A Letter to My Younger Self

Dear Marianne,

I know how awful you feel. How weak, nauseous, dizzy. I know that every cell in your body is hurting. Today, Marianne, is the last day of your treatments for this insidious disease.

Get ready because your mother is going to throw you a surprise party tonight. It’s because she loves you so much. It’s because the last months have been excruciating for her and all those that love you. You haven’t been able to see their struggle because the sheer effort of making it through every day has blinded you to anything else. You aren’t going to last very long at the party and you will lie in your bed listening to everyone celebrating the end of your ordeal while tears streak down your cheeks and you wonder why you don’t feel as happy, as relieved, or anywhere as close to it all being over as everyone else does.

Grad pic 4Hold on, little one. Breathe. Lie back and let go so your body can do what it is supposed to do. It needs to heal and it will, even if you can’t believe that right now. In a few months, you’ll be packing for university and moving out on your own into a brand new phase of your life.

I wish I could reach back through time and lie down beside you, hold your hand, soothe your pain and whisper words of comfort and love in your ear.

I would tell you about the new friends you are going to make, the amazing adventures to come, the loves and the heartbreaks that await, the work you will excel at, the places you will live and that there will be so many moments where joy swells inside you and laughter erupts from your belly. I would tell you that life is going to really suck sometimes and that everything you need to survive the tough times is already inside you. I would tell you to keep dreaming big and to let those dreams pull you forward

I would not tell you that cancer is going to come for you again, and again, and again. And then another time again. I would not tell you that as bad as you feel now, there is much worse to come. I would not tell you that your body will be filled with toxic poisons that will bring you to your knees, that they are not finished burning through your skin, and that they are going to carve you up and leave your body riddled with scars, visible and invisible, that will bear witness to what it will have taken to get through the battlefield that has been more than 60% of your life.

If I told you all that you would never get out of bed again and you’d live in fear, holding your breath until the next hit knocked you over. It’s going to be hard enough with the all the check-ups, the almost yearly scares that the disease is back, the weakened lungs and the paralyzing fear that you are a freak because you can’t always be ridiculously happy to be alive. It will be hard to watch your father get diagnosed three times. It will be hard to hear that the doctors have become more concerned about treatment cancers than the one they originally treated. It will be hard to learn that inscribed in your genetic code is some yet unknown flaw that creates a window for this disease to keep coming for you.

You don’t need to know that your doctors will never let you have children, despite how hard you push the limits of medicine and demand that this dream be kept intact. You don’t need to know that the seeds of a disease you have studied in school and that is normally attributed to veterans has already started to grow inside you. You don’t need to know that you will watch a woman sitting next to you in chemo die in front of you, even as the same drug is pumped into both of your veins. You don’t need to know that you will have to watch your sister go through cancer too and feel the impotency of a caregiver. You don’t need to know that the day is going to come when your doctors look at you and say, “Marianne, there are now no other options. You just have to let us do what we need to do to save your life.” And you will let them take over, even as you know that you may never forgive yourself or be at peace with it.

None of that is important right now. What you need to hear as you lie there, not yet an adult but more than a child, wondering if you will ever feel better, is that yes, you will. I would tell you how resilient you are. I would tell you that you are capable, smart, strong and yes, brave, and that none of that is a result of having had cancer. I would tell you that all of that has always been inside of you and only came into focus when you needed it so desperately. I would tell you that you don’t need to keep telling everyone you meet that you had cancer because you believe that cancer is the thing that makes you visible in your own life. I would tell you that you can tell anyone whenever you want but that you have never, ever been invisible and that you couldn’t be if you tried. I would tell you that it’s in the understanding and trusting of your own strength that you will find hope again. I would tell you that the importance of dreams is not that they come true but that you never stop dreaming them. I would tell you that all of you is worthy of love and should not settle for anyone who shows up offering you less than you deserve.

Life is a journey and there isn’t an instruction booklet, any sneak peaks, or fast and easy detours. Only you can live your life. Only you can grow into enough courage to look at your faults straight on, take control of them, work on them and understand that you are doing the very best you can and that that is enough. Only you will be able to write your own story and that won’t be possible until you own your story and yourself and feel proud of the person you are, love the person you are.

