and other magical words
When I was born and my parents named me, someone told my mother I’d be very lucky in life if I had eight letters in my name instead of seven. My parents were already very set on “Valeria” so my mom added the “h” because it’s the only silent letter in Spanish. Because I over think everything, I’ve spent most of my life thinking a lot about the word “luck” and being unsure if I believe in it or not.
Lately, I’ve come to realize that “lucky” has the same energy as “blessed”. And I do consider myself to be very blessed. It’s a technicality, I think. “Luck”, “fate”, “magic”, “destiny”, “faith”, “miracles”… are all like different flavors of Jelly Beans. Ranging from Popcorn to Bubblegum, but all still the same candy; with the same intention to bring people hope.
Someone who thinks they are “lucky”, feels as good as someone who calls themselves “blessed”. I think these words can be used interchangeably, and regardless of which ones carry more weight for you, I think we hold them dearly because they make us feel safe. Faith, at its core, is a safety mechanism; though I know how it can feel precarious. I believe that whatever belief brings you joy, whatever you call it, if it gives you peace and a future to hope for, that’s what works for you. Who is anyone to tell you otherwise?
Luck and faith and magic may seem like concepts that exist only in our minds and only if we’re slightly crazy. But I contest that they are very much real and tangible things we can see and touch if we open our minds and hearts to them. When I talk about magic, I’m not talking about fancy women wearing sequins getting split in half by some person in a cape on a stage. I’m talking about miracles. Little miracles and BIG miracles. Lately the abundance of both are not lost on me.
My friend Rebecca sent me this in a text the other day and it made me smile to think about the incision in my neck being another way to let out the magic. I’m thankful for magic. I’m thankful for the ability to see it and for the childlike wonder it instills in me.
I see it everywhere; and it fuels me and reflects how I see the world. Lately, my mind is in overdrive, ideas and colors keep coming to me in dreams. But my body is in no physical condition to really do anything about them. So I just keep compiling them into mood boards and lists and saving them for another season. This one is for resting.
There’s so much going on and happening and unfolding all at one time. In a literal but slightly less glittery and googley-eyed way, my life is feeling very Everything, Everywhere All At Once. I’m overwhelmed at all there is to learn, about myself, and about growing up and living and loving and God and sickness and health and nutrition and faith and grace and, and, and. There is a multiverse of thoughts constantly evolving in my mind and I really don’t know how to shut it up or if I even want to. It all feels very valuable and significant and chaotic and LOUD, all. at. once.
This is why my faith is VITAL. I’ve been reading Eat, Pray, Love, by Elizabeth Gilbert and just reeeeally soaking up a lot of the life lessons and wisdom she shares. I just learned about“La Dolce Far Niente” (the sweetness of doing nothing) in the “Eat” section and now I’m in the “Pray” section, reveling at how my life seems to be mirroring the lessons I am learning in real time, as I read this book.
I wrote in my journal:
On why God (or insert whatever you believe in) matters: “experience teaches us that the world is no nursery.’ I agree— the world isn’t a nursery. But the very fact that this world is so challenging is exactly WHY you sometimes must reach out if it’s jurisdiction for help, appealing to a higher authority in order to find your comfort.” -Elizabeth Gilbert
That right there really sums up the previous few paragraphs and the foundation of my belief system. Faith, though risky and at times uncomfortable, ultimately gives us the comfort of having a future to hope for. One of my doctors recently told me, “hope heals; make sure you have things that you can look forward to, because having a future that excites you is vital when your heart has taken such a beating”.
A lately… she took a BEATING. I had started writing a detailed experience about my second surgery and the subsequent weeks that followed it but it was getting so long, I decided to save it. For the memoir, honey!! Or maybe to split up across various newsletters… it’s… a lot.
To summarize, my second surgery was very successful, but I had a few complications and the weeks that followed at home while I recovered were hard… are still hard… but getting better. For the first time in my life, I have felt chronically sick, a stranger in my body, weak, and not “well”, every day for over a month. It feels like someone hijacked my body while I was sleeping and locked me into a sound proof glass box. No one can hear me screaming, and banging on the walls won’t help. But this is not in my head and that has been a monumental relief.
For weeks I was fighting my brain, accusing her of treason, but two weeks ago my surgeon, Dr. Sharma called me to explain the physiological reason why my brain and body feel as though they betrayed me and joined enemy forces. I now know, from my most recent lab results, that my hormones are, how do I say this scientifically… significantly out of whack.
Just to give you an idea: one of the hormones that your body produces is called TSH (Thyroid Stimulating Hormone). The standard range is: 0.45-5.33. mine is at…….. 91.49. This, coupled with a little calcium deficiency situation I had post surgery and my other main thyroid hormone being significantly low, is a gorgeous cocktail that makes my body feel as though I am wearing a lead suit, accessorized with bags of sand hanging from my extremities, as I walk against 90mph wind currents. It SUCKS.
