Hanging In There

The view on my morning walk.  Pure heaven!!

The view on my morning walk. Pure heaven!!

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

18 Responses

  1. Keep on kickin’ butt Terri Luanna! that chemo and your warrior spirit will kick the crap outta that woefully out-matched cancer-menace again. !

  2. There she is..that spitfire with the mischief in her eyes! I missed you. By the way, just to make you smile, I’m carrying the rebellion torch while you’re recovering. I negotiated my rad oncologist down from 33 to 28 treatments yesterday. He said they really have no data showing how much the last few “boost” treatments improve the outcomes. I said, in that case, I’m not interested.

  3. I want to give you all sorts of wise and wonderful words,but you already know everything that I would say.So,just know that you are being held close to my heart,and many other hearts as well.You do not fight this alone.

  4. Terri, I really admire your bravery in sharing so much of this difficult journey with the world. It isn’t easy to stare into the centre of your being, consider what you see and then articulate it. And you do it so beautifully. There are so many lessons in life. Your generosity in expressing these feelings allows others to gain perspective and absorb some of your hard-fought lessons. This is a generous gift. So…thanks.

  5. I love you, bunny rabbit. You’re just doing so f**king great! My kids wanted stories again last night; the description of how we use to play “mall” in your living room–not too loudly because your cool cat father was sleeping off a night of writing down the hall–is one of their faves! We were cool kids, dammit!

  6. I don’t know what to say except I close my eyes and imagine wrapping my arms around in you a long, warm hug. I imagine filling you with loving care, affection, grace and joy. You are an amazing woman. You will get through this.

  7. God bless you Terri! Trucking your way through the madness of cancer and still being an inspiration to others with your eloquent words of wisdom. You go girl! Dr. Kulkarni is the best and I miss him. How wonderful for him to keep up with you and encourage you to call when needed. Keep on kicking butt!!

  8. What a bitch! I hate those rough days; I get ‘em too. We can just hang on, moment by moment, until the pain backs off, but I do tend to get impatient ;-) and I’ll bet you do, as well. I mean, really! We have better things to do! Clearly, even if the chemo knocks the tumor down nicely, it’ll take a bit. I have heavy duty backup pain meds, and though I rarely take those, sometimes you might consider it, if you desperately need sleep or have something you *must* do.

    I loved hearing that our support helps, but truly: don’t worry about not thanking everyone personally. I put it out there for you, not me. Feel better! <3

  9. Dear Terri, –

    Heading out to the back garden in a few minutes to plant bulbs — in a new little patch that I’m establishing (*all* my patches are little — the whole garden is more or less postage-stamp-sized — if, that is, your letters to Santa are as massive as mine have been getting lately) — and would like you to please find me an appropriate name for — grape hyacinths, Siberian squills, and red tulips. I thought of “Mountainborne Meadows,” but given that it is at most no more than about two feet by two feet in area, and at the foot of a stone rather than a mountain, perhaps that would be just a *tad* pretentious (as well as *rather more* than a tad *presumptuous* on my part)… Maybe your thinking cap works better than mine does. And if it’s clogged at the moment the way mine is, maybe I could impose upon you to ask Heron and Marisa what they might care to propose?

    Anyhow, I’ll send you pictures when they bloom next spring!

    Sending much love to you and your whole loving family — John

  10. Dear Terry (Luanna) – I just wanted to send a quick “thinking of you” and “hugs”. The struggles you’ve gone through & continue to batlle and the pain you have to endure is truely cruel- yet, you continue to go with the punches and come out with an attitude that is nothing less than inspiring. (I read the note from Molly- and I got a chuckle, because I remember I would sometimes wake your dad up by ringing the doorbell (again & again) to walk to school with you, but you would have already left. Not sure why I kept on ringing it, but he’d speak through that neat little speaker (wasn’t it shaped like a horn?) and in his(rightfully) annoyed voice tell me you’ve already left for school! – Funny how memories can suddenly get triggered!)
    Thoughts go out to you (& your family) as you continue to fight.
    Enjoy your holiday in Europe.
    x, Margaret

  11. Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this my Mama said …

    GOOD JOB!! You’re doing the best you can with what you have, and you’re doing as much good stuff as is humanly possible. Including the boob-holding jogging — LOL! Good for you. I love the support you’re getting from all sides of your treatment team. Right answers, in a field where we too seldom see right answers.

    My friend Chiu-Lin went home to Taiwan when her cancer recurred. She’d send pictures of all the “last suppers” she had — said she had so many of them, she was gaining weight! I wish you many, many joyous suppers … and mornings with good coffee … and sweetnesses in the evenings …

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