Let’s get real. If I could I would write you up a list of steps to take and things to avoid. We should start with the bangs! No bangs. Ever. I would tell you to walk away from the guy who was in “love” with you when he was really in love with his image of who he thought you should be. I would tell you to pay attention to the signs about that job opportunity and who is offering it to you, and that you don’t have to just take what is offered you because you think you are deserving of no more. I would tell you that you will never, ever regret a trip you take and that you should take more. I would tell you that you don’t need to look after everyone else and to always make sure that you put yourself at the top of your own todo list. And I would tell you that no possession can ever be worth more than just being yourself.

I would tell you that sometimes things are going to very hard. I would tell you that your feelings are going to get hurt, that you will apologize too often, that you are going to experience humiliation, that you are going to be overcome with sadness sometimes, that you are going to question everything, and that all of that is okay because, even if you think you are the only one who has ever had these feelings, you’re not. I would tell you that you should never ever let a man demean you, silence your voice, or undermine your work just because he’s a little threatened by you. That’s his problem not yours. I would tell you that when you finally decide to risk it and fall in love with someone you have trusted forever, he is going to lie to you, hurt you, and then walk away like you never existed. The hurt will never fully go away, but at least you will have tried and you will survive. I would tell you that you are going to experience physical pain like you still can’t yet imagine and then recover. Over and over and over again. I would tell you there are good friends who are going to disappoint you and that you will disappoint some of them and that all of you will get through it whether you remain friends or not.

Marianne, you are going to screw things up so badly! You are going to berate yourself and throw yourself a lot of pity parties. You are going to get some terrible haircuts, (bangs are just the beginning of it,) buy some hideous outfits, grow a big zit on pretty much every day you prayed you wouldn’t, and you are going to make a lot of truly terrible decisions. You are going to be too independent, work at fitting in too hard, build too many fortresses, try too many times to be what you think others want instead of yourself, and spend too much time trying to figure out why you can’t see yourself the way everyone else does.

As you lie there, what I wish I could tell you most is not that there are hard times to come and that you will get through them. I would tell you that sometimes the hardships we survive eclipse the moments that make getting through them worthwhile. I wish I could tell you to pay attention because you will find the fullness and joy of life when you least expect it, when you take chances, when you stay in the moment and when you are most yourself.

You’ll find it in the wind through your hair as you lead a bunch of travellers down a great hill in Burgundy on your bike. You’ll find it in the lasting and meaningful friendships that will be forged in wine caves in Beaune and in the Cognac chais of Hennessy. You’ll find it when you tell those lungs that they can try to be a problem but that no matter how long it takes, you are getting to the top of the Deeks Lake hike, the volcano in Bali and the rocky outcrop of a huge hill in Tanzania. You will find it in letting a guy pick you up in a bar because your gut says this one could be a keeper. You’ll find it in a most important friendship that is made with someone you don’t even know yet, when that guy from the bar decides, two years later, that you’re not a keeper. You’ll find it every time you go home to France and are restored by a place that belongs to you as much as you belong to it. You’ll find it in the silky feel of cool water on your hot skin when you skinny dip before bed on sweltering, Canadian summer nights and you’ll find it in the burn in your thighs as you ski peak to valley without stopping at the end of perfect days of skiing. You’ll find it when you pack everything up and follow your dreams and move to LA. You’ll find it when you go back to school and finally see what you are truly capable of reflected in your marks. You’ll find it on California beaches, in game nights that are delightfully out of control and in dumping warm laundry on your friends’ son as he giggles uncontrollably. You’ll find it in the ardent, full kisses of the boys you will love and in the teasing that can only come from friends who have known you from before you knew yourself. You will find it everywhere. And yes, you will be surprised that you will even find it in the middle of those times that you don’t think you’ll survive. You’ll find it in so many unexpected moments, moments that will bring tears of joy, guffaws of laughter and swells of emotion. And you will treasure every one.

But for now, Marianne, just hold on. Be kind to yourself. I know you are afraid because you have lost sight of the future you just assumed you would have. I know that hope feels like the most dangerous thing in the world. I know that you feel crazy and broken and spent. As you lie in that bed, despairing and letting your fear dampen your pillowcase, you only need to know this: You are going to live. You are going to keep breathing. You are going to feel healthy again. You are going to fight back and get through things you can’t yet imagine. You are going to kick some serious ass. You don’t quit, you don’t give up, and when you need to fight, you show up, a fierce army of one.

