Nine days until my last chemo treatment. Only two Taxol appointments left and I’m DONE. It’s been a hard few weeks. I would have thought the end would be easier with the finish line in sight. But I’ve had some momentary meltdowns lately. According to the doctor, this is normal. Patients have “difficulty coping” at the end. All things considered, I think I’ve handled things pretty well, both physically and mentally. But I do have my moments.
My entire family was together in Seattle the last week of August and I couldn’t be with them – which was really, really tough. I ALWAYS go home at the end of August. The kids are out of school so it’s non-stop play and popsicles with Auntie Julie. To make it worse, my dad had to go to the ER that week because there was an infection in his incision. I had to sit on the phone, panicking and powerless to help him or my mom. Thankfully, he is doing great now. But that was super stressful.
Needless to say, by the time Labor Day weekend rolled in, I needed some fun and fresh air. Fortunately I was at the end of my cycle when I feel better. I was able to go out to dinner, spend time at the beach and escape to Carlsbad for a lovely one-night vacation. The best thing about chemo and cancer is anything that is NOT medical feels WONDERFUL.
I came back in good spirits for my last Big Chemo. Afterwards, while laying in bed recovering, I kept thinking: I can’t wait to have my life back. I can’t wait to travel, see my family again. I can’t wait to have my Wednesdays back. I can’t wait to work again (I know, strange but I love my work, probably more than I should). I can’t wait to get back to normal.
But then I had an epiphany.
I don’t get to return my life as it was in October, 2013. I don’t get to grow my hair back and simply step back into my old self. Sure, I will heal (fingers crossed) and work, go to the gym, run errands, all that. But I will never be the same again. I will never have ovaries, a uterus or all of my colon again. I will never be someone that’s never had chemo. I will never be someone that doesn’t have to hold their breath EVERY time I get a test or scan. I will never be someone that can forget to schedule a check-up. I will never be someone that doesn’t have a little voice in the back of my head, wondering, worrying, that it will come back. I’m sure that voice will get smaller as time goes on. It must. But it will always be there.
Fortunately, there are also beautiful gifts when living with these dark thoughts – IF we choose to see them.
I’ve mentioned it before and I’ll say it again. One of my favorite gifts is being able to prioritize and not sweat the small stuff. Another is realizing how lucky we are to have crossed paths with so many unique souls throughout life. How lucky am I to have met all of you wonderful people over the years and now have your support on this crazy journey?! What a cool and interesting life I’ve led! I see that now ONLY BECAUSE I REACHED OUT AND SHARED MY STRUGGLE. I didn’t realize I’ve been building this awesome network of people UNTIL I NEEDED YOU MOST. If I hadn’t gotten sick (and didn’t have FB…), I don’t think I’d realize what a phenomenal collection of fascinating and supportive people I’ve met over the years.
It is also a gift to see past the bald head and nearly hairless face – maybe 20 eyebrow hairs and lashes left – and see the beauty behind what is traditionally considered very “un”beautiful. How silly those magazines are telling us we have to look a certain way in order to be beautiful. I can see now how ridiculous this is! I’ve met some very sick cancer patients that share such positive and extraordinary energy and emanate such beauty while speaking their truth. And I can’t help but notice meeting healthy, traditionally pretty people that spew negativity and superficialness. I think I kind of sensed this before? But not like I can now – I guess this experience can make us more sensitive to the energy people are sharing with us. And BEAUTY IS ENERGY, through and through. We can’t always choose how we look but we can choose what energy we share every single day, every single moment. Positive or negative. It’s a choice.
And every time one of you shares something positive with someone going through a struggle like me, you’re making a choice to make someone else’s challenge a little easier – add those all up and it’s a tidal wave of positivity, love and support.
I don’t get my old life back. That’s the reality. But I get to step into a new life, and dare I say, better one? I hope I can hang onto this beauty and insight I discovered while living at the edge. That the human experience can be such a struggle but without those challenges, it’s difficult to see the beauty. And most importantly, that I am not alone. Neither are you. None of us are. We have each other and that’s all that really matters in the end. I can do this.