Sunday, July 17, 2005
Under the Big Top

"Step right up folks! Right here in the center ring, next to the human pretzel, the snake charmer, and the sword swallower, is the craziest lady on earth! Don't believe me? Wait until you hear this!"

Throughout my journey I have shared my feelings, my experiences, my wisdom, and my attempt at humor. I have shared the highs and lows and everything in between. So please forgive me if what I am about to share seems out of character or seems so completely asinine that you question my sanity.

I can't even say it out loud. Where is the circus mime when you need him? Wait, I'll whisper. I miss treatment.

There, I said it. Don't make me say it again or say it any louder for fear of sounding like a real chemo junkie. Please don't get me wrong here. I don't ever want to go through treatment again. I never want to feel icky, pukey, bone-achey, wretchedly tired, or bald again. Lest we forget that I am the one who has attempted to secure a cancer-free-future by taking the aggressive route throughout treatment and surgery. Let me clarify, though, so I don't confuse anyone.

When I was going through treatment, I was a girl on a mission. I had specific targets and goals and I met every single one of them with a fierce passion that only a girl on this mission would possess. I had a purpose. During this time, the universe conspired to help me and I watched everything fall into place according to plan (infections, certain side-effects, and minor snafus ignored in retrospect for dramatic impact). In addition, I allowed a kinder world to surround me. A world in which I allowed people to help me and show kindness without having to be the independent woman who had to present her resilient image at every turn. I became softer, smiled more, didn't take on the responsibilities of the world, ignored the common stresses of my work, and engaged people for the simple joy of being amongst the living. I sat with friends, not over drinks, but over life. I liked it. It was as though, during the most complicated time in my life, I finally found that which I was missing. Simplicity.

I vowed not to lose sight of this outlook as the time since treatment grew with gathering speed. With each three month check-up, and with each part of the journey checked off the list, the patterns so familiar to me prior to treatment have begun to emerge. I no longer have the single mission or purpose. While I still believe I lead a purposeful life, I have in a sense, become a multi-purpose girl, juggling many balls in the air with the ease that only a seasoned circus clown can accomplish. I know this act well and while there was a time I embraced this routine, it somehow lacks the show-stopping punch of living and accomplishing the single purpose mission.

It seems like a simple dilemma that any clown could figure out, right? Simply put down all the balls but the most important one and move forward. It was easy during treatment because I had an out. In a way, I could clean house. I didn't have to take on the projects or work that normally fill my calendar. I didn't have to accept the projects that one accepts when trying to build a consulting business, or maintain a teaching contract, or continue my assent through the organizational chart. I had a purpose that filled every free moment of my calendar and reassigned a portion of the previously booked time slots. I was, in my mind, fully engaged in my own Greatest Show on Earth.

Once you have put your head in the mouth of the lion and survived, you start looking for that next death defying act. However, instead of staying in the center ring, you find yourself back in the side show and at the same time filling in for the guy who gets shot out of the cannon and the lady that rides the elephant. While many admire your array of talents, the juggling routine gets old and soon you carry the mark of the sad clown with the single tear.

So truly the confession made earlier is not entirely true. What I miss is the single-purpose driving my actions. When there is only one mission, one purpose, the actions are clear. When there are many simultaneous missions, the actions are not clear because many may conflict making choices and directions unclear. Somehow I can't make the multi-purpose girl happy and still be present in the kinder world. That need to perform many missions and please many people leave me somewhere between my Greatest Show on Earth and cleaning the monkey cage.

Probably stronger than this feeling of a lack focus, is a desire for just the opposite. Somehow, if I reach deep enough, under the never ending stream of rainbow colored scarves and bouquets of brightly colored silk flowers, I can find the smile that can bring the house down. I just need to find that one trick unique to me that is worth the price of admission.
Written by Jeannette Vagnozzi
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Name: Jeannette
Location: Southern California, USA

This is my story about being diagnosed with breast cancer at age 39. I thought I was out of the woods, but four years late it came back. This is my quest to be a two-time survivor.

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    "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer." Romans 12:12