Sleep now. Let your tired body sink into the softness of your bed. Tonight, you need to lay down your weapons, ease up on your fight. This one is won. Remember that you are more than a fighter. There is gentleness, vulnerability, sensitivity and kindness in you and you are going to have to learn to lead with those, even though your experience is going to tell you to keep fighting. Put your head on the pillow and know that you are safe, you are loved, you are more than enough, you are special and you are never alone.

Sweet dreams. Tomorrow your boyfriend is going to wake you with a handful of roses and a cake he baked himself. Treasure these moments. Take them in. Let them touch your soul. They are and always will be what you fight for and they are worth the battles.

With unending love and a promise to always show up for us,

xo Me

Lucky Thirty

It’s a gloomy morning and the raindrops are still drying on the leaves outside. It’s been a long time since I wrote anything on this blog, but to leave it like this would be to leave everyone with the impression that the battle is done and the war is won and I’ve ridden off into the sunset of a new fairy tale.

A friend called me yesterday, who is in the middle of chemo, and told me she had been reading my blog all over again and that it was making her feel better because it was how she was feeling and she knew she was not alone, weak or crazy.

I write this blog in isolation, sitting at my desk and often looking out the window. And then I post it and I forget that it goes out into the world and while I know that some people read it, I don’t associate it with being something that could provide information, comfort or hope to others. I will freely admit that I selfishly write this for myself, to make sense of what I am feeling at different times. To have to organize it on paper and find the right words has been the way I was able to organize the time from diagnosis until treatment was over.

After a blog prompted by a questions someone asked me in London a year and a half ago, I hit writer’s block. I sat down many times to write more. I knew I needed to keep writing. I knew that talking about what happened after the treatment, surgery, doctors’ appointments, tests etc. faded into the background was probably the most important part of what needed to be talked about.

I could not write a sentence. I sat down in front of my computer and a few minutes later, fled. If I’m being totally honest, I fled because I believed that the things I needed to write would be construed as indulgent, selfish, pitying, disrespectful to those who died, and flat out unacceptable for people to hear. It would shock people. It would make them furious. It would diminish me in many people’s eyes.

So the last year and a half has been a journey of trying to figure this all out.

Honestly though, as I had before, I tried to run from it, pretend the feelings were not there, stuff them down deep inside and hope they would somehow dissolve on their own. And I believed that I was the only one doing that while at the same time feeling guilty that I was letting down anyone who had cancer and was reading this blog because it just ended with my treatments and left people dangling. For those with cancer and coming out of treatment, it left them feeling crazy, abnormal, weak because they were not jumping right back into life. Ending my blog there was like running only half a race and leaving everyone thinking you won it.

It feels dishonest and it feels disingenuous to anyone who looked to this blog so they would not feel alone, insane, crazy, the only one, etc. So I’m going to finish the race and be happy with my finish, whatever place I land in. Time for total honesty.

Last November, I lost it. my apartment was a disaster, I wouldn’t go out, I was living day to day, one day furious, the next inconsolable, and always wondering if I would be able to pay rent. I rarely picked up the phone or answered my doorbell. I wasn’t eating, my appetite had not come back after the last rounds of chemo, I moved from my bed to the couch and back again as if I was sleepwalking. In bed, I wrapped myself in my blankets, swaddling myself like a new born baby. I had constant dreams, always terrifying, rarely remembered. I couldn’t read my books, the place I most often found solace, and I ran out of TV shows to pass the time. I was weak and dizzy and had fallen a couple of times in my apartment, always bruised and once ending up with a black eye.

And then one day, I was on the floor, sobbing, shaking and scared and knew that it was time to accept that I couldn’t do this alone and more importantly that accepting that was not a defeat, not a sign of weakness, not me giving in. It was actually me deciding to step into the abyss and take on the second part of recovery, the part that didn’t have to do with hospitals, chemical treatments and the cutting of flesh.

In that undone state, I called Dr. L, an amazing doctor who has been my therapist, on and off through the various ups and downs, and who has deep experience in dealing with trauma. She heard my ragged sobs and sputter of words and said, “Marianne, will you be okay until tomorrow?” When I told her I would be, she gave me an appointment time for the next day and promised me we would figure it out. As I hung up the phone I think I exhaled for the first time in months.

So there I was the next day, sitting in her office again.  I arrived in tears and am pretty sure that I said nothing succinct, wearing my distress like a big winter coat. She let me go for a while, and when I finally paused to catch my breath, she said, “Marianne, you have been through another enormous trauma. Multiple traumas. You are battling the PTSD at its strongest, and you’re still insisting that you can do it all on your own and that it wasn’t that big of a deal. That somehow not being able to handle it yourself is a failure.” I think we have already established that I am not good at asking for help or for anything that I need. In fact, I have a hard time articulating what I need or want.

