Thursday, April 26, 2012

The Life of A Widow

It's strange to think that a title I never wanted, is a title that I could not be more proud to own. The word "widow" carries so much weight with it, especially at the age of 25. When people hear the word "widow," they usually picture an elderly woman who lost her husband of 50+ years, not a 25 year old woman who lost her husband of four months. But that is the card that I was dealt. And it is even crazier to think that I have been a widow for 18 months and 21 days. Some days it feels like it happened yesterday, and some days it feels like it was a lifetime ago that I saw his smiling face, gazed into those beautiful green eyes, or heard his loving voice. I can not wait to share the story of our last moments together, and the hell the followed October 5, 2010. But that is for another blog on another day, when I have the strength to sit down and put it on paper.

For now, I thought I would share some of my experiences with you since I became a widow; 18 months and 21 days ago. I would have to say that one of the oddest things that has happened since October 5, 2010 has been my new obsession with the Santa Maria Cemetary. Cemetaries used to terrify me. I had only been to one once or twice in my lifetime prior to Dan's passing. Today, the cemetary is like my second home. I go there at least every other day. I go there to vent, to think, to talk to Dan, to clear my mind. There are about five or six "usuals" that I see every time I am there. We wave, we talk, we share empathetic looks. It feels nice to see those faces. A reminder that I am not alone. However, there was one day when I encountered a rather strange woman. I was sitting at Dan's grave, lost in my thoughts, when I heard a voice call out from across the cemetary, "Is that your Husband?" I replied yes, and went back to my business. She then called out, "Car accident?" I said no, and informed her that Dan was killed in Afghanistan. She then came back with, "Did they shoot him dead?" Who says that? That takes some nerve. The next thing she said is something that I have heard more than once. She said, "Well, at least you are still young." That offers me absolutely NO comfort or relief from the pain. What does that even mean? I don't care that I have plenty of time to find another Husband, I want the one I had!

Another thing I hear quite often is, "Thank goodness you didn't have children with him." Why? I would have loved to have created another life with Dan before his passing. I would love to be able to look into our child's eyes and see a part of Dan every single day. One person even told me that I was lucky to not have had kids because now I have a "clean break." Yep, that one left me speechless.

I also realize that there are times when I make the inappropriate comment out of anger, frustration or annoyance. I was at a local bar a few months after Dan died, and a man at the bar asked me if I would take off my rings for a night and forget that I was married and be with him. Extremely creepy and inappropriate. I quickly came back with, "I don't think my recently dead Husband would appreciate that." His jaw dropped. I realize that it was probably not the classiest response, but hey, I never claimed to be classy. And when the checker at the grocery store told me how pretty the flowers I was buying would look in my house, I replied with, "Well I hope they look good on either side of my Husband's headstone, because that is where they are going. Now ring me up please." Again, not my proudest moment.

Being a widow has not only made me proud and strong, but it has also made me crazy and jaded. And I love it. After picking out caskets, writing your Husband's obituary, burying your Husband, and dealing with hundreds of sympathetic head tilts for the months following, you change. I am so incredibly proud to belong to such a great group of people; military widows. We are strong. We are proud. We are weird. And I am SO happy to have the support and love of the military widows that I have had the pleasure to come in contact with. Again, "widow" is not a title I ever wanted, but it is one that I am incredibly proud to rock!!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

My Body Is Not My Own... Thank You Cancer.

Since my first blog, I have been to Mammoth Lakes for a great vacation with my family, celebrated my 27th birthday, got my nose pierced, and spent some time with my amazing family and friends. I am so blessed to have been able to do all of these things. However, at the end of the day, my body is not my own, and I am painfully aware of that.

Cancer takes its toll on all parts of the body, mind and soul. It is physically, emotionally and mentally draining. However, probably the hardest one for me to deal with has been the physical changes that I have had to accept since my diagnosis. I have always had body issues, since I was the chubby kid in school. I have always been extremely weight conscious and have done my best to get my body to a point where I feel comfortable and proud of who I am. Well, it is fair to say that all of that went out the window when I began my chemotherapy treatments in October.

The first time I ran my fingers thru my hair, only to pull out a large handful, was one of the hardest times of my life. And my first bald spot, well that was a rough night. But, I hid my emotions and my pain from everyone around me. I acted like I was taking it in stride, and that I was doing all of this in the name of being “cancer free.” When in reality, I cried myself to sleep every night. Women are feminine, they are supposed to have hair, and soon, I would not. It got to the point where I would wake up covered in my own hair, and it was miserable. It had to go. I had planned a night where all of my family and friends would come and support me while I shaved my head, and they would do the same to show their love and support. Two days before the event, I realized that shaving my head was something that I needed to do in private. I could not imagine looking in the mirror at my newly shaven head for the first time in front of 30 of my closest family and friends. I choose to shave my head with my immediate family and a few girlfriends. I needed to do this so that I could breakdown and accept my new look before being in front of people. It was difficult. It took me about 20 minutes to finally allow my friend to even touch the razor to my head. And ten minutes later, I had a shaved head. It was the strangest feeling that I have ever experienced. That night, I felt liberated and free. The next morning, I felt ugly and not like myself. This was the new me, and I hated it.
Wearing a wig every single day is extremely obnoxious, but I do it. I am not afraid to be without it, but I chose to wear it and continue to feel feminine and pretty. That is until the day is over, and I am in my room, alone and hairless.  This is when I lose it. I do not like what I see in the mirror. Not only am I bald, but I am heavier that I was when I started the treatment. My weight fluctuates on a weekly basis, and I cannot control it. I retain so much water that at times, my feet are so swollen that I cannot get them in my shoes. Feminine? I think not. My eyebrows fell out and now I have to draw them in. Feminine? I think not. I throw up constantly,  and have been so weak at times that I needed assistance showering and changing clothes. Feminine? I think not. I have so many scars on my stomach from numerous surgeries that it looks disfigured. Feminine? I think not. I struggle each and every day with the new me. I feel sorry for myself. I cry. I get angry. But, at the end of the day, this is what I have to do to live. I like to think that I have done this all with a smile on my face, but that would be a lie. The last seven months have been some of the hardest of my life, aside from losing my wonderful Husband. I cannot wait for the day where I have my long hair back; where I can feel feminine and beautiful yet again. Because this new life isn’t quite working for me.

You know what would make all of this worth it? Having my Husband here with me through it all. I know that he would love my bald head, and would kiss it every single night before bed. I need this. I need Dan here to help me through this life changing experience, and to remind me that I am still as beautiful as the day he married me. There are times when I am ready to quit and give up, and to let the cancer take me. But I know that there are too many people who love me and need me to survive. So, I will try my best to fight this cancer. I have given up my hair, and that is all I am willing to lose to this disease. I can beat this, and I will.