My Little Bs Have the Big C

A Breast Cancer Blog For Young Women

Head Bowed, Heart Heavy


“It doesn’t escape me for one moment that so much joy in my life is thanks to so much pain in someone else’s. ” -Lupita Nyong’o in her Oscar speech

There are some days when something happens that snaps you back to reality.  A chance meeting with someone that lets you know how good you have it.  A story in the newspaper that reminds you that you are loved and have others to go home to tightly hold.  On Thursday I had one of those days.  Boy, did I have one of those days.

If you haven’t noticed from my posts in the last few months, I have been in a survivorship slump.  People often think that when treatment is over, life goes back to normal but I have been dealing with anxiety and depression due to what I have experienced over the last year and also from the side effects that I have.

I was in the waiting room this past Thursday morning to see my therapist.  While I was waiting, I needed to use the restroom.  Both were occupied but quickly one of the doors unlocked and I noticed something was banging against it.  My therapist is in the ambulatory care hospital so it’s common to see people with canes, walkers, wheelchairs and in stretchers.  I went over to the door and offered my help.  The man accepted.  He was in a wheelchair and thanked me for opening the door.  “It is so hard.  It is so hard,” he said to me.  “It looks like it’s really hard.  I can’t believe they don’t have a button for people in wheelchairs to press that automatically opens the door!  It’s ridiculous!”  He agreed and began to tell me his story.  He is a stroke victim and this has caused him to lose a good deal of his mobility on his left side.  Then after his stroke he got hit by a car and lost his right arm.  The only extremity that works as it should is his right leg.

We talked for a good ten minutes.  He really needed for someone to hear his story.  I was humbled that he trusted a stranger like me with his life’s tragedies.  “If I want to wear jeans, I have to leave an extra hour to get ready because I can’t zip and button the pants.”  “I don’t have a home care attendant anymore.  No one comes to help and take care of me.”  “I’m working hard.  I can’t do much but God has spared me.  But I try.  Do you want to see me walk?”  And up he stood, walking carefully close to the wall to brace himself.

I don’t know how in the face of such challenges he can remain so positive.  My challenges in comparison are small, they are real but small, and it has plunged me into depression.  I live every day in fear of my future.  And uncertain of it.  But his eyes were bright and hopeful.  He was going to walk again and be free of that chair.  That he promised me.

Right after that I took my seat in the waiting room again.  I opened facebook to pass the time until my therapist came out.  And just as she did and said hello, I saw some terrible news.  A cousin of mine, who I don’t really know but who I recently connected with on facebook died in a car crash.  He married his beautiful wife just three days before.  They were on their honeymoon and for some reason he swerved his SUV out of his lane and hit a bus.  I found this news to be devastating.  Again, I barely knew him but it’s funny how social media makes you feel closer to someone than you actually are.  I watched in photographs as he made a beautiful box for his then girlfriend in which to put the ring that he proposed to her with, and as he excitedly prepared for his wedding, their beautiful wedding day and pictures from their honeymoon that were posted in real time.

You know when you see something or read something and it’s so shocking that it makes no sense?  This was one of those things.  And upon understanding and clarity there is fear, sadness and that feeling in your gut and hands that make you sick with confusion of life’s uncertainties.

Not long after this, there was the shooting on a college campus in Oregon where a shooter entered a classroom and killed ten people.  Another national tragedy at the hands of a person with a gun.  Ten families were changed forever.  Ten families were whole just a few hours before and now they aren’t.

I just wanted to go home and crawl under my bed and hide from this day.  At the same time I just wanted to hold my family tight and be grateful for their lives and my own.

Why does it take tragedies like this to be reminded that we have so many good things in our life?  Even though we struggle, there is so much to be grateful for.  I hate that it has to happen this way.  That my joy and my gratitude are because of the pain and suffering of others.  But grateful I am.

9 thoughts on “Head Bowed, Heart Heavy

  1. I am very sorry about your cousin, Carrie. My deepest sympathies go out to you and your family.

    That was a very touching story you shared about the guy you helped. It was very kind of you to stay and listen. He has determination.

    The recent shooting was awful. I’m against guns. I don’t know how many lives it will take for a drastic change to happen — ironically, a situation parallel to cancer research funding (sort of).

    I complained to my guy all morning about everything — work, not having kids, cancer, family drama (=emotional cancers), hormones, etc. But I forgot about all the good things I have. I think it’s very human for us to concentrate on what we don’t have. I make my life complicated by doing that. Until I am reminded that I do have a lot to be grateful for.

    Social media does have a way of connecting people. I sometimes feel closer to my online friends than my real life friends.

    One day at a time, my friend. Feel better.

    • I complain all the time about what I don’t have. Sometimes, that’s ok. But I need to start focusing on the positive again.

    • Thank you, Rebecca. Like I said, I didn’t really know my cousin but I’m positively shaken by his passing. There has been an outpouring of love for him and I feel at a loss for not having known him better. And my heart breaks for his wife. I can’t even imagine. There was a memorial for him this weekend but I couldn’t bare to go. My mom said it’s a good thing I didn’t. It was very emotional. I don’t think I could have handled it.

  2. The man in the wheelchair trusted you with his story because you showed compassion and he knew you were someone who cared. Your good heart shows.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your cousin. That’s awful… And about survivorship: it’s hard, especially in the first year or two or three while your body and emotions heal. It takes time. Be sure to show yourself compassion too. It’ll get better.

    • Thank you, Eileen. I do care so much about other people. I was glad he told me his story. Survivorship is extremely difficult in so many ways that I never predicted. I underestimated the time it would take to heal physically and emotionally. I thought things would be back to normal right now. Ha! Not even close. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  3. Pingback: Weekly Round Up Is Back! | Journeying Beyond Breast Cancer

  4. For all of us, there is always better and worse. The good and the bad are real to each of us in our own experiences. We are entitled and we are human. You are doing great and the best you can. You wouldn’t be a regular person if you weren’t going through what you are. How can you not?

    One of the best ways to try and lift ourselves is to give to someone else, and you did that beautifully for the other patient. What a gift that was to him; so beautiful from you.

    Events like Jeremiah and another mass shooting – what can we say? How can we take that in? I don’t know that there is a way. So much sadness, and perhaps trying to stay grateful and give love is all we can do.

    I love you and hug you every day, even if I don’t see you…

  5. Dear Carrie,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read several of your posts, including the above “Head Bowed, Heart Heavy.” It’s beautifully written and compelling. I think it would make a wonderful youshare, because the message is powerful and universally applied to people living around the world.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


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