The new medication I’m on takes about 6 weeks for the body to fully adapt to it and stabilize, but I will say that since I started it about two-ish weeks ago, I have started to finally feel better. I’m still having to move at a snail’s pace, and some days are still really hard and I’ll hardly have any energy to move, but this week I had my first full day of feeling actually good, borderline great, and I wanted to scream it from the rooftops to let everybody know!!! I’m taking my wins, though small as they may seem, when I can get them and I’m really trying to celebrate the shit out of the good in my life.
I named this newsletter, “Of Magic and Mayhem” because I’ve noticed that they are not mutually exclusive to each other. Magic and mayhem exist together, moving in tandem and that is the balance of life. Having cancer is about as “mayhem” as life can get, but there’s a lot of magic here too.. For one, Dr. Sharma rocks. He’s stern but kind in his approach and delivers news with a sarcastic and funny undertone, usually followed by a hug or a fist bump. #Lucky or blessed? Seriously, talk about God looking out for me and having this be my doctor.
I keep hearing people say I have “the good kind of cancer”. I know it’s well intended, but my eye twitches a little every time I hear those words. Even Dr. Sharma says it too. He most recently said it as a reminder that softened the blow, when they told me that they had found cancer cells in one of the lymph nodes they removed during my second surgery. I felt like I’d been shot. Again. That wasn’t supposed to happen. The bad cells were not supposed to spread. Then again, I was not supposed to have cancer. Yet, here we are.
The thing is, perspective is everything. And while this was the most devastating thing I’d ever heard in my life, Dr. Sharma is zoomed out enough from the situation that he can see the bigger picture. Yes it had spread, but that’s why he removed it. “No current visible evidence of disease”. Mayhem is a tricky B because it loves to open the door to fear. Fear slips in while you’re busy distracted with the chaos and next thing you know, she’s got her evil claws inside your heart.
Fear made me shut down after they told me they found cancer in my lymph nodes. Fear made me actually question if I was cursed or bad luck. Fear made me focus on the very small percentage that I might not survive this. Fear made me ask Dr. Sharma how he could be so sure I wouldn’t be in the .1% that this doesn’t go away for… “I tend to be really special that way”, I said. To which he literally rolled his eyes.
“You’re not that special. And trust me, you don’t want to be”.
A standing ovation for my iconic surgeon, Dr. Sharma. No one in my entire life has ever told me I’m “not that special”. In fact, the opposite. People have been prophesying a special and “lucky” life over me since I before I was even born! Lucky “h”, remember!! So it was a little shocking to hear my doctor say that to me and mean it. But the magic is, I really resonated with it.
I actually needed to hear that. And honestly, I needed to be called out on my attitude. The past few weeks I’ve really been riding the self victim wave. Hear me out before you jump down my throat and tell me I’m being too hard on myself. I know it’s okay for me to be sad that I’m dealing with cancer. As Dr. Sharma also said, “ideally, cancer wouldn’t even be in the conversation”. But it is and so what am I going to do? Wallow in self pity? I have treatment options and a great prognosis but I let fear get the best of me. I can admit that.
He is brutal but honest when he tells me that he can never give me a 100% clean bill of health. No one can have that. Ever. That I’ll carry this diagnosis with me for the rest of my life and that I am “going to die someday, but it’s not gonna be because of this”. *insert fist bump* He continues to lovingly drag me by reminding me what I already know: they can do everything for me; but if I only focus on what’s not working or on the fears or on the tiny details and .1% chances, nothing they do is going to be enough for me.
Yes, fear is valid. And there is a time and place to grieve and cry and feel sad feelings. There’s not even a cap on any of that because grieving is not linear; having cancer, even the “good kind” objectively sucks. But if these are the circumstances, wallowing and sitting in self pity, day after day, are not going to change them. If anything, feeling sorry for myself makes it harder for me to focus on winning my fight. I have to focus on what is working; the good news; the hope.
This is my beast to conquer: learning how to feel my feelings and acknowledge my circumstances but move through them with grace in order to enjoy the blessings. Dr. Sharma’s advice and concern for me to refocus my energy and rediscover my hope, is everything. I am lucky and blessed and magic is oozing out of my every pore and this is the version of myself that I want to save and fight for. This, is a BIG miracle.
The world is automatically a better place every time I see something as a miracle. And learning to reframe any situation to be able to find the miracle in it, has been one of the greatest life lessons I’ve learned. I feel compelled to share the lessons I’m learning in real time in the hopes that they will craft a map of sorts for how to find the magic when chaos takes over. I find that using the hardships I endure and reframing them to help someone else gives the suffering or pain I experience a lot of purpose. Similar to having faith, I crave the safety of believing in things that give me hope.
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