Absent without leave

The two months since I wrote my last blog have been sucked up by the black hole of time. Looking back over my planner, I see that I haven’t suffered from a dearth of activities. I have no memory of sticking my head in the sand either. In fact, my failure to write a blog or produce a new chapter of my work in progress has been perplexing.

The one piece of writing I’ve kept up with is my journal. Perusing entries from the past two months, I see that hardly a day has gone by in which I haven’t bemoaned my inability to create, or wondered why I felt so blue despite living the good life here in paradise.

Conventional wisdom says shut up and write– every day– motivated or not. And I did, for the first month, albeit unsuccessfully. I began a couple of blogs, and attempted, day after day, to finish a chapter of my novel.

Searching inside myself, I discovered that I’d become obsessed with the notion that my breast cancer might return. I noticed that even reading about cancer set my gut to roiling, despite the fact that I claimed, back in January, to have overcome my fear. I believed it back then. What had happened to reignite the fear?

Just yesterday, after I began writing this blog, and wondering what was going on in my head, I had an epiphany. Perhaps the fear sprang from my decision, made around the time I fell into a funk, not to have the last week of radiation my doctors had ordered.

I finished the initial five weeks of radiation in the beginning of December. The doctor who oversaw my therapy said it was protocol to target the incision site for an extra week. She said I’d have to go to a different hospital, and that they would call me to schedule the appointments.

When I saw her in the beginning of April, they still hadn’t called, so I told her I’d decided against the final week. Why?

I hadn’t wanted the radiation in the first place: I was scared of the damage it would do to my immune system, heart, lungs and my already sick esophagus. And as I read recently in an insightful New York Times article called Our Feel Good War on Breast Cancer: excess medical radiation is one of the few known causes of cancer.

My tumor had been small, and no cancerous cells had been found at the site or in the lymph nodes. Initially, my surgeon held out hope that I wouldn’t need radiation, but the oncology team at the Hospital San Juan de Dios had other ideas. I’d submitted, scared that if I didn’t, and the cancer returned, I’d have to hate myself.

Today, I’m trying to concentrate on wellness — through diet, exercise and meditation. I’m focused on the now. And since I seem to have discovered the source of my block, maybe the doors of creativity will reopen.

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About Myra

I'm retired in Costa Rica, having lived in Philly, State College, Salem Mass, and Kawagoe Japan. You might call me a career gypsy, but my last and best job was teaching English to some of the best and brightest kids in Philly. I'm new to blogging and websites, and will probably make all the mistakes there are, but now I'm sharing my writing. I moved to Costa Rica in June of 2009 with my husband Jack, my dog Buddha, and Jack's two cats, Hobbes and Noir.
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11 Responses to Absent without leave

  1. Lavinia says:

    Trauma has a funny way of knocking us off track, literally. And a brush with mortality causes re-prioritazations – both intentional and unconscious. Fear can galvanize or paralyze. My fears are far less concrete: what if my writing sucks? what if no one wants to read it? Who am I anyway to think I can write? Shouldn’t I be doing something that contributes to society instead of sitting here dreaming up plot twists?
    When this happens, I have to remember the 4 noble truths of writing by Gail Sher (One Continuous Mistake)
    1. Writers write
    2. Writing is a process
    3. You don’t know what your writing will be until the end of the process.
    4. If writing is your practice, the only way to fail is to not write.

    I have this on my bulletin board. A constant reminder 🙂
    (It was great to meet you in person!)

    • Myra says:

      Lavinia, now that I’m finished worrying about cancer, I have all of the ones you described! I think I’ll print it out too, and keep it in sight.

      I really enjoyed meeting you too. I just wish we’d connected sooner. 8)

  2. Lynne says:

    Hugs to you, Myra. You made an informed decision, but regardless, it’s easy to second guess and wonder about the “what ifs.” That’s a heavy burden to bear, and I can understand how it could sap your creative energy. Just know you have a worldwide network of friends sending good vibes, prayers, and love out into the universe for you! This too shall pass. The muse will strike again!

    • Myra says:

      Thanks Lynne, for understanding and for the kind words. It’s funny
      how things can turn you upside-down without your consciously
      knowing it.

  3. Betty Ann says:

    Myra, Rest assure you will be fine.Cancer will always be on your mind…but remember Cancer grows on stress..and I was told just last Tuesday from my Dr. One more year and Ill be a survivor….That,s right stage 3 Breast Cancer…you know what I have been through…if I can do it I know you can..just keep up your self exams and keep your Dr. app.don,t let it get you down..go out and have a glass of wine play soft music…and look at your beautiful view…I still remember that view and yes I play that CD…lol….Tracy last treatment was last Friday…I took her home on Monday..so far she is fine…Dr. app.in two months Ill let you know..love ya

  4. Cindy Dwyer says:

    Sometimes it’s better to take a break and come back fresh and energized then to try to fake it. I know you’ll be writing again.

    As for the cancer, it’s normal to be afraid and second guess every decision. But you’ve been doing everything right – eating healthy for example. Trust your instincts.

    • Myra says:

      Thanks, Cindy. I appreciate your thoughts and advice. You can bet I’m
      all about healthy living, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.

  5. Hard stuff for sure. I cannot help you with the fear of cancer, but I do know that I feel fearful whenever I am NOT WRITING.
    I recently bought Barbara Abercrombie’s KICKING IN THE WALL, a series of inspirational quotes and writing prompts. (Her previous one, A YEAR OF WRITING DANGEROUSLY is equally good)The prompts have been great because they are teaching me that I don’t just write when I am inspired, but I write every day. Often these exercises help me start on my own work by coming into it sideways from one of her prompts. They seem geared to make you look at minor details and my mind seems to be thinking about my wip anyway, so some small detail will pop to mind… or I write for about 500 words about how much I hate the way I’m feeling. But I do think it helps to have an external suggestion as to what to write about. Hope that helps, Myra.

    The other is a bitch. Period. Think healing thoughts, and don’t worry about your blog. I’ve gone six months without updating mine. I looked back at my archives the other day, I’ve been doing this blog since 2005. Eight years. We all hit a groundout now and again. 😉

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