This week marks over two weeks since I took the last of my chemo drugs. I still have side effects and I wonder what will be with me for a while and what will eventually pass. For now it is so much better than it was so I am not complaining. It has been a strange two weeks. It has been wonderful, exciting, emotional, and disorienting. I am still in shock that I finished my chemo therapy. When I was in it, I felt like it was never going to end. I find myself stopping in my mental tracks whatever I am doing to think “Did that really just happen?”
I had gotten used to the cycle of my new life. Get my infusion, then take the dip into feeling like crap and crawl my way out to have four to seven days of feeling ok and moderately normal to just go back and do it again. Right now if I were still in my chemo cycles I would have been making sure I got in all my errands, appointments and to-do’s knowing next week would be out of commission again. But today I am just getting ready to teach a doula training this weekend, thinking about getting folks signed up for our rec softball league, planning our Ypsi egg hunt that we have put on for the past four years, taking a ceramics class – I am just thinking about normal things. I havent felt like I have been able to think about normal things for the past eight months.
The physical aspect of chemo is real and hard but the mental aspect is not so much talked about outside of the topic of chemo brain (which is so very real). When I was going through chemo it took much effort to maintain positivity, luckily I am naturally pre-disposed to positivity as my default, but it was still an effort. I also could not make mental space for many outside things other than my family and my health. We have two teenagers so that was a lot in itself, one of which we have been working on getting into the college he wanted to go to of which he did :)! Going out and being social felt overwhelming mostly because I did not have the mental space for others which feels hard to say but it was my experience. This does bring along feelings of not being the best friend that I could be to those who are close to me, but rationally I know those who are close to me love me no matter how or when I show up.
Now that the chemo part of this journey has wrapped up I am sitting wondering “Who am I now?” I am me, but I cannot help but be changed by this and I am not sure what that looks like. I am not sure what my rhythm is or what my habits are without chemo. So much has changed because of this. I feel, once again, like the goddess Kali standing on a mountain of rubble imagining building a new life. This was an image that was shared with me by a friend when I was going through my divorce nine years ago, of which shortly after I also came out. That era was quite a growth opportunity like this cancer thing is also a significant growth opportunity. Life changes can be wonderful opportunities for reinventing the self, that is how I am choosing to look at this. It is not comfortable by any means easy but I remind myself this is a gift.
Along with being done with chemo this month I am very excited to share that I will be getting my ostomy reversal surgery this month! We saw the colorectal surgeon on Wednesday and he said I seemed good to go. I have a test next friday that Jenn and I are calling the “butt dye x-ray leak check” even though it has a more medical name, this suits us. If I have no leaks from my surgery last July then I am ready to be Humpty Dumpty hopping back up on that wall, all put back together again. We are very thrilled to not have to wait until April. The energy has already started to lighten in our home at the idea of this big step being behind us.
In all honestly I am a little nervous about the surgery since I have never had surgery that I knew was going to happen. My surgery in July was my first surgery ever and I was very pleasantly on narcotics when they told me I was to have surgery and up to the time of my surgery – no pre-proceedure anxiety there. This time I am aware but the surgery is much less invasive so although there are nerves I am not too worked up. I am more excited to not have to be done with my ostomy bag and hopefully be able to wear jeans in March or April! The hospital stay will be a few days and 4-6 weeks recovery so I am planning my binge watching, reading lists and projects to do while healing. The most exciting thought is that I will be put back together by the time the ground thaws so I can go dig in the dirt and plan our gardens. I am concerned about issues after the surgery as I have heard that they are not uncommon but I will cross that bridge when I come to it and work with it the best I can.
A side thought I have is that the seasonal timing on everything has been perfect. With the original event being in July, it took out my summer but Jenn was home on Family Medical Leave and was able to work on the property and be in the garden (her favorite place) while I was healing. Chemo ending and the reversal surgery is perfect since this is a big down time in Michigan. We are wrapping things up in the dormant season to emerge like the crocuses (a very early spring flower) when spring starts to roll in.
I am so excited for the time ahead of me, I could cry thinking about it (I am BTW). I am so lucky for my colon blockage from my tumor. If not for that I don’t think it would have been caught until it was too late. Amazing dumb luck that I get the blessed opportuity to have more time. Whatever it looks like I am so fucking thankful. (explitive for emphasis – sorry mom).