Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chemo 12 of 12: The end of chemo feels a bit anti-climactic

The boys and I went to Bermuda over Father's Day weekend. It was a nice trip, though my husband couldn't join us because his passport expired. He learned this when he checked in at the airport. I learned this when I was already in Bermuda, looking forward to his arrival. I had been with the boys for two days, having breakfast as they were raising Cain in the restaurant. The manager came to the table to tell us that "our other party would not be joining us." The only thing louder than my shock was the gasp from everyone else in the resort, who realized I'd be alone with the two kids for a few more days. One gentleman stopped by our table to say that he was about to have his second child and was very scared.

Whoops. It's been that kind of a year! But my mother-in-law volunteered to join us at the last minute. Yes, I was panicked at the thought of being alone with two active boys for the whole weekend! It wasn't quite the family vacation we planned, but, as I'm learning, things can go so far from plan. It was still beautiful and fun, and we returned home just in time for my last chemo.

I got the continuous infusion pump removed on Thursday, marking the end of my chemo. I thought I would be doing my little woo-hoo happy dance now, and I am, a bit. It is a weird feeling, to be done with this. I feel a bit at loose ends. I guess that is normal, though. It just all feels a bit anti-climactic, and I'm not quite sure why. A bit of a downer.

Of course, I am dealing with the usual after-effects of chemo. I'm glad to be done because the neuropathy is getting worse, which is to be expected. I can't feel my toes, and living in the land of Legos-on-the-floor, that is a mixed blessing! There is the usual nausea, general blek feeling, intestinal stuff, all of which should pass. (ha ha -- a little colon humor there).

But these downer feelings, I'm having trouble dealing with. I'm typically pretty good at looking at the bright side of things, and I can do that, I just can't "feel" it.

For example, immense gratitude gets me through alot, and I do still feel that. For example, I'm grateful that it is me and not one of the kids. I often think that, if it was one of the kids, I would pray that there was some way that I could trade places with them. So, maybe I AM trading places with them, and they don't ever have to go through this. I regularly see people who, on a given dimension, have it harder than I do. For example, this week alone, I met a woman with cancer and kids younger than mine. I met people who can't walk or go to the bathroom on their own, both things I regularly give thanks for. I mean, just the simple act of getting up to get my own drink of water is HUGE. I'm grateful for the interactions I get to have -- I had a wonderful phone conversation on Friday, for example, that lifted me up.

Maybe I'll feel differently after the CT scan (in two weeks). If that is clear, maybe I'll feel some euphoria. Or relief. Or maybe chemo is my new "known world" and now I'm entering the world of the unknown. Plus, I know enough folks who have had their cancer return, or, like me, have had more than one cancer, so I'm under no illusions that this is the end of the road. So, really, all I (or anyone) can do is to take things one at a time, and that has to be enough. In a way, it really is, as each day truly feels like a gift. I admit, that is hard to remember when one of my children wakes up at 5 am, ready to greet the day! Still, to be able to get up at 5 am is a blessing in itself.

I guess I'll just move through this and see where it takes me. Sitting with these feelings is a challenge for me.

I always thought that an experience like this would be a life-changing event. A friend of mine, who is a hospice nurse, once told me that people don't necessarily become more enlightened; usually, they become more of themselves. I definitely don't feel more enlightened, but maybe I have become more of myself. Who knows?

Here are three things, though, that I'd like to share as I sign off on these regular e-mails.

Get tested. In my experience, cancer doesn't hurt in its early stages. But, that is the time when you need to spot it in order to eradicate it from your body. So, if you've been putting off that colonoscopy, mammogram, whatever test, do it. It does take time, and we are all busy, but believe me, chemo is much more of a time sync, and you don't want to go there! But, if you do find yourself there, it is do-able.

This has definitely strengthened my belief in a higher power. The way things came along at just the right time, the way events just seemed to work together...all that could not have been orchestrated by me. The power of prayer has really helped to sustain me at times, too.

But, even if you don't believe in God, I have to put in a pitch for the power of the collective. You can feel it when you have a coffee with a good friend and walk away feeling happy and energized. That is a feeling, an energy, you can generate together, not alone. During this period, the power of everyone, together, supporting me and our little family through this was like the energy of meeting one good friend, magnified. It created a strong web that continues to carry us along. It is a tangible feeling, and I hope you have that in your life, too.

Yes, I am addressing emotions last because I hate to address my emotions. It is such a messy area; anyone who has seen me try and organize my clutter knows that I don't like to tackle a mess alone! I can't even begin to describe my gratitude for your company as I navigate the funky emotions I've encountered along this journey. I've found some things I'd like to hold onto, and will work to do so. I want you to know that your presence, whether in person, over the phone, over e-mail or over the cosmos, is so strong and touches me so deeply that I can't describe it.

Thank you for being there. You have made a huge difference and an immense impact. I don't know how to show it, but maybe I can pay it forward, and I look forward to sharing good times with you.

For now, though, I'm just hanging out. Thanks for hanging out with me, too, in this ultra-weird place!

Love, Marie

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