Sunday, September 22, 2013

What's Left of Me

MonkeyGurl and MonkeyME 
walking the hallways at Johns Hopkins Hospital

I understand why they say you lose friends along the way because you're not the same person you once were.

I am not alone. You are here and I am grateful. But I want you to see all of me - what's left of me.

I am sad. I am withdrawn. I can't stand up straight. I can't breathe deeply. I can't drive, or take my dogs for a walk, or go to the grocery store, or do errands unassisted like normal, healthy people do. I can't work. I can't lead. I don't feel sexual, or comical, or witty, or engaging. I am weak. I am fragile. And I hate this me - what's left of me. 

Somewhere between my rectum, and my sigmoid, and the lower anterior of my colon, must have been my creative edge, my will, my drive, and my sunny side, because they are gone. I can't focus my eyes. I can't calm my mind. I can't sooth myself.

I know that this is temporary but it's important to honor where I am and what I am feeling if I'm going to grow from it. It's important to be honest with myself and I don't want to bullshit you. You don't deserve that. I don't deserve that.

I have good news. Marvelous news! My pathology report showed no evidence of cancer. Twenty-six lymph nodes were taken and tested and all were clean. Which means, the radiation ate my cancer. It also means I didn't need the surgery but we wouldn't have known this for certain had I not had the surgery.

This time there were no mistakes, I followed my gut and it brought me to a place of healing. Having the internal, high dose, radiation (available only at Johns Hopkins) was the right decision. Having Dr. Susan Gearhart perform my surgery was the right decision. And having the surgery was the right decision because of the knowledge that it gave me.

I now have a 12 inch scar that stretches from just above my belly button to my pelvic bone. I have a stoma - part of my small intestine peaking out from the middle of the right side of my abdomen. I am now missing more body parts than Miss Pegged. This is a game we have played since we first met. And now, finally, (thanks to the lymph nodes) I am winning.

I go back to Baltimore on the 17th of October for a followup and more tests. It's hard to feel cancer free when the need for tests continues. They'll test my lungs and my pelvic area to see if they're still clean. And the worry and the wait will begin again.

I watched the Valerie Harper documentary the other night showcasing her fight against brain cancer. Her will is undeniable. She sees the goodness in everything, even her cancer. I am not there yet and I'm not certain I ever will be. What I heard in that documentary were the facts - you thought you beat your lung cancer but you didn't. You had three years off for good behavior before it moved on up to your brain. Your fucking brain!

It always seems to move up, like it's been promoted. In time, mine will likely move on up to my liver, or my lungs, and I guess, if I survive that, it will move on up to my brain. There is no beating cancer. It's too fucking powerful. All I can do is endure the surgery and the treatment and be thankful for more time.

Cancer will not fool me. My doctors aren't fooled. That's why I will begin chemotherapy in a few weeks - my best bet at stopping the microscopic cancer cells from marching onward, upward.

The bag sucks. It's worse than I thought. I won't get used to it. I won't adjust to it. I'll tolerate it and celebrate the end of it. The next six months will be a lesson in patience, in resilience, in resistance.

I didn't know how I was going to end this because you know how I love to end a post with something uplifting. And then I remembered a story a friend (Sandy - sweet Sasha's first Momma), shared on facebook.

It is a poignant reminder that love beats cancer, not because it cures it, but because it outlives it.

xo, Monkey ME


  1. You did it, girl! Just focus on slowly getting better now, day by day. Much hugs and love to you!

  2. Ahh Shannon. All I can do is love you honey, and provide some smiles along the way....perhaps the next time we see each other I shall fall down...

    Love and light dearest..


  3. You brave, brave woman. I would like to think that I could've done what you did, but I doubt it. I still grapple - but your strength, whether you believe or not, gives us strength.

    The [only] nice thing about time, when you need it to, does pass - and it passes quicker than you think. I think so anyway. Drugs help. ::wink::

    Rejoice in the good news and in a family who loves you so very much. And know we are always here rooting you on. Promise.

    In our thoughts and prayers. Rest well my friend. xo J

  4. I can hear the sadness and fatigue in your words. You have been through something that would knock anyone down. But you have such strength that I know you will get up again. Your life has changed with everything you have been through and it's no wonder you don't feel witty. Cancer is a MoFo and we must celebrate when it's knocked down and out, stomped on by drugs and surgeons. No cancer in your lymph nodes is AMAZING! I am cheering about that and I hope you hear me all the way across the country. I'm cheering for you, for your wisdom and touch choices. And I give you my support for healing, for resting, for letting others care for you. I am so very happy to see you posting here again. Take care, Monkey:-) xoxoxo

  5. <3 Minkey......bunny hugs, bunny kicks, please know we are WITH YOU in spirit. I want a fucking group MonkeyBunny hug right now. xooxox <3

    and please remember that I will never underestimate the power of the Monkey. and I hope you don't, either. <3
    Love, Jeanie

  6. Lots of Monkey rest for you. I hope you are not watching any Notre Dame football right now!! You don't need added stress....

  7. Hi Shannon, how you doing Hun? I have always loved your blog from day one. We go back to the old days of us getting breast cancer together. That's such a long time ago two years I think!
    I know this is hard for you and chemo is next but us cancer girls are fighter's so I know you will be fine.

  8. whoa, Shannon your writing is great as always and your blunt way of expression hits me in the gut every time. Thanks for being who you are and saying it like it is. not always happy. not always pretty. but real. I myself am in recovery from Prostrate surgery, having a hard time but living off the news that I am cancer free. What a bitter sweet place this is....know that I am right there with you and love you for putting it all down with your words....Jbird

  9. Shannon your honesty is one of the things that make you so beautiful. Thank you for allowing me and others to accompany you on this difficult journery. i know I don't know how you feel, I'm just a spectator, a loving one but a far away one. I hope love can travel, and can be felt by the receiver. If that's so, you know what I feel.

    I always feel so honored when you visit my blog. Don't worry about what you comment, I like knowing you remembered me. Besides, poetry is not for everyone, and mine is an exercise, something I need to practice in order to improve. Hugs to you my friend.

    1. Oooo I love that, I hope love can travel, and can be felt by the receiver...lovely...


  10. thinking of you my teatimefriend! love and hugs!

  11. Way to kick the f'er in the teeth. Clear lymph nodes is great news.
    Wishing you music to calm the soul and love to get you through the healing.


  12. dear Shannon,

    oh, my dear - I am reaching through the page, through the universe, through to your heart and sending you the very best of everything you need right now. I am thrilled for the good news of NO lymph node involvement, and so grateful for the relief you express that all your choices were the right ones.

    no one could write a better description of how you are feeling - what's left of you. I see that monkey tail - a bit bedraggled - but, honey - you still GOT IT! and it and you are sooooo beautiful. close your eyes, and let yourself feel all the love you are surrounded by. it is there, just for you, and it will never abandon you. it's a force so huge, so powerful, but so enveloping, always a safe place for you to land. that and good drugs will get you through...

    much love and light, XOXOXOXOXO


  13. sending you positive thoughts... you ARE stronger than you think! I just changed my "bag"... I named it ... whoopee cushion. It doesn't suck as bad anymore like I thought it would. I've had it 2 years now. Like my grandma used to tell me, "this too shall pass.

  14. Love will endure, and believe me, you have it, Monkey <3

  15. I feel that the most important part of u is still alive and left--ur soul/spirit.

    I'm so sorry that you are having such difficult and sad journies to travel.

    But I'm looking forward to the day when u look back and tell us the story of ur strength and courage along the way and that u overcame.

    It seems the surgery gave u "peace of mind" that the cancer was gone. I think that makes the surgery worthwhile even if in the end it was not necessary. In a way, it was necessary.

    U will find a way to handle and cope all the hard things u will have to endure. U have the strength. In times of weakness, lean on ur family and friends and God. Someone will always be there to carry u when u need it.

    As always, u are in my thoughts and prayers. Take care my friend.

  16. What an amazing document this blog has turned into over these last 2 years. Sometimes (most of the time?), it's too much for me to even take, because I feel like I've been punched in the gut.

    Good news is good.

  17. Holy Shit! I BELIEVE in the power of monkeys!!! You go Grrrrl. You will emerge through this crappy chrysalis and move on to better ass-kicking times. Many thanks for sharing your journey. You have given strength and so much more to many of us--judging from the comments.
    Here's to your healthy pooper and here's to YOU!
    Just Jill

  18. Love the tail! That is really, really good.

  19. Spirit..
    This is a word that has eluded me for some time. I had been thinking about what separates those who hate their life because they don't have the right things, and those who can go through their darkest hours and still inspire others.
    You have SPIRIT. If there is a Devil, he through some serious shit at you.
    And you still shine.
    You don't have to shine every minute of every day.. You don't *have* to shine at ALL.
    But you do.
    You shine honestly.. That's what shine is; showing what's real. It's not all sunshine and roses, but you still see them through the dark.

  20. Oh Shannon! You have been through so much. I am thinking of you and sending you good, loving, healing thoughts.
    It's so important and so brave that you are sharing your truth in this wicked dance. In truth there is freedom. There is peace in knowing you zapped those cells. Rest, rest, REST. Remember your protein for healing. Hugs, hugs, HUGS! I hereby knight you Queen of all Resilience.

  21. Wow girl. I wish I had half of what you have to fight anything...including cancer. But my arms are weaker and my ammunition is corroded. None the less, I will take your example and march on, living day by day as the gift it is. The alternative, is far more grave (pun intended). I wish it were easier for you. I wish the bag gone. I totally understand that part. I am hugging you from here...even when it seems I'm not around. My own pit swallows me whole sometimes, but I climb out...just like you :)

  22. Hey Shannon,

    Yeah, just like Jesse (anonymous above, which made me smile:) said: you don't have to shine all the time.

    But *Please* always take strength that you *are* a beacon of light to so many of us who have no concept of the pain, the hardship - the journey that you are on.

    We then stand off to the side, like supporters at a marathon. We shout your name, roar at you to keep going and also quietly remind you that you are a true heroine and a lady above all others:)

    1. Mark that was so sweet.

  23. Great news and the surgery went well. I believe you don't have to be witty or anything after are allowed to be weak!
    You go and kick ass another day!


Thank you for encouraging my JOY of writing. By reading and commenting you are feeding my soul, stroking my heart, and in the end...making me a better writer.

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Thank You For Encouraging My Joy of Writing

Shannon E. Kennedy


Photo by Joan Harrison