my anxiety, and see a counselor individually. Taking the steps to get there was definitely brave. Spilling my guts and sharing what I think, especially at times I am being unreasonable, is not easy.
  5. Starting a fundraiser for my last step of reconstruction: This has been one of the most difficult things thus far. I have never asked for money in my life and it has felt very selfish at times. I had to be brave, knowing many people will judge me for it considering the money is used to have a better aesthetic result. This surgery is not life-saving. It is cosmetic at face value. However, I came to realize it is not "just aesthetic" considering right now, as is, I feel disfigured from all of the scars and the ripples that could be covered with another surgery. I think I made the right choice so I can feel whole again. Of course, if we don't raise the money, that will not be possible. If that is the case, I will have to learn to accept my reconstruction as it is (fundraiser link: Go Fund Me).
  6. Going it alone: Much of this journey has been me and God. I have had long periods without help and have been isolated with very little emotional support at many times. I do not have to be brave when I have help. When I don't have help, that is brave.
  7. Facing Fears (daily): One thing I did not expect to have to address is fear of recurrence or another type of cancer. Early on, I found out that this is a very common reaction to cancer. For me it is a constant nagging feeling, like a fly buzzing in my ear...more annoying than debilitating, but disruptive nonetheless. It is impossible to feel at peace with this daily, sometimes hourly, sense of dread. I thought I had escaped this "normal" reaction, as I just recently started to experience it. However, now, it is so prevalent that it is interfering with my emotional well being. Facing this daily has forced me to be brave. Life continues so I must face these fears whenever they arise, 
  8. Asking for help: This has been difficult and definitely took bravery. I do not like to ask for, nor accept, help. I want to think I can handle anything. However, to be honest, I have never handled anything by myself, because I have always had God helping me. I have had to swallow my pride and ask for help MANY times. I so appreciate the meals, help with child care, school pick-ups, visits and help from my family (many flying to my state to help). 

I raise my eyes toward the mountains. Where will my help come from? 

My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. 

He will not allow your foot to slip; your Protector will not slumber. 

 Indeed, the Protector of Israel does not slumber or sleep. 
The Lord protects you; the Lord is a shelter right by your side. 
The sun will not strike you by day, or the moon by night.  
The Lord will protect you from all harm; He will protect your life. 
The Lord will protect your coming and going both now and forever.

Psalm 121



Read other posts in this series:
To start at part one go here:

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

A Lonely Journey



A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series.
Please join us on her journey!

If you asked anyone who is going through or has gone through cancer treatment of any type, they would tell you it is a lonely journey. One part of what makes it a lonely journey is that there is a lot of time spent going through parts of it literally alone. During treatments, after surgeries, at some or all doctor appointments, at tests, while resting, in the middle of the night due to insomnia, and others. These moments are lonely. Sometimes they are scary.

Another part of what makes it so lonely is that no one can truly understand all a person facing cancer is going through unless they have been there themselves. And people may not be readily available for support when it is needed. The best people to relate are those who have gone through it themselves. However, these are not the best people to ask for support, especially practical support, as they are going through their own journeys.

Another thing that makes the journey lonely is the length of the journey. In the time it takes to get cancer treatment, people will come and go in our lives. There will be a few people who are there from beginning to end (though the journey never truly ends), but we cannot expect those people to provide continual support. That is not practical and is not sustainable. It takes a lot of stamina to always be there for a person who is going through cancer treatment.

Then there are those who have been there in the past, through big life events but are no longer a part of the person with cancer's life, for various reasons. I said in a previous blog that walking through this without some people that I believed would be there with me in it is one of the most difficult parts. This still holds true. People who have died or live far away are most obvious. But there are also those who are no longer a part of my life, either by my choice or theirs, sometimes due to abandonment. This has been the most difficult to deal with. A lot of time is spent wishing I could tell so-and-so about this. And feeling abandoned by those who you counted on and are no longer there is very difficult. 

In all of these scenarios, the loneliness is a struggle. I was reminded this week that people are fallible. People fail us. People will abandon us, sometimes in our greatest times of need. People will not always be there in the moments we need someone, but God always will. My strength has got to come mainly from him. 

Ps 34:18 The Lord is near to the brokenhearted and saves the crushed in spirit.

Deut 31:6 Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.

Joshua 1:9 Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

Romans 8:38-39 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Phil 4:19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Ps 32: 7 You are a hiding place for me; you preserve me from trouble; you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Ps 34:4 I sought the Lord and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.

Ps 51:11 Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.

2 Tim 4:16-17 At my first defense no one came to stand by me, but all deserted me. May it not be charged against them! But the Lord stood by me and strengthened me so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So I was rescued from the lion's mouth.

Lord, I JUST need YOU!

To see my fundraiser for the last stage of my reconstruction, go here (more into in previous post):
GoFundMe



Read other posts in this series:

To start at part one go here:

Friday, November 2, 2018

Completing my Surgery Journey




A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series.
Please join us on her journey!

This has been a very long journey thus far, including many blessings and struggles. I am been blessed beyond measure by several groups of women who have rallied around me: my sisters, many supportive friends and family, my amazing doctor, my community Mom's Club, my MOPS group, my VBAC group my Discipleship group and all of you blog readers, to name a few. I could not have come as far in this journey without all of you. Thank you immensely!

It will be one year since my diagnosis on November 9, 2018. I am finally nearing the end of the surgical part of my journey, but not without several obstacles. Because of unforeseen complications and circumstances, this will be my fourth surgery, to complete reconstruction. 

