Monday, September 16, 2013
........what chemo is really like.....
.......on the inside story....
I often feel it is best to blog about the positives in this journey, and rarely do I share what it is really like to have to go through the process of having your body washed in toxins. What is it really like???
I have had my chemo on Wednesday afternoon and by Friday, the senses have begun to dull and the fog in my head has begun to roll in. I feel fine but am clearly aware that it won't last long.... I am grateful that the worst of the chemo journey will happen on the weekend when I can settle in and nap when I need to.
My belly is grossly bloated and the pressure on the lungs and heart is causing me to gasp for breath in the middle of the night. I am up and about and feeling frustrated that last night's dinner, albeit good, is now wrecking havoc and causing my relative fatigue to deepen. My intestinal track, all 32 feet of it has succumbed to the side effects of the fast growing cells that have begun to die off as the chemo drugs infiltrate almost every cell. I can smell the socks my husband wore from across the room and it makes me queasy. All my senses are on high alert accept my head..... the fog has rolled in and will be there for days to come. I stumble around in the middle of the night to go to the washroom for what seems like the umpteenth time. I am awkward on what feels like stumps at the end of my legs. My fingertips are numb.... this will worsen then improve as the chemicals wash out. For a few days I will suffer from extreme reflux when the stomach refuses to dump its contents into the now lazy intestines. The belly feels hungry but quickly bloats and groans when it is fed. I eat but crave mostly eggs, high protein and fresh vegetables... I get into trouble with foods that are heavy or rich with tomato sauce. Last night was a burrito bake.... need i say more. I feel disconnected from my body.... which will only last a few days..... I have a deep and burning desire to push myself through the next two rounds and pray that it is the last time i will have to subject myself to this punishment. My head feels cold and clammy and I find that I am wearing a scarf, not wearing a scarf, wearing a hoodie, not wearing a hoodie....... the dance to find comfort in and out of the house. I attempt to do some gardening and within minutes, I am sitting down to just admire the garden.... and then I get back up determined to get something accomplished. I push to trim the few small bushes at the side of the house in the sunny cool weather of an early fall day while my family is at the Western Fair. I encourage them to keep having fun.... I smiled when they left and felt so alone watching the van roll away. Happy face and waving hands..... cancer, you suck!!!
There is little joy in finding coping mechanisms to get through that one week in 3 that will push you to your very limits and find you begging for mercy when you do. I am determined and scared and everything in between. I ask myself, is this what I will be doing for the rest of my life?? This weekend was emotional and I found myself crying at everything.... I laugh at this point because one of my dearest and closest friends is expecting and our journey has many parallels both physically and emotionally. She worries about the baby she is carrying in a precarious and challenging pregnancy and I worry about the children whom I am still raising. I never said 'why me' in this journey but certainly the thought crossed my mind that I have something else I need to learn that perhaps I missed the first time?? Scared, yes, I wouldn't be human if I wasn't.... what if this just keeps growing after the chemo.... what then??? I have been told that I can't live on indefinite chemo treatments and really, who wants to??? The hope is that my immune system can take on the role once the lesions have shrunk significantly and are stable. I believe in miracles. So why was I crying? When a parent, most notably a Mom goes through chemo.... the whole family goes through it too. I try to keep upbeat and not let them get a glimpse of what is really happening with me.... but children are sensitive to their environments, much like the pets who rarely stray from my side when I am laying down, and they try to be brave in the face of their own fears of losing you.
My middle child is truly the emotional thermometer of the household and after finding him at 2:30 in the morning sprawled across his bed after throwing up I just knew it was time to have a deep heart to heart. I wasn't angry... rare to be that way with my children.... and not even disappointed.... more like..... guilt. I quietly wake him up and try to help him. He waves me off and I can hear him moving about slowly as I make my way over to the spare room. I am exhausted and unable to sleep. I have taken a pill for the reflux but now the brain won't shut off. I have already let Max know what has happened and he will deal with Mitch in the morning...... when Max leaves to go shopping in the morning, the tears begin when we have our heart to heart. I am past making any promises to my children other than I will always try to do my best to be there for them. I am truly sorry that my family must go through this again..... it was hard enough the first time. It is easy for people who don't know me well to say it's no big deal.... you've done it once before..... yes, I have and it doesn't get easier or better no matter how many times you go through this. We hold each other and although I know how big he has grown... he is still my very little boy inside. I love you this much........ (eternity). I will stay as long as I can I tell him.
Max will spend the day with Mitch closing the pool and supporting him as only a loving father can do. Mitch loves Max and works steadily by his side doing chores both here and at a dear friend's house and later makes the burritos for supper. Max has been a gift to us and I will be forever in his debt for being the rock in our family. They consult each other over meat smoking recipes as I make my way upstairs to take a desperately needed nap. After days of struggling I succumb to a deep sleep.... an escape from the days behind and the ones to come.
Does each round get worse? No and yes..... no, because it is the same time frame of things that can happen and yes because you know what's coming and you do everything in your power to alter or lesson the outcome. You do realize at some point it is like being strapped on a roller coaster ride where you are not allowed to disembark. You can close your eyes but it doesn't lesson the queasy twisting and upheaval you will soon feel as you are jettisoned like a rocket from feeling perfectly fine to suddenly feeling desperately sick. Most rides, once you get off them leave you feeling exhilarated.... this one robs you of the energy you used to manage the week long excursion of being twisted every which way while your head tries to figure out what just happened. Whew.... the first week is done.... you disembark and allow for two more weeks of your immune system coming back online, cells regenerating and starting to feel human again and then you catch a glimpse of that roller coaster on the horizon moving closer and closer as the next round arrives. Strap in.... we have another week of adventures just waiting for you....
This morning I am having a rare pity party... its been days of discomfort and in some instances agony. The nurse takes my blood pressure and realizes it is very high.... I tell her that it is in keeping with how I am currently feeling. The pressure in my bowel is causing all this grief and thankfully I have been diligent with taking the liquid chlorophyll every day. Within a few minutes of her departure, the pressure is released and I am feeling amazingly like a new woman.... tired but significantly better.... and just in time, it is Monday and I am heading back into the classroom for lectures and a late afternoon lab. Sara will be assisting me today into the evening. School keeps me focused and affords me the goal to keep working always onward and upward.
Why am I so strong? Well, it wasn't by accident and really, I started out life being pretty sensitive and if I was being really honest with myself.... I still am. I am strong because of the wrongs against me as a child and feeling that it was my duty to help those who were unable to stand up for themselves.... just ask any of my childhood friends. I am always bothered by things I feel are unjust or just plain wrong. I am not a follower and do not need to compromise my principles or values to fit in.... and that is where I hit the fork in the road. I am deeply grateful for the strong women in my life who have become dear friends and who know the score. To those women, who are still looking for their strength.... it doesn't come from wounding or ostracizing others to fill your emotional well-being. It comes from the knowledge that we are all here learning and growing and finding our own way. I am strong because of what I have been through and what I am going through. I am strong because I have to be and I will be strong because it is the only way I know how to be.
I dedicate this blog to all of those struggling with a challenge in their lives. Walk away from those that just don't appreciate or get you.... they have their own struggles to manage....keep the faith and keep moving forward despite the loops in the coaster ride of life.