I sat there feeling defeated and furious. I cannot tell you how much I hated the reality I was in. I didn’t want to do this again. I had done it too many times before only to have the rug pulled out from under me again. Deep inside I was clinging to the bottom of the pit, to the dark, dampness of it because I could tell myself it was the bottom and I felt if I stayed there, no matter how bad it was, nothing could make me fall further. Except that you can always fall further. That’s just how life works.

Dr. L., having learned long ago with me that she needed to get me back to a place where I could  cope, told me that 3 things needed to happen; I needed to go to my GP and get on anti-depressants; we needed to find out a way that I had some financial security so I could stop being worried about paying my rent and buying groceries; and I needed to start coming to see her twice a week. As I opened my mouth to tell her I couldn’t afford that, she added that she was going to charge me a small portion of her normal rate. Well that did it, I burst back into tears again. That act of simple kindness and giving slayed me. Everything she was telling me to do, were things I did not want to do. I HATE anti-depressants. This is totally best online casino a ridiculous personal thing that I just need to get over. I didn’t want to have to deal with money and trying to figure that out. It has always been a charged issue for me. And, while I love Dr. L., I did not want to be back there twice a week, trying to staunch the bleeding of new wounds and picking the scabs of old ones.

But deep down, I knew Dr. L. was right. She always is. And there was a part of me that felt relieved. She was telling me what to do. She was taking control. That day, anyway.

And so I did what she told me to do.

It’s almost a year later. My apartment is still a mess, the outer reflection about how I am still feeling inside; I’m leaving the house more and socializing better; and I have a really great job that challenges me and pays me. Progress!

One of the biggest things that Dr. L. and I have figured out is that in 30 years, I’ve never planned for more that 6 months in advance. At 18, when you are thinking about your life and what lies ahead, you are thinking long term. You go back to school and commit for years, you start your own company and have a five year plan, you do lots of things and you do them knowing they are temporary, fodder for great stories you can tell your grandchildren. I’ve lived my life in 6 month, and often smaller, sometimes minutes or hours, increments. Ask me what I want and I seriously cannot answer the question. It’s one I never thought I had the luxury to consider. After 30 years, the irony is that I know how to fight; figuring out to live is a whole different story. My entire adult life has been lived either under the spectre of cancer or caught firmly in its grasp.

Tomorrow is October 17th. Tomorrow marks the 30th anniversary of my first cancer diagnosis. I have been a cancer patient for 30 years. I’ve never been told I was cancer free, and I have never gone more than a year without something pulling me back into the cancer world by suspicious symptoms that require invasive tests. As I’m told by Dr. L., cancer is imprinted on my genetic material, it’s etched on my cells, it’s carved into my brain. That is just reality. It’s not about erasing cancer from my life, which I spent a lot of years trying to do. It’s not about portraying myself as some kind of upbeat cancer superhero, which was just me lying to myself and trying to look after others, feeding off attention I wasn’t getting any other way.

It is about finding a way back to myself, about first moving myself on my todo list and then up it so that I recognize that I matter. It is about accepting that I lived, and about letting go of the guilt that I have felt for 30 years that for reasons I don’t understand, I survived when so many others did not. It is about recognizing and accepting that cancer will always be a part of my life but that I will figure out ways to recognize when a trigger gets tripped and be able stop the crazy uncontrollable downward spiral.

Thirty years. Thirty years in which so many of my adolescent and adult dreams have been lost. Thirty years in which the things most people take for granted, getting married, having children, making a home, have been suffocated and snuffed out. Thirty years in which the trauma of repeated diagnosis clouded out the sunlight and warmth and shackled me to the fundamental belief that this disease was always going to control my life.

Thirty freaking years! And I still wake up most mornings and for a few beautiful seconds, I feel like I am 18 and have my whole life ahead of me until reality comes speeding in and I realize that it’s 30 years later and the passing of those years is written on my body in scars.

Yeah, it’s thirty years. It’s thirty years longer than most people expected me to live. It’s also thirty years of friendships, laughter, adventures, love, soaring accomplishments and rewarding experiences. And none of those things have to do with cancer.

Thirty years of fighting, trusting my gut, not accepting that there was only one way, taking on doctors and winning, and thirty years of surviving what often felt un-survivable.

I’m alive. Those two words are nothing short of miraculous. I’m alive.

Now I’m working on the healing part. Healing my body, healing my head, healing my heart, healing my soul. And if thirty years has taught me anything, it’s that at some point we will all have to embark on this kind of healing journey for one reason or another. It’s that we are all usually working on some kind of healing. Thirty years later, as hard as it feels sometimes, I’m incredibly grateful to have reached this part of the process. I’m healing. And that is something to be celebrated. I’m healing.

Happy 30 years of surviving to me. I’m going to eat cake tomorrow. Chocolate. And when I blow out the candle my wish will be for the next year to be one filled with more heartfelt, brutally honest, and grace filled healing.

xo M.

P.S. Just posted this and then realized, once again, that math is not my area of strength!! Tomorrow is 31 years since I was first diagnosed! Ooops! I missed the 30th and went right to the 31st. I’m still eating cake. Right after I do some basic math exercises…


Sitting at a birthday luncheon for a friend in London, England, yesterday, I was talking to a woman I had just met and who because of mutual friends had knowledge of the fact that I’d just come through my latest cancer battle. Her very first question to me was, “How is your head?”

She didn’t mean physically, she was in essence asking me the question you so rarely get asked – how was I was doing emotionally. My first reaction was to thank her for her question and tell her that I almost never get asked that. And then I said, “I’m trying to figure out how to heal my head. And my spirit and soul. It’s the biggest question I have now; how do we heal those parts of us that don’t show visible scars, that don’t show obviously signs of trauma, that don’t display wounds the way the body does?”

My doctors all warned me as the end of active treatment approached that I was going into one of the toughest times. It was something I already knew.

What I didn’t expect was my frustration and annoyance at myself. After all, I reasoned, this isn’t your first rodeo, you should know how to get through this part. You’ve done it before. And yet, I was instantly lost, depressed and afraid and I had no idea what to do next.

I knew that I was starting from scratch and that nothing that I had done or used before to get me through this time was going to work again. I knew I was going to have to dig deeper and I knew that I was trying to heal more than the latest cancer experience.

For more than 6 years I had been numbing myself. I numbed myself with the first breast cancer diagnosis. I numbed myself when I finally had to face the reality that I was going to have to give up my life in LA. I numbed myself when my heart got painfully broken in a way that I didn’t know it could be broken by someone I trusted more than anyone. I numbed myself through my first 3½ years of being back in Toronto. I numbed myself when I received the new diagnosis and all through the subsequent physical battle. I numbed myself with every curveball that life threw at me. I am an expert at numbing myself.

I worked. All the time. I isolated myself. I put up barriers and I stayed numb.

Most of the time, for people who did not know me well enough, I acted happy enough to not raise alarm bells, while others just retreated, taking my constant rebuttals personally. Who can blame them? Certainly not me.

I wish I could tell you that numbing yourself is hard. The truth is it’s not. I didn’t need drugs or alcohol or any other substances. I learned long ago how to numb myself. It was part of what my body just did naturally to get me through traumatic events that just kept coming.

So here I am. I am on the other side of this last cancer battle, without work to bury myself in and no other distractions to hide behind.

I know that few people understand this. Most think that this should be when I am the happiest. I did it. Again. I slayed the cancer dragon and I came out on top. I should wake up with a smile on my face and a kick in my step. I am, after all, one of the lucky ones. Every one of of the people this disease took down wish they were in my place. I know that I am part of a very fortunate group.

But here’s the thing, the thing so many people on the other side of trauma are afraid to say or to speak of for fear of being seen as ungrateful or melodramatic or self-pitying. So many of us don’t talk about this part of the battle because it seems almost disrespectful to those who didn’t make when really it is just dishonest to not talk about it.

For so long there were not enough cancer survivors living long enough for anyone to become aware of the after treatment challenges. But we are growing in number and this is something that needs to be talked about.

In 2011, the Journal of Clinical Oncology published the results of a study called “Post-traumatic stress symptoms in long-term non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivors: does time heal?” They studied a total of 566 individuals with a median of 12.9 years since diagnosis. Their conclusion? More than one-third of long-term NHL survivors experience persisting or worsening PTSD symptoms. Childhood cancer survivors, survivors of aggressive cancers and cancers that require intense treatments where shown to have increased risks of PTSD developing. And recently the official definition of PTSD was changed to include a cancer diagnosis as a causational factor.