This surgery usually includes fat grafting to provide a more natural look and feel, minimize rippling and increases the chances of sensation. However, I have not had enough fat for this step thus far. Generously, my twin sister Heather has graciously agreed to donate her fat for this step, something that can only be done from identical twin to identical twin, and from no other donor. Unfortunately, insurance does not cover any donor costs. 

Throughout this process, I considered skipping reconstruction altogether. I honestly thought it did not matter to me. It turned out to matter much more to me than I ever anticipated. I considered skipping fat grafting, as I did not have enough of my own fat to complete this standard step. Yet, I kept feeling incomplete, less whole. Though I will never feel completely whole again, I do believe that this surgery will be a step in the right direction to healing emotionally and feeling as whole as I can, given the circumstances. So much was taken from me in this process, more than I could have known and was not prepared for. I abruptly weaned my son, have a plethora of scars, experience a lack of sensation and have been dramatically changed in appearance. This surgery is something that can begin to heal those losses. 

My amazing reconstruction surgeon has agreed to donate his services and is working tirelessly trying to make this opportunity a reality. However, my sister’s other costs will not be covered. These include hospital fees, anesthesia, prescriptions, compression garments, travel to TN for the surgery and lost wages. 

Surgery must be completed this calendar year and is scheduled for November 19, to accommodate schedules of all involved. Without funds, this step in the process will be skipped. 

I have just started a GoFundMe campaign to raise the funds needed to complete the surgery. I know that if this is in God's will, He will provide!  Furthermore, I know that no matter what the outcome, I can handle it!



Read other posts in this series:
To start at part one go here:

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

On Vulnerability

A guest post by an anonymous writer, which will be an ongoing series.
Please join us on her journey!

I have been thinking a lot about how my journey has forced me to become more vulnerable. Some extent of vulnerability is necessary just to get a diagnosis. Then comes the treatment component. Physical vulnerability is just a part of the process - mammograms, MRI's, tests, exams, surgeries. Emotional vulnerability is another component, one which I was determined I was NOT going to subject myself to. I tried to separate myself from the process to avoid emotional vulnerability. I sort of went through the motions as a kind of observer of the process for as long as I could.

I am not "good" at vulnerability. I am totally uncomfortable with exposing myself. Being authentic was always something I prided myself on. I was an "open book" for a long time. I  was just "myself" with no apologies. I loved that part of myself - not caring what anyone thought. I would like to think I still do not care what anyone thinks of me, but if I am honest, that just is not the case. Too many things have happened in my adulthood that have made me a lot more guarded and protective - probably to an unhealthy extent. After my diagnosis I was quite thankful I had learned to be more guarded, to not show myself to very many people. It made me stronger in a sense, more able to handle any news, treatment option, or plan without much regard for how I felt about it. I was being strictly reasonable about it - studying my options as an observer of my own life - not a part of it emotionally - using only facts to drive my decisions.

This approach worked for a while. I was very matter of fact about the entire situation. I never cried about it - just trudged on to the next decision. This all changed the day mastectomy became the best course of action. I was surprised by my reaction, but I cried in the radiologist's office. Then I cried talking to the surgeon. Then I went back to being matter of fact for a few months to decide what to do. By the time I decided on a bilateral mastectomy (both sides) I was back to crying about it. All this time I was going it alone - mostly. Only a few people knew what I was going through. None of my friends knew. I had only told a few of my sisters and of course my husband and kids. 

At some point, complete vulnerability became a necessary evil (in my mind). I had no choice but to face it all, emotionally, in order to tell extended family, and then to start this blog series. As I became more comfortable with being vulnerable, I started to tell anyone who would listen and cried to more people than I care to admit. Essentially, I was becoming more of that authentic self that I used to love about me. 

There were a lot of benefits to allowing myself to be vulnerable:
  • I FELT better to some extent, feeling like I was no longer alone. 
  • I received the support I would not have otherwise received (through support groups, childcare and meals provided after surgeries, words of encouragement from others).
  • I was able to write things that may have helped others.
  • I found some purpose for what I was going through.
Despite all the benefits, I struggled with being so vulnerable. I still felt horrible about being so exposed. Every time I would tell someone, ask for prayer, inadvertently cry about it to someone while talking about it, I felt torn - like this vulnerability was a mistake. I have a hard time discerning who actually cares and who is just being "nice". When I did not receive any response about a way I felt or didn't have people checking on me I would wonder if I should have told anyone. I still feel this way at times.

A few weeks ago I made a hard decision to share my blog with a particular person I am not and never will be close with but thought it would encourage. At first, it was received well, but over time has seemed like a horrible mistake. I have felt exposed and judged because of that decision. I feel like the gesture was misunderstood and I have felt worse about that than I have about any choice I have made for vulnerability thus far.

I am still struggling with vulnerability. I was supposed to be done with this whole process in July. I am now ready for this to be a chapter of my life to be over - to close the book on it. To pretend it never happened. That is where I am right now. I just want to be done with it. I want to go back to the way things were. I want to not have to doubt things I share or how people react. I wonder, because of my experience with vulnerability - how raw and emotional it has made me feel (something I am totally uncomfortable with) - if I will ever be able to make the choice for vulnerability again. I would like to think I have learned that vulnerability is worth it. I am not so sure. I wonder if instead, I will become even more guarded in the future than I was before this whole chapter began (if that is even possible).

I want to believe vulnerability is worth it. I am just not there yet...because sometimes it isn't. Vulnerability is a risk. Now to decide: Is it a risk worth taking?

For now I am holding on to the knowledge that I am not alone, even when I feel like I am:
"Even when it feels like my world is shaken, even when I've had all that I can take, I know you never let me go...I know no matter how it ends, you're with me even then"
(See video below)




Read other posts in this series:

To start at part one go here: