My sister sparkles as a beautiful writer (who has negative biopsy results!)

In October I introduced my sister's blog Hair Optional ... she has continued to write beautifully about her experiences - though, to be honest, many of her recent postings I have found very difficult to read. I found them difficult to read because it was a lot of data and Fear. Data and Fear feed my own What If twinges and I found it difficult to steady myself and not get sucked in. Sororal worry, personal worry, etc etc... A lot of what she has been going through for the last few months has been living in her pothole. I get it. I lived in a pothole myself. I Dreamt of Sausage is about me choosing not to live that pothole. Seeing it for what it is and realizing the sticky molasses pond of Fear can be stepped around.

As a shout out to her latest biopsy results! (ALL CLEAR!) I am reposting the entirety of her What If Pothole piece for a variety of reasons. Most importantly because I am FREAKING 150% proud of my sister. Second most importantly - I have been searching for a name of the What If demon/spirit/entity/sprite/etc - and I love love pothole.

Pothole is descriptive without being judgmental. So I am going to use it. Thanks Chiquita.

[quote]A few weeks ago, I was moaning about all of the horrible possibilities that could be the state of my health with my sister on the phone. On and on I went. And on and on. And on some more. When I finally finished, a little impressed that she’d let me go on so long, she paused before asking if I was done. “Yessir! Thanks for listening.” “I’m your sister, I will always listen to you while you’re in your pothole. But, just so you know, I wish for your sake that you would spend less time in your pothole.”

My pothole?

I got off the phone with her and thought about this image. A pothole: a temporary hole in the road ahead. Avoidable. Sometimes deep enough to puncture a tire, sometimes barely noticeable. Created any number of ways: when water seeps into a crack and then freezes, breaking apart the asphalt, or sometimes when a part of the road is not made well, and then worried to death by passing cars.

Ever since December 11, when I was told that my PET scan looked strange and the possibility remained that I still might have cancer, I have been running through my what-ifs, usually in this precise order:

1) I might still have cancer. 2) If I still have cancer, they’re going to want to give me stem cell treatment. 3) They’re going to want to start right away. 4) Which means that I won’t have time for the Lupron to wear off (my artificial menopause is currently due to wear off by Feb 28) before they want to begin. 5) Which means they won’t want to give me the time to try to harvest eggs again. 6) Because the first time failed, I have no eggs/embryos currently frozen. 7) Stem cell treatment is horrible in and of itself. 8) I would lose my hair again. 9) I would lose my body again. 10) I would probably completely lose my fertility. 11) Michael and I wouldn’t be able to have babies that look like us. 12) Unless we go a different route for treatment. 13) Nobody wants to talk about that.

Depending on how I’m feeling that particular day, I shut down at any point along this list and burst into tears. If I make it to 13, I shut down and burst into tears. And anything could trigger my walk down my list: “why are you having so many hot flashes, Lydia?” “Why are you having fewer hot flashes, Lydia?” “Why are you so tired?” “Why is your appetite so variable?” “Why did you just cough that weird way?” “Why did you just have to stop and catch your breath?” “Why did you get so little sleep last night?” “Why did you get so much?”

You get the point.

This is the list that I was walking down with my sister on the day she referred to my pothole (I hadn’t slept well, so of course my response was “well, I might still have…”). This is the list that, whenever I’m going through it with Michael, he gently puts his hand on me and says, “wait to worry.”

Potholes are avoidable. What ifs are avoidable. Worry is useless until there is something about which to worry (even then, I’ll admit, its usefulness is questionable).

Sitting in a pothole is bound to get me creamed by a tire. Sitting with my what ifs are bound to get me creamed by the emotional onslaught. Worrying before I know what I am actually dealing with is emotionally draining if not damaging.

Pothole. What If. Wait to Worry.

What If Pothole.

Now that I see a tire coming at me every time I think about running through my what ifs while sitting in my pothole, I find that I’m sitting there less. And driving myself crazy less.

