Wednesday, November 23, 2011

What I am thankful for this Thanksgiving...

So it is Thanksgiving again.  I have spent so many holidays in the last ten years actively avoiding social gatherings, but this year is different.  Thanksgiving was never a holiday I cared for.  It’s all about cooking, over eating, cleaning, family and football.  Although football was never a big part of family gatherings in my family.  We were baseball people for the most part and even that was never a huge part of our lives.  I was also never a fan of being shoved into the female role as I got older.  One thing about me is never try to force or guilt me into something I don’t want to do.  I won’t do it and if you attempt to make me do it I really won’t ever do it and I won’t forget about it.

I have always avoided these family holidays because my family is very complicated and all over the US.  Without saying too much it’s been very difficult for me to deal with the family joy around me with mine being what is was and still is in many ways.  I have gone through the motions with boyfriends families but my heart is never into it and I have always hated when people ask “what are you thankful for?”  I have a very hard time being emotional around people.  I am not okay with the type of attention it brings in social settings.  In fact, I still do not like that question.  But because of the upward turns my life has taken I will speak of them here.  Let me just state that I am not attempting to depress anyone but express thankfulness and joy out of harrowing experiences.

Ultrasounds and Biopsy’s

I have had two brushes with cancer in my life.  The first of which was about four years ago and the second this past summer when I found a lump in my breast.  Initially went I went to the doctor he said that is was probably a calcium deposit that will just get reabsorbed (or something to that effect) but sent me to get an ultrasound and a Breast Surgeon to remove any doubt.  Because of my first experience I can somewhat tell when this doctor is pretending it’s nothing just to keep me calm, not that I get crazy but lets just say the first time I was at his office I left hysterically crying.  So I could tell even with his excellent bedside manner he was alarmed and while telling me its nothing being overly concerned at the same time.  The ultrasound was a strange experience.  I work in a hospital that has a breast center so that’s where I went, not thinking about how I was going to have to go topless in front of women I see almost daily but it wound up being a great experience.  They even set up my appointment with the surgeon I had picked after recommending a needle biopsy.  Of course being me I went online to see what that entailed and that was a bad idea.  Many of the descriptions made me think I was going to leave this biopsy disfigured.  I also associate biopsy’s with a lot of pain since I have had two to three before in a less invasive area.

During this entire process from the time I went to my initial doctor visit up until I got the results of the biopsy I told almost no one about this.  The last thing I wanted was to be asked everyday “how are feeling?” or “did you hear anything?”  I just didn’t want to deal with it.  I also spend a lot of time around gossips and people that would prefer I be depressed (not by choice), so I decided to keep this to myself and tell no one.  I wanted to do what I had to do without thinking about it or being reminded and then deal with the aftermath if need be.  I had my employee health assessment while this was going on and the nurse that was jotting down my information was the most helpful person through the whole experience because she had gone through it.  I had no idea what I was about to have done to me (but putting on a tough face) and she was able to explain it to me because she had been through it and more.

My surgeon was wonderful.  The biopsy was very uncomfortable, but not painful as my previous ones had been.  The way my body responses to things such as this is always interesting.  From giving blood I have finally learned to recognize when my blood pressure drops too low.  The biopsy dropped my blood pressure.  Basically they numb the area and then a needle pulls pieces of tissue out in a gun like manner, loud trigger induced noise included.  I remember the assistant asking if I was okay and because of my blood giving experiences I actually told her I was not feeling well.  That’s a huge step for me because I always think I am fine until I stand up and fall down.  She responded the same way they do at the blood bank by putting something cold on my forehead and under my neck, fanning me, giving me my water, and even giving me cookies from HER lunch.  Afterward the surgeon told me she was 99% sure it was a benign fibroadenoma but she would be in touch with the results to verify this.  Before having the actual biopsy I also had the option of having the mass removed and if it were bigger it would need to be removed.  Fortunately for me it’s fairly small and for the most part I don’t even notice it there.  It also turns out that it is benign.  I would rather not be cut into if I don’t have to especially not there.  I might not mind is so much if it were my abdominals.

So I am thankful for amazing doctors with excellent attitudes and positive test results.  It’s a position no one ever expects to be in, let alone by themselves, and having such wonderful doctors made it so much easier.  This would have been even more easier if my Aunt were here and not in Maine.  Of course I am also thankful to not have cancer.

That's my step-dad and that's me by
the cake.  This was a picture on his
facebook before I found him.
Like I said my family is very complicated, through the magic of face book and my relentless search for lost people I found my Step Father who raised me until I was 11 years old (I am still looking for my brother).  He was removed from my life for selfish reasons that were beyond his control.  After he left, my childhood was chaotic and abusive in many ways.  This is harder for me to talk about then the biopsy because I can’t even begin to describe just how much had been taken away from me all these years when I finally got to see him again almost 20 years later.  I can’t describe how different I feel in such a short amount of time and how much I have healed because of this.  It’s the kind of emotional experience that I can’t even share with anyone really.  Friends that have known me a long time know this is huge but they also have not experienced anything like this.  It’s a type of joy I want to share and I don’t understand how to do so.  Reality is very few people know what it’s like to have a parent taken from them and then reunited.  It’s very emotional and frustrating not having people understand it.

