It’s my pleasure to share the next #MetsMonday Featured Post. This one comes from Kristie Konsoer, a fellow blogger, educator and Wisconsinite. Kristie was diagnosed with de novo metastatic breast cancer in 2012. She writes a wonderful blog titled, Finding A Way. Be sure to leave her a comment or ask her a question at the end of this post. And then, head on over and visit her blog.
Thank you, Kristie, for sharing your voice at Nancy’s Point.
Reminder: Don’t forget to download your FREE copy of my new eBook, Voices, Vol. 1, A Collection of #MetsMonday Featured Posts, available via the Nancy’s Point Resource Library.
Lost and Found
by Kristie Konsoer
The Lost and Found in any elementary school is a phenomenon few understand. I never did and I taught for over twenty years. It’s akin to the Bermuda Triangle or a black hole. Items of clothing get sucked in and may be seen but are never retrieved. Perhaps calling it the Lost and Lost would be a better name.
Items would become lost on the very first day of school.
When I taught in a rural school, kids walked around to each classroom and held up the lost article of clothing from the playground. Staff and kids recognized other kids’ clothes. It was disruptive but part of life in a rural community. Items still wound up in the Lost and Found despite these efforts.
That didn’t happen in a larger school.
There were designer coats, clothes, shoes, boots, backpacks, and footballs that called the Lost and Found home. I don’t know why I keep capitalizing it. To me, it’s a destination like Canada and makes perfect sense to capitalize. So many lone mittens would be pinned on netting in the winter and to draw attention to kids as they raced outdoors. One or two may have been claimed and then replaced by three or four more.
Before major school breaks at the end of the year or in spring, aides would display all the lost items on tables that lined up and down the main halls and teachers would take their class for a walk to view all the items. Most things stayed lost. Eventually, things that weren’t claimed were donated to Goodwill if they were still serviceable. Perhaps not the lone mittens looking for their match.
I imagine the conversations at home:
Parent: Where is your sweater that grandma gave you?
Parent: Where are your new shoes that cost an arm and a leg?
Child: I think I saw one of them the other day.
Parent: We can’t keep buying new coats for you.
Child: I’d like a red one. I wouldn’t lose a red one.
A parent could be seen rummaging through the Lost and Found many a day after school looking for little Tommy’s coat or sweet Nevaeh’s lunch box while Tommy or Nevaeh played outside. Sometimes, they were successful. They always were aghast at how many items were lost. It was both a sad and a comical sight.
I feel lost a lot of the time living with metastatic cancer.
I bumble along. There is no Lost and Found for me while I wait for a treatment that lasts long term or a cure to be found. I wish there were a Lost and Found because I have lost a lot so far.
Loss is repetitive in different forms with metastatic cancer.
I lost my mother to metastatic breast cancer. I’ve lost my job, hair, appetite, energy. I’ve lost the company of friends. I’ve lost aspects of my appearance, my personality, my purpose, and my identity. I would be overjoyed if there were a box where I could retrieve these parts of me.
I’ve imagined these conversations too:
Me: Hi, I’d like my life back, please.
Attendant: You have your life.
Me: No, no, I have a cancer life, not my life. I want my health. I want to take back my job, restore my social circle, and look young and energetic again. I will shed all this cancer crap and contain it safely in a protective container to be lost here. My life is in there somewhere.
Attendant: I’m sorry, it isn’t. You’re living your life. I’ll keep an eye out for anything else you may lose that won’t belong to you anymore.
Me: Are you kidding me?
The whole point of a Lost and Found is to find things and get them back.
Attendant: That’s not how this Lost and Found works. We’re the Stage IV Lost and Found. You don’t have access to the other boxes.
And so it goes. Stage IV folks often don’t have access to other options. No one wants to deal with us.
I feel lost to possible treatments.
I hear about something new and in a matter of seconds I find out why it wouldn’t work for me. Or I’ve already tried it. I feel lost when current research or trials don’t apply to me. Just this afternoon, I found myself searching. These need to be available now so I have access to them. I don’t want to be lost for years waiting. What if I can’t find them? What if they can’t find me?
Another way I feel lost is with people.
People have drifted away. I’m sure I have drifted as well. A few of my friendships have become tighter. Still, there are fewer and fewer people who seem to understand how I feel. Feelings are singular. They can be hard to express and even harder to convey the intended meaning to others.
Even in the metastatic community, I often feel like a misfit and that I don’t fit in.
There are some mindsets or opinions I feel like I was supposed to adopt when diagnosed with Stage IV cancer and didn’t. For example, I take supplements. I’d ring the end of treatment bell every chance I had and change its meaning if there were one where I had treatment. Living while living is hard enough. I don’t prescribe to the living while dying philosophy. I feel downright nonconforming sometimes.
Not fitting in and feeling alone is a big part of the lostness.
What I find often sucks.
I find long days in tiny rooms on treatment days. I find side effects. I find discomfort, anxiety, and depression. I find a tub full of medications and supplements that I wonder what good they do if any. I find scheduling annoyances. I find problems that arise from labs or ports that attach themselves to me and are tougher to rid myself of. I find the unexpected at treatment visits that often halts what I thought would happen. I have found plenty of hard times to slog through day by day.
I find things I don’t want to find.
Others certainly don’t want to claim what I have.
Feeling lost leads to feelings of fear and uncertainty.
What will be discovered around the next bend? Will it be good or bad? How will it treat me? My mind always goes to the negative. It’s strange that uncertainty doesn’t trigger more thoughts of possibility, success, and enjoyment. Would the Lost and Found be more attractive or successful if were named Missed Possibilities? How about Returned Opportunities? I think not.
I’ve physically been lost only a handful of times.
Once, I was hiking with friends and noticed I had veered us off the trail as leader. Oops. It worked out. My sister and I took a wrong turn on a different hike on another day and took a very long and exhausting way back to our mom who was sitting in a chair and enjoying the day. Another time, I was with my family on vacation in Vermont.
To read that post, click here.
Our oncologists and researchers are trying.
I believe sometimes they are just as lost as I am, and they are the ones drawing the map. Maps lead to nowhere. Directions are rerouted. Maps and directions are getting better. We keep trying to reach Canada but fear we may be going south rather than north.
And so, I sit with many others in the Lost and Found hoping to be claimed. Until then, I shall wander about and opt for the longest most scenic route to meander.
I want to be found.
I do what I can to send out an S.O.S. I have learned how to live in between where I used to be and wherever is next. I don’t get to stay anywhere long. Being lost is a familiar feeling. I’ve adapted to my vagabond lifestyle of being metaphorically lost quite well.
And yet, there I am, trapped in the Lost and Lost box of cancer, waiting to be found, or better yet, finding my own way.
Bio: I have been living with metastatic cancer and living well since 2012. Writing brings me a lot of joy and provides an opportunity to use my voice. It’s my third year blogging about life with cancer in my blog: Finding A Way. Other activities I enjoy are walking, spending time in nature, and photography. I love to exercise and am always trying to improve my fitness level. I retired early from teaching second grade in 2016 so I could fully focus on my health. I am grateful for my life, research, and am always hopeful.
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What question or comment do you have for Kristie?
Would you like to visit a Lost and Found and reclaim some “things” you’ve lost due to cancer, and if so, what would you reclaim?
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