Each day is continually becoming better than the last. During treatment I had two wishes; to be well enough to dance with my brother at his wedding and to eat, taste, and swallow Thanksgiving dinner with my family. Those two events were only two weeks post-treatment and only one week from each other. It was a high expectation.
As the weeks of treatment accumulated in my body and continued to affect me after completion, I was so nervous to attend both the wedding and our family meal. But, I’m so excited to share that I made it! I successfully went and felt present at both the wedding and Thanksgiving
Being surrounded by wedding guests was a huge change from my medical team, patients, and those driving me to and from treatment. I had successfully spent 8 weeks resting during chemo and radiation in the comfort of my home (other than a quick appearance at a fundraiser in my honor). And I stayed home intentionally. I was not about to chance an illness that would delay my treatment and risk missing the most important day of my brother’s life, I love him and his wife too much.
As the day approached, I felt such anxiety about how the weekend would go, a road trip, a hotel stay, large groups of people, dressing up, conversation, eating, etc. So many unknowns, but so important to be there. And not to mention, I wasn’t eating actual food yet.
So wedding weekend, I tried soft foods. Excitedly, I could swallow soup, yogurt, and ice cream but with damaged taste buds could not taste what I was eating.
At my family’s pre-Thanksgiving the next weekend, my taste buds had mostly returned almost overnight it seemed. That first bite of stuffing and gravy, I could not wipe the smile off my face. I TASTED IT!! And then I tasted mashed potatoes, jello, french onion dip, and pie...anything soft or that which could be smothered in gravy or whipped cream! But my mouth was still so painfully dry with blisters, I was pretty worn out and spent a fair amount of time fighting sleep on the couch as Ilistened to the festivities around me.
5 days later actual Thanksgiving rolled around. Although spent mostly on my girlfriend’s couch, I now had saliva and talking (still a challenge) I had the energy to joke, laugh and really feel present despite completely weaning from all my meds. ALL OF THEM!
It’s amazing to think all these changes happened so quickly. The recovery that they warned could take months to a year to overcome seems to be snowballing as each day rolls to the next. It’s hard for me to not get excited and imagining Spring and Summer with renewed energy and excitement for life. I was already pretty excited for life before all this cancer nonsense, I can’t wait to see what’s to come!
This week my oncologist told me to cool my jets. To take it one day at a time and remember that I have a full road ahead of me including speech therapy, physical therapy, energy and stamina to regain. That returning to work isn’t even a consideration until my scan returns clear in January. (She also told me I’m still a healthy BMI and I don’t need to gain any weight! I’m going to pretend I didn’t hear that last part because after losing 30 pounds including some extra baby weight ;) I was really looking forward to the eating part of this recovery!)
This week, I was told by my two oncologists that I am far ahead of others at this point. Even though to me the days seem long and the progress slow, if I stay present in the day to day, I am making great progress. When I remind myself that only two weeks ago I was on a liquid diet and vomiting every day unable to get out of bed. Now, I have moved my resting from the bedroom to the living room. Small victories. I am so grateful.
So, in the midst of my excitement to return to life, to reconnect with friends, and to remember who I was without a diagnosis, I am also reminding myself to be patient. To be present. To be appreciative and grateful. That the destination is not the goal, but the time I allow my body to heal will allow me to return stronger and healthier than before.
This time is as important as the treatment I was enduring. I will continue to rest. I will continue to remain patient. I will continue my naturopathic, acupuncture, chiropractic treatments. I will allow my body the time it needs to heal and understand that I have made tremendous progress.
As my doctor said, I’ll cool my jets and allow the healing to do its work.
I’m just not sure my doctor has ever had a patient as determined as me.
Life is (still) good.
That's how much I would have paid to feel better after Ruthie died. To eliminate the pain, aching, devastating hole in my heart.
And that’s how much I would have paid to eliminate pain and heal my body of cancer.
One million dollars.
But a million dollars couldn’t take away the (emotional) pain of my daughter dying. And a million dollars can't take away the (physical) pain of cancer and it’s treatment.
Alas, I did find relief for my grief. And I found relief through my chemo, radiation and recovery through naturopathy and alternative treatments. Neither healed me, but both supported my body, mind, soul.
My girlfriend told me I would not know how terrible I would have felt throughout treatment because even with integrative, naturopathic and alternative treatments I will still feel terrible.
Another friend shared with me that she wished there was a more humane way to treat cancer.
At the time, I couldn’t imagine what either was telling me.
But, both were right.
I felt beyond terrible.
The chemo and radiation felt inhumane.
And here I am, on the other side. The long, healing, recovery side that is still a struggle each day—-a struggle I gratefully walk in, but a struggle nonetheless. These treatments will continue for through my recovery. They will replenish what has been lost and set me up for a healthier future.
I tell you this because neither were cheap but worth every penny. I have you to thank. You who attended our fundraiser or donate through the Give InKind page or send us love gifts in the mail. You have made this terrible, inhumane treatment more manageable, supported, and financially possible. No "thank you" will ever be enough. But THANK YOU, nonetheless.
And I still wish a million dollars would relieve all the pain (and all other's pain, too).
But mostly, I wish a million dollars could save babies and heal cancer.
The unseen trauma. The never-ending thoughts. Talking myself through all moments of getting through each day.
What causes my anxiety? Everything. Most everything causes my anxiety.
Waking up. Getting out of bed. Taking a shower. Having daily appointments. Facing another 12-14 hours.
Being in pain. Not knowing how much pain. Fearing I won't be able to control the pain. Wondering when the pain will end.
Eating. Eating when everything is altered, challenging, or painful. Taste buds. Chewing. Pushing food to the back of my throat. Swallowing. Vomiting. Having to eat again. Hunger.
Leaving the house. The germs. The hugs. The potential of germs and hugs.
Speaking to strangers. Speaking to friends. Having to speak in general. Speaking through the pain and weight of a tongue I cannot always feel or move correctly. Not being understood. Having to repeat myself. Having to slow my speech.
Energy. Having energy. Having enough energy. Having to prioritize my energy. If I use my energy for this, will I have enough for that? How long will I have to rest after I _____?
Answering “How are you?”. Not knowing how I am. Not knowing how to answer. Compared to yesterday, last week, last month, last year. I can eat today. I can talk today. I can spend time in the living room today. I am good. I *am* good because I am alive. That's my barometer these days. But, I am not necessarily *good*.
Falling asleep. Calming my mind. Calming my body. Calming my nerves. Being woken from sleep. Going back to sleep.
But the anxiety is just that-anxiety. It is not real, but if only in my head. It is an ongoing conversation that I have to talk myself out of or medicate. But at some point, I have to learn to live through what I have lived through and when I can’t I won’t and I don’t.
I will ask for help.
I will take my meds.
I will tell a friend.
I will be my friend.
I will breathe.
I will know that this is temporary even if I don’t know how long temporary is.
And, I will rejoice that I am alive. Because once again, I *am* good because I am alive and life is (still) good.
Even through anxiety.
I am mama of three beautiful babes; two sons whom I have the privilege of raising and my daughter who lived for 33 sacred days.