Relief, sweet relief.
Enough relief that I want to share.
When you are in the midst of something terrible, it is so hard to see the other side. And finally when you turn a corner, the other side suddenly becomes visible.
So Saturday was the hardest chemo day. I knew it was coming but you can never quite prepare for how you’re going to feel. But when it came, I could not take one more moment and thankfully when I woke Sunday, I didn’t have to. A combination of IV fluids, real food, apple juice, and pain meds are getting me back on track. Hopefully to stay in that direction.
I woke Sunday morning with the urgency to eat. Well, after I vomited of course. But I had the determination that in order to feel any better I needed to have calories, REAL calories in my body to initiate and sustain my healing.
Eating sounds like it should be easy enough, especially knowing my love of food. IN normal life, this would be a dream come true! Just pick a favorite food and go for it! But, my love for food has many obstacles and isn't that easy after treatment for Head and Neck cancer.
So many things stand in the way of eating normally:
Salivary glands are destroyed during radiation
Taste buds are augmented or non-existent
The enormous sore on my tongue makes chewing near impossible
With every swallow, my mouth burns
Nausea meds have to be timed just right to get under control
If anything touches my gag reflex the wrong way, back to vomiting and then all the eating is for nothing!
My olfactory is heightened and given my gag reflex and nausea, that isn’t a great combination!
Many people in my situation opt for a feeding tube throughout treatment. It helps to keep weight on, allows for an easier caloric consumption and eliminates the need to swallow through pain. But it usually stays with them for quite sometime after treatment ends. I chose not to do so because….I am stubborn. And I hate anything medical happening to my body (ironic right now!), I was scared to experience a potential additional pain site, and I didn’t want to risk tongue atrophy or additional food aversions. But what that means is I really have to talk myself into eating, especially considering all the things I mentioned before.
It’s hard for me to breathe a real sigh of relief when I am still in a pretty fair amount of pain, but I have learned that every day is so unpredictable so I am going to celebrate that the last two days have both been an improvement than the one prior. I can only be here now and in this moment, I am going to BREATHE and hope once again that tomorrow is better than today.
Here’s to healing a little more each and every day.
I am currently in the aftermath. The point at which there are no active treatments to be exposed to but my body is still reeling from the radiation and chemotherapy pulsing through my body.
I wish I could say this week has been restful. I wish I could say I am healing. I suppose at a cellular level I am but emotionally, I am walking a tightrope of anxiety.
Two days before radiation ended, an enormous burn appeared on my tongue-right in the place where you talk, or chew, or do quite anything. And then of course chemo was the following Monday so I exposed my body to the gift that is chemo, sensitizing the radiation to better do its job, but that in turn also subjected my nerves to the extreme.
So this week has been filled with pain, nausea, vomiting, dehydration, hydration IV’s, lack of nighttime sleep, inappropriately timed naps, craving a food, vomiting that food, weight loss, neck scabbing, hair loss, and just pure anxiousness.
My brain is foggy. I am exhausted. I am just plain worn out.
I take my pain meds. And anti-anxiety meds. And anti-nausea meds.
I practice pain management meditation. I watch senseless TV. I listen to my “warrior” soundtrack.
I cry. I smile when my boys come home. I cry a little more.
But I haven’t breathed a sigh of relief at all.
I know this is all part of the treatment, I was informed before getting here. And I know this is temporary, I will not feel like this forever, but when you’re in the thick of it it can be so hard to see or even imagine there is an other side to this experience.
I don’t know how long this will last. I wish someone could give me an actual date for relief. I do so much better in the knowing than in the unknown, but this has been a tremendous learning curve of letting go, of surrendering control, of allowing what will be to be.
Each day I write in my journal that tomorrow will be better and each day as I wake, I hope that to be the case. Eventually, it will become truth and tomorrow’s new day will be better than today.
And even though I have never felt weaker, THIS is strength, waking anew each day and never giving up. Even when that sounds so much easier.
So here's to tomorrow. Again.
I left my family vacation in Colorado to fly home alone for an immediate biopsy.
On his second birthday my baby boy woke up at his grandparent’s house because I was only two days out from surgery.
Even though my neck could hardly hold my head upright, I tried my first bites of food on my daughter’s 7th birthday.
My partner teacher moved into my classroom over the summer as I wouldn't be returning on the first day of school. Instead, it was my first time in public to walk my big boy to his kinder classroom.
By my sons 6th birthday, my girlfriend’s helped me prepare for his day. They baked a cake, cleaned the house, decorated, and brought food. I did a lot of sitting.
The weekend of the Boss Mom Retreat in San Diego, a weekend I had planned for 9 months, was spent recovering from chemo.
The Lighthouse Academy came and went as I prepared for chemo #2.
During the PLIDA conference (where my book sold out at the bookstore even without me there) I had excruciating radiation burns my mouth.
I watched two adorable Power Rangers head to Grammie and Grandpas Halloween party as I slept the entire time they were gone.
Reid had two soccer games this weekend but I had to save my energy for the drive to Kaiser for chemo labs.
I have missed so many things I had planned, looked forward to and wanted to be part of. I have cried when the house became empty after the boys left and I was alone.
The daily pain is indescribable and has been left unsaid because it’s personal and I need to focus on rest and recovering not complaining about something I cannot change.
So I rest. And I recover. And I remind myself that the best-laid plans are the ones that life laughs at and that all of this is temporary.
Tomorrow I have my final chemo. FINAL. As in, I am almost done. A few more days of life put on hold before my body can start the healing process.
There will be more days of missed events, of days that I wish I could be part of, but in the grand scheme of being alive, these small sacrifices are worth it. There will be more retreats and conferences and soccer games and Halloween parties.
Because I put life on hold now, there will be more life to live and THAT makes it all worth it.
I am sad to have missed these moments, but there are so many more moments left to live for and because I am CURING this cancer, I will be here to experience them.
One FINAL chemo. Warrior on.
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.