Pithy words of wisdom have a very different impact and a lot more meaning now that I am in the middle of something actually really tough. Having a personal catch-phrase is incredibly useful; I literally catch myself before tumbling down my personal what-if chain-of-thought hell.

I’ve now got a name for the thing that I want to avoid because it hurts: the What If Pothole. Feel free to remind me of it when you see the tire coming for me.[/quote]

My sister is a beautiful writer (and you can read her blog to see for yourself)

Here are some of my favorite chunks from her beautiful beautiful writing. Her blog is called Hair Optional. Me and My Shadow - July 9, 2012

[quote]I was completely stoned.  Like, freshman year in college stoned. After staring at the tv, drooling, for two hours, I decided that enough was enough, so Michael and I walked a few laps of the floor (which was also apparently entertaining), and then I went to bed.[/quote]

Irony - July 19

[quote]A friend of mine summarized the last few days for me, and I can't phrase it better: Occasionally I wish I had the direct phone number of The Universe so I could call up (during dinnertime) and just yell "WTF?!?!" into the receiver.  This is one of those times.  If any of you have that direct dial, please let me know.  If not, just keep the love coming.[/quote]

Go home. Stay there. Open window. - August 10

[quote]Every year I promise myself that our next home will have windows that actually, truly open.  Windows like I had in my office at the Massachusetts Statehouse where on particularly beautiful mornings I would climb up on my windowsill and pull the window up six or seven feet and it still wouldn't be fully open and just stand there, inside yet outside, letting the cool, soft, morning air wash over me.  Just stand there, hearing the traffic from Beacon and Park, smelling the wind that had just ruffled the trees in the Common, simply feeling the morning in my small corner of Boston.  Until David would see me from his window, call my extension, and tell me that whatever it is, it isn't worth it.[/quote]

Day 8 - August 28

[quote]Hi, I have an 8:30 appointment with the nurses. Hi Lydia, you do know that it's 9, right? Well, I was here yesterday at 8:25 and didn't get in to see them until 9:15, so I decided to cut out the wait this morning. Is that going to be a problem? Um, nooooo.. Good.[/quote]

Hobgoblins - September 12

[quote]Imagine the entire underside of your tongue with cuts on it.  Now imagine moving your tongue.  Now imagine trying to talk, eat, drink, or yawn without moving your tongue.  Yeah.  That was my problem too.[/quote]

Floating - September 28

[quote]... my extraordinary therapist, who happens to be Israeli, decided to introduce me to Yom Kippur.  Putting aside the self-flagellation portions, because I have that part covered, she asked me to start counting my blessings and to do this every day. The purpose is to help me move from the feeling of treading water to floating.

What's the difference? Treading water takes effort; floating doesn't Hmmmmmm.[/quote]

Neutropenic Fever - October 13

[quote]My nurse and the night doctor eventually appear to take vitals and generally go through the admit checklist (Are you depressed? Are you in any pain? Do you have a living will? It's fun, especially at two in the morning.).[/quote]

Warm Blankets - October 23

[quote]When I was a little kid, my mom would take the laundry from the dryer, put it into our antique wicker oval basket, switch the next load, and start folding. As she would reach into the basket, she would encounter a sock, an undershirt, a soft giggly calf, a pair of underwear, a small hand, a t-shirt, a shoulder-being the wonderful mom that she is, she would tickle said body part for a moment and then move on to the next piece of clothing.

There is nothing quite like a warm pile of laundry. In law school, I remember vividly that during exams, I would do a load of laundry, dump it into a chair, and then sit in it for ten minutes.  It didn't matter if it got wrinkly; it was all jeans and socks and long-sleeved t-shirts that wouldn't get folded because I would just reach into the pile for the next four days and get what I needed. But as I was buried in it for ten minutes, a shoulder would drop slowly from my ear to where it belonged, my lower back would relax back into its natural curve, my thut (the part where ones thighs meet ones butt) would release, unclinching both my hamstrings and my butt. [/quote]

Thut is my perfect new word for the day...I love you chiquita.