Guest Blog Post: Breathe…
Our Guest Blogger, Ekata D., is a CancerCare client who was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). She has graciously agreed to let us share this meditation on mindfulness, time and healing.
Ekata shares more about her journey on the website she and her family created, makemestronger.com. The site allows visitors to change their profile image to raise awareness of people coping with a blood cancer, and also provides a link to a comprehensive bone marrow registry.
Breathe. We all have moments in life where we need some space. Some space to breathe. Some space to be still. A pause button, if you will, where you can exhale…
Exhale without bracing for something. Exhale without mustering the energy for the next step. Exhale fully without worrying if you will inhale again. Exhale with a clear mind. A pause button that lets you just breathe.
That button, that space to breathe without hesitation is priceless. Necessary for survival, mandatory to heal yourself.
Exhaling is more than the removal of CO2, it’s the body’s way of releasing other things you need to let go of. Energy, thoughts, emotions, fear. As you release these, you make space for new ones. You’re no longer clouded by what you don’t need. You make space for clarity.
I always thought time is time. More time with family, more time with friends, more time to try to make a difference, more time to be a better me. More time for my masterpiece, more time as a puzzle piece. More time for new memories, more time for laughs. More time to show love. More time to make my footprint. More time was everything.
With this in my mind and heart, I have always been able to push through. Kept going without question. Despite what doctors told me, I still believed I had a little more left in me.
Foot on the pedal, not letting anything alter my route. I silenced the noise while staying in touch with reality. Steady speed, towards an unknown destination but glad to just be moving forward. The plan – to keep going for as long as I can. After all, time is time.
Passing landmark after landmark I was told I couldn’t reach. Withstanding the speed bumps as they came. Somehow there’s fuel in the tank even though most days I feel like I’m running on empty. Grateful for these blessings, I kept going.
I had my eye on one landmark in particular, but it seemed so far out of reach, even to me. So I focused on earlier mile markers, one’s within driving reach. Achievable ones. As I passed one, I focused on the next. As I passed each of these, the one I had my eye on got closer. The closer it got, the more confident I became. I didn’t care if I consumed the rest of my fuel as long as I got there.
When that day came, it was everything I thought it would be and more. Perfect, pure, emotional and full of love. One of the happiest days of my life. Soaking in the moments and all that came with it. Pure joy.
For the first time, in what feels like forever, I allowed myself to consider slowing down. I was running on autopilot for so long, I didn’t even realize it until now. And although I was filled with happiness, I also now became painfully aware of everything else I am feeling.
Every breath is a struggle, every movement is a fight. A few steps feels like a marathon, as does a fifteen minute conversation. Standing requires stamina I don’t have, sitting is painful and laying down is uncomfortable. Sleep is always hard to come by.
All things that have been there for some time, but I had managed to keep it at bay. Now, with no mile marker to focus on and no landmark to push towards, I found myself wondering, after I make it to this precious landmark, is time still time?
Wow. I never thought this would be something I would question. I never thought it would be something I would be unsure of, at least not while I was still remotely mobile.
I consider myself to be pretty adaptable. I wasn’t always, but I got a crash course and picked it up quickly. Now it’s second nature… Darwinism in practice. So how am I questioning if time is time?
I hadn’t given up. And although hope was dwindling, I didn’t feel completely hopeless. Yet I found myself feeling this way and I’m not sure why. Questioning something that I didn’t think I would question until I was at least 100% bed bound.
Maybe my view on quality of life had changed? Maybe I had had enough? Maybe I couldn’t fight anymore? Maybe I no longer felt like I was “living life”? All of which would be more than acceptable…but was I really at that point?
I asked myself these questions and even tougher ones. Prepared for answers I may be upset with and ready to accept them if I had to. I braced myself and asked away…
My responses weren’t Yes. (Phew!)
Interestingly, they weren’t No either. They were conditional. “No, but…” Every answer started with that, including a circumstance where the No may no longer be a No.
That’s when it clicked. The obvious which I had been pushing aside. I realized how completely drained I was. It was beyond exhaustion. Exhausted from forcing myself to get out of bed. Exhausted from physically holding my head up. Exhausted from finding the energy required for every movement I made and every word I spoke. Exhausted from my hospital routine. Exhausted from hearing there was nothing else that could be done. Exhausted from always pushing through. Exhausted from running on empty. Exhausted from constantly adapting to the new norm. I don’t think there was anything left I wasn’t exhausted from.
Mentally spent, physically shattered.
Giving myself the permission to stop pushing brought all this to light. Why? Because for the very first time, not moving forward was an option I gave myself. Everything had been building up, there waiting for me. And If I didn’t change something soon, I was going to wake up one day and my answers to those tough questions above would be a loud, unconditional “YES”.
That’s when I realized how badly I needed a break. A break from everything. Some space to breathe.
I needed to exhale. Exhale without bracing for something. Exhale without mustering the energy for the next step. Exhale fully without worrying if I will inhale again. I needed some space to just breathe.
I planned an impromptu weekend away with friends. An escape from my apartment, an escape from the city, an escape from everything within reason.
Open air, sun beaming, hard cider on ice, toes in the sand and the ocean water on my feet. Clear mind, not focused on mustering up energy for the next thing, not focused on anything but the now.
I exhaled without a care in the world. I was finally able to breathe. Breathe without hesitation. Just breathe.
I found my pause button that weekend. I gave myself the space I needed. I started healing myself.
I returned from the weekend refocused and reenergized. A thousand pounds lighter. When I pressed play, I was able to feel things other than the exhaustion, once again. I found my clarity.
I love that I can still work despite everything. So pleased of how far we’ve come as we work to build something we believe in and are proud of.
I adore my family and friends. I’m surrounded by people who love me and me them. Cheers to my puzzle pieces! Making memories, sharing laughs and being spoiled. Not sure how I got so lucky but I’m eternally grateful.
I surprised my mom for her birthday and got to see my parent’s beautiful smiles and glowing faces when I walked through the door. Genuine happiness.
I speak to my brother several times a day. We talk about as much as we can, as we always have. He sends me pics and videos of my nephew and Skypes me. I see that sweet, sweet face, hear him cooing and it makes everything okay. I see my brother the happiest he’s ever been. I get to snuggle my nephew and see him smile.
And I’m reminded, for me, time is still everything. At least for now…
I just needed some space to breathe so I could feel that again. It was necessary for my survival, necessary for me to heal myself.
Always give yourself some space to breathe. Just breathe.