Granny's 90th Birthday
Upon being reunited I was invited to my granny’s 90th birthday party where I was able to see (almost) the entire Italian family again.  Driving to the same house I used to go to as a little kid at holidays and seeing the house again was nerve racking.  I actually drove around outside for a little bit scared to park and go in.  Being back in that house brought back memories I had completely forgotten about like how it was my granny that taught me to sew by hand and not my mother (who was a seamstress).  I completely forgot that.  I forgot how we used to bake together and that she loved music, knitting, painting, sewing, reading, and basically everything I enjoy doing.  My step father is also an artist and he still makes boat sails.  My childhood with him was always surrounded in art, writing, and music.  He also used to take me to the comic shop and buy me Bette’s Diary.  We used to watch baseball together too and after he was removed from my life I didn’t watch baseball for years.  It boggles my mind how much more a reflection I am of him, his family and friends then I ever have been of my biological family.  There is no doubt in my mind that I wouldn’t be who I am without him and I have known that for a very long time.  When people ask me how I wound up being so normal despite my circumstances my response has always been and always will be that I was extremely lucky with my early childhood.

20 years later
Anyway, being reunited with him was one thing but the entire family was even more overwhelming but only in theory because once I stepped into the house I was more at home that I have felt in a very long time.  My step-mother (we are really not sure what to call each other) who also knew me as a child asked at the end of the day if it had been weird and in reality it was exactly the opposite.  I can only describe it as what coming out of amnesia must feel like, as though I was always there but I am just missing a chunk of time.  Like stepping out and stepping back in in the exact same moment but everyone is older and all the kids grew up to have kids to take what was once our places running around the same hallways with the same toys.  I didn’t even know how much I missed all these people until I saw them again.  I didn’t realize how big a part of me they were and still are or much I needed them.  The scary part is we have all been living in the same areas for years and never bumped into each other.  My step-father brought me into the house and reintroduced me as his daughter with a kind of pride I have never known before.  Just before grace Uncle Richard grabbed my hand and told me Granny wrote the grace for me because she is so grateful I was a part of the family again and it was there was no mistaking that.  It was very hard to not cry. 

This is a favorite of mine.
I am so extremely thankful for being able to find him and be a part of the family again.  It’s something that is so emotional for me that I can say it here but I have an awful time saying to him directly, because right now at home I can write walk away in my tears and come back and type some more.  I have a very hard time crying in front of people and once I start I don’t stop because I get upset that I am crying in front of someone even happy tears.  These are happy tears because I am overjoyed and that joyousness has amounted to me being closer to who I used to be.

For a while I was very physically distant with people.  Which is really that I became an awkward hugger.  I always loved hugging people but at some point in my early 20’s I stopped doing it, not that I didn’t like it anymore but it just felt awkward and as though I didn’t understand hugging anymore.  Since reuniting with my family that has changed.  I am finding myself hugging random people as an expression of joy.  I hugged our bakery driver today who is always void of emotion just because he delivered a pie that wasn’t even for me.  He was confused.  I have been finding myself hugging everyone for no reason in particular other then I feel like hugging them.

So beyond being thankful for finding my family I am also thankful for finding inner joy again.

Last but not least I am thankful for my friends.  The new, the old, and the reunited.  I have learned a lot about people in the last year.  I have learned that many of the people I was once holding onto in my life were very bad for me and I am grateful they did not stick around to cause me more grief.  I have learned that my coworkers are coworkers and not friends.  Work is for work and not play.  That alone has helped me get through a lot of rough patches in work life and rise above those that try to keep me down.  This week has been a true testimony to that.

Anyway, I am very grateful for the pockets of friends I have now.  The ones that help lift me up on a bad day.  The ones that do not tear me down.  The ones that allow me to do the same for them.  The ones that don’t ask more of me then I am willing to give.  The ones that don’t take me for granted.

I am also grateful for the friends that have allowed me back into their lives this year after removing a person that was keeping us apart.  I am grateful that I have become more picky with who I let into my life.  I have stopped doubting my opinions and started standing by them allowing me more peace of mind when it comes to other people.

Most people whether they admit it or not are scared to death of turning 30.  I wasn’t.  I was scared of 26 actually.  The idea that my 20’s were more then halfway over and I still had no idea how to attain what I wanted in life which really was stability more then anything else was scary.  I wasn’t scared of turning 30 and for some reason I felt like this was going to be a very good year for me.  It started out rough, but it’s been an exceptionally good year.  I have had many wonderful people and things enter my life from a variety of outlets but mostly trapeze and cosplay.  I still say that flying trapeze over a year ago it was started this journey of finding me and all the good things that have been happening.  My life has been a crazy ride, but I feel like it’s coming into a renaissance period and I couldn’t be more happier.

Thank you to all my family, friends, accomplices, and fans.  I am very thankful for you all.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

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