What is also being recognized is that while we have decades of research on PTSD, going back to the days of “shell shock” in WWI, cancer presents a variation that complicates existing PTSD treatment. In most cases of PTSD, you can remove the affected from the stressors that brought on the PTSD in the first place; take the soldier out of the battlefield, provide safety to victims of abuse, etc. But the stressors for cancer related PTSD are your body, the treatment and the doctors. Those are things that cannot gambling be removed from someone with cancer’s life. A significant number of survivors will avoid follow up tests and doctors’ appointments because the stress and anxiety are too much to bear which puts them at increased risk of a potential reoccurrence not being caught soon enough to be treated, making the very thing they need to keep surviving, the thing they cannot do. Different treatments and approaches to cancer related PTSD are going to have to be developed that address the fact that our stressors cannot be removed from our lives.

It was validating to ready this study. It was validating to know that I am not alone. With so many illnesses, follow up and rehab programs have been developed. But with cancer there is little. You are just a lucky one and you should be happy to be alive. If only it were that simple. As a friend who has been in remission for more than a decade said to me recently when I sought her out to ask how she had healed, “I’m still working on it. But it’s hard. It’s not like I can go to lunch with my friends and when they ask how I am say, “I’m still kind of dealing with this cancer stuff.” For them it is so over and they have no idea what I am talking about.”

I am happy to be alive. I deeply miss and will always fight for my friends who, for reasons no one can make sense of, did not make it. But I think it’s also time to let go of the shame about not living up to an unrealistic expectation of survivor joy just because we did not die. To speak this truth out loud does not dishonour those who cancer took away from us. To not speak this truth out loud just means that a good number of survivors will continue to silently suffer and feel isolated, thinking themselves alone with their emotions and feeling ashamed that they aren’t living up to a fairy tale survivor myth.

I am wounded, traumatized, hurt, scared, humiliated, sad, embarrassed, scarred and heart broken.  So right now my focus is on one question – how do we heal, really heal, our hearts, our souls, our spirits, our whole selves when they’ve been broken, not just by cancer but by any number of traumatic events that come our way in life?

So I’m on a bit of a quest. It’s not mapped out or formalized. But I am paying attention and I am going to write about if for no other reason than I know I am not alone in trying to find the answer to this question.

What I do know is that nothing in my life is going to change, or work, or be fulfilling until I can not only answer the question to take the actions needed to get me to a more healed state. And as I figure out how to heal, I have to stop numbing. I know that numbing is a choice. I’m not alone in having chosen it. There are people who numb their way through their lives for far less dramatic reasons than a cancer diagnosis. I was one of those people. I just don’t want to be one of those people anymore.

Numbing is like being frostbitten. You freeze quickly, lose circulation, and when you finally get to a place where you can warm up, it hurts like hell and takes a lot longer than the initial freezing did. But if you don’t thaw out your frostbitten bits, they have to be amputated. I don’t want to have to lose my heart, my soul, my spirit. I did not fight as hard as I have to get on the other side of all this life crap to just zombie walk my way through the rest of my life.

I want to feel – as bad as it is going to be sometimes. I want to take control of my life and make some different choices, go down some different roads but most of all I want to find the true me, love her, nurture her, and inspire her to start living her life fully and openly, with a confidence that will make numbing unnecessary.

And so I’m trying to live that question right now because living my way to the answer is the only way I’m going to get there.

I started working on this in January but only now feel like I can start to write about it. It’s been an interesting journey so far and I expect that that is going to continue.

So as I work away at this question, I will continue to try to un-thaw. As a child and an avid skier, I was frequently getting frostbite. My mother used to stand at the bottom of the ski hills trying to catch me as I sped by and drag me into the chalet to warm me up. She would haul me into the woman’s bathroom, strip me down and sit me in one of the sinks filled with tepid water as she gently tried to get the blood flowing back to the front of my legs, torso, arms cheeks, fingers and toes. I would sob and sob at the burning prickly pain of feeling returning. But half an hour later I would be back on the hills.

In so many ways, I’m metaphorically back in that bathroom sink, enduring the pain of feeling returning to my body. There has been much sobbing and there is still more to come. And I will figure out my own answer to that question of how to heal. It’s the only way to get back on the slopes where I can be free, alive, and loving what I do and who I am.