Back on Track

I am starting to understand the rhythm of this crazy train of chemo. I feel like crap for a week or so and then the cloud starts to lift. It is amazing how it feels like my brain is blanketed in a wet wool blanket after my infusion. The pills that I take for two weeks are still not fun and I hate taking them but it is nothing like the assault of the infusion drugs.

With this new relationship with my body – separate but traveling buddies – they sometimes are at odds. My mind knows I have to take the action of taking the pills out of my pill-box, hold them in my hand and put them in my mouth but my body feels like an action of betrayal. I feel it very distinctly every morning and evening. My body gets a wash of heaviness and mildly pissed off tone towards my mental self. My body is asking “Why the f#*@ are you poisoning me?” I can feel the muscles in my arm trying to fight back when I put the pills in my mouth. My face cannot help but scrunch up in disgust at my mental self for what is it doing to my body self.

My body frequently tells me to go hide in the woods away from it all. Away from my pill-box. I take two powder vitamins, a liquid shot of iron and 28 pills a day between support supplements and chemo pills. That’s a lot. My body cannot differentiate from chemo pills and suppliments so it defaults to hating them all, even though many are to help my body get through this well. The body don’t care – she’s kind of ticked off right now.

I do try to take care of my body self though. I do yoga and my little abdominal workout I do at home to try to bring that back my abs since surgery. Unfortunately I have strong aversions to foods I planned on consuming for my body health for example juicing vegetables and fruits – it makes my mouth water with repulsion thinking about it whereas before chemo started I loved juicing. That was a bummer turn of events. I crave carbs carbs carbs – rice, bread, chocolate chip cookies, french fries, comfort food. I also crave meat. I have been a vegetarian for about a year and I have broken that path occasionally to consume maybe a #13 on challah from Zingerman’s deli or maybe some rotisserie chicken. Honestly most days I do not know how to feed myself. I have an appetite which is great although to be honest I was kind of hoping for the chemo diet. I briefly experienced what it was like to not have an appetite when I came home from the hospital on narcotics. It was fascinating to me to not want to eat. I have never had that feeling before – I am an eater. I love food. Jenn would pile up food on my breakfast plate and I would leave most of it. It was crazy to me and I kind of liked it. Alas that was short-lived. I weened myself off the narcotics and my human garbage disposal self returned. I think over time not having an appetite may have made me a bit more svelte but in the end not as happy. Food does make me happy, so I am glad I have that outlet of pleasure still.

My body was overjoyed with my extra week off for work in October even though I got a nasty cold. That felt like the universe had a wicked sense of humor. In that extra week off for the first time since May I felt like me – the whole me, a healthy me, a me I recognized. I walked outside in the cool air. I cooked without wearing winter gloves. I got stuff out of the freezer by myself. I wasnt applying lotion to my hands and feet all day to fight the rawness. I was whole for a minute – then a sneeze and a sniffle and DAMN IT! I do think the universe was giggling at its trickster self. It is almost like the universe didn’t want me to get too comfortable because I did have to go back to chemo. A backward kindness maybe.

With that extra week off chemo I was dreading going back to my regimen. I finally really cried about it – raged may be a better word. I went back to chemo and things got dark in my head as the days also were getting shorter and darker. My fear or hesitation with the cold and what that looks like after my infusions with the neuropathy as the more exposure I get to the neuropathy reactions the more possible the neuropathy becomes permanent. I work with my hands as an artist, a doula, a massage therapist, to cook – my hands are my outlet, I need them to be whole. The idea of permanent neuropathy scares me as the Michigan winter gets closer. I didn’t leave the house much for about a week and that may be my norm until this is done. One week a hermit. One week coming out of my hermit hole. One week to breathe and then dive back in. Own it and make it work.

I do wonder if the extra week off chemo was not a great idea. I had to do it for work but I do think it may have been better mentally to plow through. To not have the tease of remembering and feeling who I am without chemo may have been a healthier route. It is nice to know that I am still in there as a healthy vibrant person but I miss that self more than I did before. I didn’t know to miss her before my week off now I know and I want her back. Although I have never been in a long distance relationship I can imagine that is how it may feel to see your person and then have to leave again knowing it will be awhile until you are together again. I miss me. That is kind of an awesome statement of self-love (see, silver linings are everywhere if you pay attention – I love me).

I have related the week off to the year I ran the Iron Turkey race. The Iron Turkey is where you run a 5k and then you run a 10k. That is just over 9 miles total. I was running that distance fine at the time but the thing about the Iron Turkey is that there is a break between the 5k and the 6k. I remember sitting in my car during the break thinking “This is terrible. My body is winding down and settling into post race and I have to go out there again. This is stupid.” Running 9 miles is fine but running 3 miles and then 6 miles just seemed dumb. But that is why it is called the Iron Turkey, it’s that extra little challenge. I did get a great t-shirt. I never ran the Iron Turkey again although now I kind of want to as a reminder that the mind can overcome dumb mental and physical hurdles and plow through.

I cannot run this year but the Ann Arbor Iron Turkey is this weekend and I will be thinking of y’all that choose to take the Iron Turkey challenge. Next year I will run the Iron Turkey and the Detroit Half that I also had to miss this year. This will happen and when it does it will be better than it has ever been in years past. Maybe not better in my race times but definitely better in my experience of being able to run and just be me.

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