January 15, 2021

#212 It’s Complicated

Life is complicated. That’s not a revelation, but sometimes we forget. Life is complicated. For everyone.

Life is complicated. That’s not a revelation, but sometimes we forget. Life is complicated. For everyone.

Over the past several weeks my moods have vacillated between near euphoria to down right despair and really, for no reason at all.

I blame the medication. And, the side effects. Side effects bring friends like weight gain, quasi-depression, irritability, and sometimes an “I don’t give a shit about anything” attitude, which explains why I just spent 4 days in London with no coat and refused to buy one. I froze my ass off, but was too proud to admit it and go to the store and buy a damn coat—serves me right). I’m really over these two new staples in my life — the medications and side effects. So, I took a break from them for a little while, and guess what? I feel great—like the old me again. (Depending on how you feel about me that may or may not be a good thing!)

A few weeks ago I spoke at an industry conference and as I came off stage I ran into one of the icons of the PR industry. As he greeted me he smiled and said “you’re back.” I smiled and said I had been back for sometime. He said that’s not what he meant. He said he can see the light (or life) in my eyes again. I hadn’t realized the light went out. I wonder when it happened? Diagnosis? Treatment? Post Treatment? Transitioning? I asked a colleague about it and she said there hadn’t been light behind my eyes in a long time. I guess it’s true that the eyes are the window to the soul. When your soul is dark, so are your eyes, I imagine.

Some people see your darkness and silently pray that the real you, the whole you, will return. Some people see you in a weakened state and use it against you for their gain. And that’s sad; really sad. I wonder what is so broken in them that they have to break others who are already struggling? (This is worth it’s own blog post, so, more on that at another time.)

While I was in London, I went to see the new Tina Turner musical. I just finished her new book, My Love Story, and was intrigued to see the show, especially since it won’t be in the states for at least a year.

Now…her life was complicated. She has enough perseverance, drive, and resilience for all of us. My cancer treatment and difficulties thereafter have nothing on her (not that it’s a woe-is-me competition—besides, she would win). She suffered. A lot. She survived Ike using and abusing her for 16 years and practically stalking her after she left. She restarted a career with a bang in her mid-forties when so few people believed she could (and we all know that couldn’t have been easy). In recent years, she survived a stroke, intestinal cancer, a kidney transplant and the death of a son who committed suicide at the age of 60. Through it all, she fought. She fought for her life, her success, and her happily ever after. And she got it. She went on to play to sold-out crowds; she married the love of her life not too long ago; released a book telling her story and she helped usher in a musical about her life. Damn girl! Living well is the best revenge.

I wonder though, if the light ever left her eyes and if so, did she know?

At the end of the show. I shed a few tears of joy for Tina. I love it when the underdog wins! I shed a few tears for me too.

This respite from my medication will end soon and the parts of remission I hate most will return in a matter of days. Don’t get me wrong, I am truly grateful to be alive; I’m just not satisfied.

This has led me to consider going off my medication for good rather than endure it for the next seven years. A friend asked me why I would do that after all I’ve been through. Why would I give up now? I don’t see it that way. For me, making this decision means that I’m managing my situation rather than letting it manage me. Granted, going off medication can increase the chance of cancer recurrence anywhere from 2-3% or as much as 60%. I fall somewhere on the higher end (based on what I’ve learned from Dr. Google). Perhaps I’ll see what my oncologist thinks.

I know people who go off their meds without telling their doc. No judgement here. That’s just not me.

When Tina left Ike she deliberately chose herself over anything else. And it worked. Her “second act” ran circles around the first part of her life. That’s kind of how I feel. Going off my medication is me choosing my life on my terms.

I also started watching a new TV show—A Million Little Things—I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately. Anyway, there is a character on the show who is a psychologist and she makes this statement about people who commit suicide by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. She says that only 1% survive, but 100% of that 1% regret having done it. According to her story, one survivor said (paraphrased) “It’s not that I don’t want to live; I just don’t want to live like this anymore.” Pretty powerful statement even if it is from a television show and a bit clichéd.

I feel like I’m running toward the light. Not THAT light, the one people see when they think they’re dying and say there was a bright light and God is calling them to it. I’m not running to that light. I’m running to catch up to the light that is back in my eyes where it is supposed to be. The one that is full of fire and makes me, me. I’m running to my Second Act.

In the meantime, I think I’ll follow Tina’s lead and as the big wheel keeps on turning; I’m going to keep on burning…rolling, rolling, rolling down the river to living my best life, which may or may not include medication.

My husband and I agreed if going off the medication increases my chance of recurrence but the total risk is less than 50%, he will support my choice. The key phrase in that sentence is “My Choice.”

My life; my rules.



NOVEMBER 10, 2018 AT 10:41 PM

Barb when off her medication too as quality of life meant more to her. Sending love for all the challenging decisions, but know you’ll do the research

John Rafferty

NOVEMBER 11, 2018 AT 2:58 PM

You’re my hero Char!
“My life, my rules”!! So true……..
I miss you my friend!!

karen van bergen

NOVEMBER 11, 2018 AT 5:41 PM

You are truly awesome Charlene and thanks for sharing your thoughts with us. Sending love, Karen

Gay Beach

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 AT 8:29 PM

Charlene — I am so proud of your honesty. Just know that your “light” is alive to everyone of us who knows you.

Rosemary Dotlic

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 AT 8:43 PM

You’re amazing Charlene, thanks for sharing what you’re going through, and it’s good to hear that you feel like some of the old charlene is back (shopping trips).


JULY 25, 2019 AT 7:19 PM

Wow and wow. This blog is me. Cried like a baby as never realized someone could put it so accurately. Thank you. I am a two time breast cancer Survivor and Woman who lives her life.