Fighting Blind

Fighting cancer with surgery, radiation, chemo, etc is this whole lifestyle.  You put your head down with determination, you think positive, you deal with physical pain, exhaustion, you combat the side effects with medicine, home remedies, rest, prayer, massage, warm baths, lotions, creams, healing foods, tea.  You wish the bad days away and hold onto the good days, dreading the next chemo.  But basically, you’re getting through it.  You have a timeline.  You have a specific goal…get through the next chemo, and ultimately, get done with chemo.  You can’t wait to be done.  You’re jealous of those ahead of you – if someone has just one fewer treatment than you do, you are insanely envious of them.  Oh, to have just 3 instead of 4 left!!!

But then you get done.  And a few things happen.  The first is relief and celebration.  It is AMAZING to not have to schedule your life around chemo treatments and how your body will be handling them.  As the nausea, heartburn, neuropathy, cold sensitivity, joint pain, fatigue begin to subside, and as the nails, hair and taste buds start to grow back, you have a different feeling that can take hold.  Fear.

You’re done fighting.  Now we have to see if you’ve won or not.  And the enemy could show up again anytime, without much warning.  The future is filled with scans and blood tests and hyper vigilance.  Healthy, cancer fighting foods, exercise, stress reducing behaviors, avoiding exposure to nasty chemicals.  It’s easy to get swept away by the fear and the stress that every thing you do is either inching you toward or away from cancer.

This is the part I struggled with the hardest, mentally and emotionally the last time we crossed the chemo finish line.  Chemo – it takes quite a toll.  But the time after, it’s a different kind of challenge.

Primarily, it’s a challenge of faith.  This is where we have to just take God’s big, strong hand, and choose to let go of our fear.  All this time, we prayed and trusted Him we’d get through the chemo.  Now we have to trust that, no matter what, He’s got us.  He’s in control.  He’s all over this.  It doesn’t mean your cancer won’t come back.  Maybe it will and maybe it won’t.  But we’re called to a life of adventure, a life of uncertainty.  A wild ride of a life where we’ve handed the keys over the the Big Guy and believed this was the best way.  It is the best way.   We can’t control it anyhow, so why not just rest in the knowledge that the best possible tour guide, navigator, driver, event planner and travel companion is in charge.  Gratitude and trust can stamp out fear.  I’ve experienced it many times.  You simply can’t be thankful and afraid at the same moment.  One has to win out.  Light casts out darkness, not the other way around.


Almost but not quite

Yesterday, I got unplugged from my Wonder Woman Power Pack, also known as the stylishly bedazzled fanny pack that I would wear home for 46 hours, after completing my bi-weekly infusion at the clinic.  The fanny pack contained a very powerful drug that has caused me all kinds of side effects.  And as of now, I am DONE with that drug and the rest of them.

It is a strange time, the days following the END of chemo.  Partly because, although the drugs have stopped dripping, the side effects are just ramping up.  You’re thrilled to be done, but still have a couple weeks of pain and suffering to endure.  You want to bust out the champagne and celebrate but your body is just not ready, so it’s a little bit anti-climactic.  The celebrations have to be delayed as your body begins to react to the latest (last!) round’s effects, head downward, then slowly, the trajectory changes and you’re on the upswing.  Can’t wait for that feeling!!  And as the the celebrations – woohoo, have I got plans!

It’s particularly strange because the last chemo treatment tends to be the worst, so you’re headed into slightly unknown territory at a time when your brain and soul just want to shout from the rooftops, sing at the top of your lungs, paint the town red, dance it out, party like it’s 1999.  So, this period of time requires a little patience.  I remember being very frustrated by this the last time I finished chemo, back in March of 2014.  I was so ready to get back to feeling normal, and it seemed to take FOREVER.  It was several weeks by the time I really started feeling more like myself.  You feel like the worst should be behind you, but you have to come to terms that it simply is not.

Right now, I’m tired, foggy, groggy, and I have quite a significant rash spreading in new places (it’s taken up residence on my neck and eyelids this week.)  My anti-nausea meds have kicked in and are doing their job, thankfully.  My skin is so dry, it’s crazy – my elbows look like they belong to an elderly gorilla.  Some unidentified person kindly sent me some products from Amazon to help soothe these issues (identify yourself so I can thank you!!!!)  I have these crazy infected finger and toe nails – I really need these to get better ASAP so I can start really training for the relay of the upcoming marathon.  My face is flushed and feels warm.  The rash on my hands looks like burn marks.  I have some sores in my mouth that make chewing tough, but I do have some medication for that, thankfully.  Slight heartburn has started, but I have meds for that, too, so we should be able to knock that out pretty soon.

So, right now, while all I want to do is celebrate, I am forced to downshift into a lower gear, rest, recharge, and continue to let others take care of me and my life for a little while longer.  I will be fighting the side effects and impatience.  I need your love and laughs and thoughtful kindness now more than ever – send me those funny YouTube videos, words of encouragement and anything else you think I need to get me through.  The end is near, but we’ve got a little ways to go!

While all of that is a little difficult, I continue to be incredibly grateful.  I have had some wonderful people step up and check on us, making sure we have what we need to get to the finish line.  I have had thoughtful coworkers put my needs above their own, and some who have sent powerful words of encouragement and promises to keep praying.  Some food has been delivered so I don’t have to cook – thank goodness!  I have gotten cards with kind words, letting me know we aren’t alone in this.

Well, I’m pretty sure my cat is nibbling on my lunch in the other room.  His way of letting me know I’m not alone, I suppose, haha!  Thank you to those of you who have kept up the support and care in these last weeks.  We are so appreciative of you understanding that it ain’t over ’til it’s over.  Thanks for being in this with us all the way.  Love to each of you!