Sometimes There’s Darkness Before Light

Allison and Aaron Task and Family

Ah, my friends.

What a few months I’ve had. I know that I usually keep these newsletters for motivation — and this is no exception — but I feel like this time I need to disclose a bit of what’s going on with me.

In my last newsletter, I shared that I had a CSF leak, and that was rather grim, and I’m en route to repair. I won’t be cleared to jog or bounce until summer, but I’m working purposefully through a physical therapy plan with an intention of being healthier and stronger in my 50s (yep, I turn 50 on 3/25).

So…days after I left the hospital in December, I joined my husband at his doctor’s office to review the results of a biopsy. I had observed a bump in his face and was rather insistent about examining it. We learned that my husband had stage 4 salivary gland cancer. His entire gland would need to be removed and he’d need intensive radiation to address the cancer in his face.

I write you now on the other side of that surgery, where he is recovering and half his face is paralyzed. We are now facing six weeks of daily radiation, slated to begin at the end of March. He will need 3-to-6 months to recover from this.

Here are some things I can share about this experience:

  • Cancer sucks and it’s OK to let it suck for a bit. The whole process sucks. We’ve chosen Memorial Sloan Kettering as our medical partner, and they’re great, and it still sucks. It’s OK to acknowledge that and feel blue. Taking time to acknowledge the suckiness and mourn is part of the process.
  • Couple time is essential to marital health. My husband and I can laugh in the hospital. It’s as if we can stop time. The children are cared for, the phones are off, and nothing else matters. We need to add more of this downtime / dating time in venues besides the hospital. Modern parenting and dual-income families don’t leave a lot of time for the couple.
  • Community will show up if you let them. Our synagogue, community, neighbors, friends and family have shown up for us in ways we never imagined. People I didn’t know before this are suddenly offering to support our children, give rides, etc. I was told over and over “People want to help,” and I’m humbled by this truth.

Mentally, I hit a new bottom after his surgery. I haven’t recovered yet, and I was put into a caregiver role because…his ailment was bigger than mine. Cancer surgery isn’t something you want to postpone a few months, so we proceeded before I was able. Our childcare fell through for the month we needed it most, and I was scrambling.

I started to experience panic attacks and sleepless nights, and thankfully I had mental health support so that I could address these issues with tools to get back on track.

As with any crisis, once you get through it, you can see the growth. And when you’re in it, you can look out to a future where you are not in it. The last few weeks have been brutal, and this week is a week of relative calm. The sun is shining and I’m preparing to support my husband through radiation and eventual resolution.

The mantra of cancer is day by day, and I’m trying to live that way (and I look to a brighter, lighter future). Thinking too far forward can cause panic, which is more than my system can process now. And so I go day by day, practicing gratitude and calm, appreciating the love and hugs around me. Walking, looking at the sunshine and my kids’ faces.

That’s the reality and the more I can soak in the good, the better equipped I am to deal with the hard.

I’m in it now, and from this place, I can better support you when you’re in it too. My takeaway is that when in a crisis, feel the pain. And look to others for support. Some will disappoint, but more will show up and surprise you with their generosity and love. We all take our turns being the person in need, this time was mine.

Lots of love and care,
Allison

PS: Yep, I’m still working. I find client sessions to be like one big meditation where I’m wholly focused on you. It’s good for me and it’s good for you. So please don’t hesitate to call for that session. I am very much still open for business. 🙂

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