Sunday, March 19, 2017

Plans for Moving Forward: Part 1 "I Must Be Mad"

Moving forward is such a good idea.  I like both parts: “moving” and “forward”.  Here, just now,  I am focusing on the cognitive and physical acts of “moving” and “forward”. 
I agree with what Miranda Esmonde-White says about aging and taking care of your body.   I catch her on PBS once in a while.  She stresses the importance of movement and gently challenging your flexibility, balance and strength.  I find that when I move my body, my mental health improves, too.
My mental health has been impacted by grieving, in addition to the annual winter blues (SAD), and an awareness of the toll age has taken on my mental agility.  I am increasingly aware of certain maladaptive patterns I have in response to things that hurt or frustrate me.  I mean sulking and a tendency toward self-pity.  And then there’s denial.  I now find that, when faced with life’s worst insults (the loss of loved ones), these flimsy coping strategies don’t serve me well.  I must be thoughtful, intentional, or better put, strategic, about “moving forward” with my mental health in order to salvage my functionality!
My physical health has taken a hit, mainly in the area of overall fitness.  Whatever healthy habits I developed were disrupted by last-minute trains to Boston when David was in one crisis or another.  Eating in hospital cafeterias, sleeping in family waiting areas, long periods of just sitting, pacing, worrying.  Hours spent ruminating on “what if” scenarios, making Plans A, B, and C, and then starting all over again as circumstances changed.  Oh my….suddenly a simple act like going for a walk borders on impossible, and unfortunately, unimportant. 
One thing I have found in my grieving process is that I am very angry, principally with cancer.  Cancer has taken my father, my brother, my stepfather.  My great-grandmother lost both her baby and her life to ovarian cancer when she was in her 30’s, leaving behind a husband with 5 children, 3 of whom survived colon cancer. 
It has finally dawned on me that grieving and healing will involve dealing with my anger.  So I'm channeling my anger to do what I can to defeat cancer.  My brother David was blessed immensely by his care at Dana Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.  They have a huge fundraiser to support cancer research, the largest of its kind.  Every year, they hold a bicycle ride across Massachusetts: the PanMass Challenge.  Riders can participate in distances that suit them, from “virtual” riding (which is fundraising without actually riding a bicycle, all the way to pedaling the whole distance from Sturbridge to Provincetown in 2 days (192 miles).  I’m pretty angry, so, throwing caution to the wind, I have registered for the full distance.  (Crazy?  Yup.  Mad in both senses: angry and crazy.)
The PanMass Challenge is first and foremost a fundraiser.  The money needed to keep cancer research funded is staggering.  David participated in a clinical trial for the medicine nivolumab, and later, for pembrolizimab.  The associated cost was overwhelming, but he didn’t have to pay because he was essentially donating his body as part of the experiment.  I can’t even imagine what the additional costs were in hospital stays, neurosurgeries (to remove spinal tumors), testing, testing, more testing, rehab facility, etc, etc, etc.
When a rider registers for the PMC, she commits to raising thousands of dollars to cancer research.  I have a long way to go, both in physical preparation and in campaigning for funds.
If you are still reading this, I am appealing to you to consider making a donation for this worthy cause.  Surely, your life has been impacted by this horrid disease.  Maybe you can donate in memory of someone you love and have lost, or in honor of someone who has waged war and won, or someone in the struggle.
I am riding in memory of David, Dad, and Jim, and 2 people I’ve never met:
1)  Tim Moore, who is the brother my friend Mary lost to melanoma 5 years ago; and 
2) (in honor of, not in memory of ) President Jimmy Carter, who received pembrolizimab at the same time as David did, and for the same reason (4 melanoma brain tumors). 
But my anger and determination, my ride is big enough to carry your will to beat this enemy too.  By the time I reach Provincetown, my driving force will be Hope.  And in such an epic battle, Hope is everything.

To donate online, follow this link: Donate here to my rider page.  You can donate anonymously or publicly; your amount can be confidential if you wish.  Either way, your donation becomes a tangible tribute.  If you make a donation or not, make a comment in memory of, or in honor of someone you love who has or has had cancer.  Many thanks.

1 comment:

Lorrie said...

My nephew succumbed to cancer 6 years ago. Each spring, his mother, my sister, does a Ride for the Cure, a fundraiser organized by the Canadian Cancer Society. It helps her to cope with her grief and anger, and channels those things into positive action.

Good for you, Wendy, for taking things into your own hands in dealing with the loss of your brother. Ride well!