There comes a point in all journeys that the new reality becomes normalized. This can be a good thing because this means any stress associated with a new situation has hopefully faded away. In my situation there also seems to be the perceived down side of normalization in that I have been doing this long enough to get used to it, know what to expect and not get too emotionally elevated either way. I do not feel like I can sustain the optimistic amazon warrior mode and I do not have the energy to be super upset about feeling like crap – it just is.
It has been a tough month. It has nothing to do with the holidays though as some would guess. I have just hit the point that chemo has gotten harder, it is colder out (neuropathy sucks), the days are shorter, people hibernate a bit more and they don’t call or offer to stop as often, maintaining balance of self and sustaining a healthy relationship with my family members who have been supporting me – it’s a lot. I have been trying to get out of the house more on my good weeks instead of staying home and working. I have to make an effort to see people and not hermit-ize myself. I know I have it in me to isolate myself from people and I do not want to go there. Thankfully Cultivate Coffee and Tap House is right down the road feels like a second home. I have noticed that my fluid nature in talking to folks has become more hesitant and stumbling. I am sure it seems fine to others but I feel stumbling and fumbling when conversing at times. To my defense chemo brain is real, especially in the week to ten days after an infusion. My mind feels slower and foggier. I forget things more easily and lose trains of thought when speaking. Along with the micro muscle cramping of my lips and mouth that occasionally occur, my words come out a slurred mumbled cacophony when I speak. Again, a fascinating experiment of the human body, chemo is.
A friend who has gone through chemo sat and talked with me the other day and shared some nuggets that were very helpful to me. She said “YOU are underwater right now and YOU will be there for a while. The ‘sick’ you is above the surface of the water right now fighting to get better. YOU will come up out of the water when this is all done. You will be YOU again.” I had not been able to really articulate what I have been feeling lately but this summed it up well. I miss me. I miss not thinking about chemo, cancer, my ostomy everyday. It is good to hear that I will return. For now I am underwater waiting to emerge in the spring with the flowers. This friend also shared that the last 3/4 of treatment is usually the hardest. The chemo accumulates, people fall off and support people can be experiencing fatigue. Being in a support role is hard to sustain. Relationships do fall apart under the stress of these life moments. It takes a lot of grace, patience and communication on both sides to get through. That can be easier said than done.
This morning Ella was looking at our kitchen calendar that has each semester written out from September through winter break on one poster board. She commented on how fast time is flying by. She is right it has been flying by which usually makes me a bit melancholy but there is a part of me that wants to speed through the next two months to get chemo over with. The flip side to wanting to plow through this time is that this is my sons senior year and he plans on flying the coop next year. This is my son’s last year home as a ‘kid’. I didn’t want it to fly by but, it was going to anyway regardless of chemo. I am actually very thankful for the cancer and chemo because it made me slow down so I have been home more. I have had some great conversations with him when he would come downstairs on a study break while I sit recovering in my blue recliner, that I call ‘my perch’. There are still many gifts from this whole thing. I see them. I am just over all of this. I am ready to be done with chemo. I have only two more infusions, January 2nd, and January 22nd. I will be done with my pills February 5th.
Moving forward, I have decided that I need to have a second wind here. I am not planning on sitting in my poopy pants for the next two months until chemo is over. If the wind does not come on its own then I will need to make wind. I need to step away from the microscopic view of the next two months and look to next spring, summer and beyond! I think I left my big girl panties in the hall closet, I should go find them and put them on, this is going to take some work. I have to jot down all the plans for all the wonderful things we are going to do when this is over. We signed up for a ceramics class. We are planning an amazing Power Party next summer. Maybe we will go see the Redwoods…. who knows.
There will be life after this. It is a temporary condition and for that I am SO LUCKY! My empathy has grown. My self observation and reflection has increased. My prioritization had righted itself a bit. Shit got real in 2018 that means 2019 is going to be amazing for no other reason than I say it will. We have choices. The choice I made today was to put my big girl panties on. They just happen to look like twenty + year-old-painted-on overalls with adorable patching, that I look really cute in, and feel more me than I have in a long time. Bring it on chemo I just made my second wind!