Been awhile since I posted. So much has happened in the last month, it’s hard to wrap my brain around it let alone write about it.
I’ve been told that the post-chemo experience is a head trip. I didn’t understand how it could be as difficult as going through chemo but now, I get it. You’re stuck in this weird reality – what I call CancerLand – for so many months that you acclimate to it. You’re in survival mode. You do what needs to be done. And then you’re shoved back into the RealWorld as suddenly as you were dragged out. You feel exposed – literally bare-headed and a vulnerable immune system like a newborn baby. I’m not the same person as I was before – and I don’t know who this new person is quite yet. Other cancer patients say it feels like a rebirth which is wonderful and frightening at the same time. I feel happy that I’m done with chemo but scared of my next scans and reports. I feel relieved I get to start “real” life again but nervous I won’t have the energy to handle it. I feel excited to embrace life but petrified I’ll be told bad news again. I feel a lot of things.
If you know anyone else going through cancer – I hope you don’t but let’s get real – know that the post-chemo time is very fragile for them. They are physically beaten down, scared to meet with doctors, nervous to socialize and work again. It takes so much energy for us to engage in normal situations because our reserves are low. And our reality was focused on medical crap for so many months, that it takes awhile to adjust to small talk and silly conversations. I can’t wait until cancer doesn’t come up ONCE in a conversation. Joy!
All in all, I’m doing okay physically although I tire very easily. I keep having to adjust how much I do. If I go overboard, I can’t get out of bed the next day. It’s very difficult for me to hold myself back from going full steam ahead. But from what I understand, I’m in much better shape than most at this point. Fingers are slowly improving, hair/eyebrows/eyelashes are coming back! Like little flowers bursting out of the ground after a long winter. Never thought I’d be so happy to see eyelashes. Never cared for make-up before but now I can’t wait to wear mascara – simply because I CAN.
The hardest part is realizing that I’m not like the rest of the world anymore. Not even like other cancer patients due to this lame Lynch gene. I was at a workshop this weekend and one of the speakers happened to be from the organization, Nine Girls Ask? which was started by a woman who had ovarian cancer. Before the founder spoke, they showed a video with scary a*& stats, stuff I didn’t know. Things I wish I didn’t have to know. I don’t want to share them with you because they are pretty horrific. Of course, I was so thrown off guard that I started crying. Wondering again if I’m ready for the “real” world. Of course, people were so understanding. And the founder was thrilled that I had been given the chemo comfort bag that her organization creates. But I was a wreck afterwards. You can only imagine what it would be like to learn all these disheartening facts just weeks after ending chemo.
All this is heavy on the heart and the mind. But then I think about how the doctors told me I’d never heal ulcerative colitis – but I did anyway. Those numbers are just numbers, that’s it. Dying young just isn’t my style anyway. I’ve always seen myself becoming a feisty, old lady. I just need to hang onto that vision, the same way I held onto being healthy when I was sick in my twenties. I just pictured it, over and over and OVER again. Until it became true. I defied their predictions before, and I can do it again.
Fuck statistics. I’m not going anywhere for a REALLY long time. I can do this.