It’s been five days since my first chemo treatment and I’m hanging in there. It hasn’t been easy though….
First night post-chemo i awoke at 3AM with severe pain that nothing could touch. I waited it out, watched some TV, and went on with my day trying to survive on 4-5 hours of sleep. The next night I popped a Percocet and with hubby’s help watching Miss M, I managed to sleep for over 12 hours, which my body desperately needed.
Physically, the pain has ebbed and flowed through all hours of the day, my left is arm is still totally swollen, and the sensation from my shoulder to fingertips is mediocre at best – everyday tasks like typing and washing dishes are becoming more and more awkward. And it seems I can never fully get comfortable. There’s always a part of my neck, shoulder, breast, or arm tugging on my awareness, expressing discomfort.
Mentally, I’ve also struggled since Thursday’s chemo session. Not so much with my decision to do the chemo (which I’m feeling pretty at peace about) but more with trying to swallow and accept my new reality.
My family lovingly took Miss M for the weekend to Massachusetts to frolic, have fun, and take her mind off of her messed-up mamma. While i normally relish the alone time, this weekend I found not having Miss M around left me simmering in self pity and sadness with nothing outside of ‘me’ to focus on. I struggled to get through the day. I ruminated on the unfairness of it all. Maybe I needed to go there. But I didn’t want to stay there.
So I read and re-read all the beautiful and loving and encouraging thoughts everyone shared on the blog, via text, or email and it helped me make it through the toughest moments. I wish I could respond to each and every one of you – but please know that your words really do make a difference. Your words make me smile, help connect me to my strength, reassure me, and restore my faith. And I do follow-up on all suggestions that are made. Even if I don’t pursue what’s being offered in this moment, at least I know it’s out there and can add it to my arsenal when/if the time is right.
I think a big piece of my internal struggle is about fully accepting my life. Accepting the unknown. Accepting the bumps on the road. Accepting that there’s only so much I can control.
Despite knowing the reality of most metastatic breast cancer patients, I believed I would go through my initial treatment, be cancer free, and stay cancer free. Period. The end. I would be transformed by my experience, go on and live life cancer free and always say, “Oh yeah, I had breast cancer – years and years ago, it taught me big lessons & made me a better person.” And then move on with my life. I think many others around me assumed this as well. So I’m not sure I ever fully accepted the reality that I will live with this for the rest of my life. That cancer may go away and come back again and again. That I may be under some form of “treatment” indefinitely. That even if I am in remission cancer is still lurking in the shadows. I can’t be “done with it”.
I can’t go back to the person I used to be. I need to flip the script and redefine things. Redefine my life. Redefine who I am.
Yesterday, I woke with a conviction to be done with the pity party. I popped a Tylenol at 5am when the pain woke me up instead of suffering and complaining. I met the day with a clean slate. Made myself a cup of delicious organic coffee (life’s too short not to drink coffee anymore!) plus my usual 30 oz glass of green juice. I took the dog out for a walk by the ocean and stopped at a bench along the way to meditate and express gratitude for all that is good in my life. And even though I still can’t get a sports bra on to start running again, I pushed myself to do a modified jog down the block and back holding the dog leash in one hand and my one jiggly breast in the other. What a sight!
I also had a great talk with my Naturopath who didn’t berate me at all for starting chemo. Instead, she cheered me on and offered supplements to help ease the side effects of treatment. And over the weekend my old oncologist, the fabulous Dr. K phoned me from Ohio. I had faxed over my recent test results to get his opinion. He spent 20 minutes on the phone giving me the biggest pep talk ever. I was in tears. Finally for the last two minutes he actually spoke about my treatment plan and agreed that the chemo regime should work just fine. He said there is no reason to expect that I will not have a complete response again. Then he gave me his cell phone number and told me to call any time. God bless his soul.
With all this cheering, and support, and love how can I possibly give up??
So I am trying to harness all the positive energy and strength I can find. Making lists of the things I can do to boost my soul and pull me out of the pity party madness… Spending time with uplifting people… Watching inspiring episodes of Oprah… Reading practical books (I am in the midst of re-reading The Happiness Project and loving it just as much the second time around!)… Taking walks in nature… Spending time by the ocean… Contemplating the big questions and dreaming about the future… Seizing any and all opportunities (like the chance to see Anita Moorjani this weekend in NY!)… Doing research about my upcoming spiritual pilgrimage to Portugal & Italy (can hardly believe I leave in less than 3 weeks!!)… And of course, through it all, remembering everything I have to be grateful for.
I will meet this challenge head on. I have faith in myself and the Universe. I trust that each piece of our lives, each moment, is part of the master plan. This cancer will not take me down. Not yet. Not for a very long time.
Deep thanks and love to you all. - T