Thank you so much for your messages and support. During chemo week, I was up for reading messages but it was typically difficult for me to write back. Reading them helped me so much, and I apologize if I haven't gotten back to you. I so appreciate the notes, sentiments, support and prayers. I ask for them again as I go into chemo tomorrow (Tuesday) and as I get the results of my latest CT scan.
On Mondays before chemo, I get a bit crazed as I try to plan ahead for the week. I can't predict when I will be up and about again, so I try to make sure that the whole week is covered, for meals, kid activities, errands, etc. I feel like so many days are not my own. My month looks like this:
- Six days when I am getting chemo (one day in the hospital, and two with the mobile pump, every other week).
- One to two extra recovery days that are sometimes needed (she says optimistically)
So, for roughly two weeks each month, I make no plans, because I have no clue how things will go. Each month, I try to squeeze four weeks of activities into my two good weeks, and I hope for more "bonus" days.
But then, I can't even always count on those.
For example, I have been operating at a lower level since December 31. When we went skiing over New Year's weekend, one of the women in our group bruised her toe. It appears that I am more competitive than I like to admit, because, soon after, I also bruised the same toe. Not on purpose, not a big deal, but still.
Later that night, I got a blocked intestine accompanied by lots of pain and vomiting, so my husband threw everything and everyone into our minivan and essentially flew home from Vermont. That ran its course, and all ended well.
Two days later, I had chemo, which was, well, chemo. As a bonus, it knocks out my white cells, so my bruised toe became an infected toe. I would normally let this run its course as well, but a friend of mine died, not from his cancer, but from an infection that set in. So I sent a mental thank you to him for again helping me out with that warning, and as soon as I could drag myself out of bed (three days after chemo), I showed that toe to a very kind and smart doctor (resident). He then showed it to the attending physician and - BONUS - a friend of ours happened to be working there that day! He is also very smart and kind (obviously, two traits I value in doctors). Greater than even his wise counsel, his very presence was uplifting and enriching for my soul.
I walked away with the infection drained, a prescription for antibiotics, an appointment to see a podiatrist, and a much brighter outlook on life.
But wait - the action doesn't stop here!
I had a few good days (woo hoo!), then the intestinal pain returned, along with 12 hours of vomiting. I work hard to make it through these episodes without medical intervention, but that night was not a pretty sight. I was in too much pain to move, and the kids were terrified. My husband was very concerned. There were moments, even hours, when I would have done almost anything to end that pain, including go to the hospital, but I couldn't move my body to the car. I could barely drag it to the bathroom.
Besides, I knew that the price of those painkillers would be a few days in the hospital. Those would be more lost days. Another incentive to stick it out at home.
Usually, to ride through the pain, I rely on brief, painless moments that arise spontaneously. Those breathers remind me that it is possible to be pain-free, and they help me to regroup so that I can indeed ride out the pain if and when it returns. I focus on those pain-free moments, and love it when those moments turn into one minute, then several minutes...it starts to feel like a trend line on my way to feeling completely better. I also find that if I focus on the pain, it feels worse and longer. If I focus on the pain-free spaces, I feel even a bit better.
Days after this attack, I was able to get up and around for longer periods of time, although the pain continued. We planned to return skiing for Martin Luther King weekend. My husband was now hesitant to go. I couldn't help to pack or prepare for the trip. Who knows how I would ski, manage at the mountain, take care of the kids, or whether I would get sicker. But I insisted that we all go.
Given all this, you might think I am a hard-core skier. I am not. I am an adequate skier. I do love it more now that it is such a challenge to even do, and, when I think of the stuffy hospital air, I deeply appreciate the fresh, cool, mountain air. I adore the social aspects of skiing, having everyone all together for a full weekend. And I want the boys to become good skiers, especially since skiing and ice skating helps to provide a happy winter existence in New England.
So, we went. My stomach issues were getting better but still present, so I was unable to ski at all. We truly enjoyed our time with our friends (we are sharing a ski house), and the kids had fun skiing and tubing with their dad and the gang, and ordering hot chocolate at a bar.
Our friends are part of a large, tight-knit community who generously welcomed us, and we went to 40-person party where everyone knew each other so well that it actually felt smaller and more intimate. I had to leave the party partway through (just to manage the pain in another room) but it was great just to be among everyone.
I think I dragged us all skiing because we could go. In the midst of all this craziness, I want the kids to know that we can still follow though on at least some plans, and that there is joy and activity in the world if you make the slightest effort to look for it. Even if I am hobbled over the entire weekend and searching for every small bit of time without pain, it makes me feel alive to be among friends, doing normal things to whatever extent that I can. Sometimes, I even find that I can do more than I expected or enjoy it more than I anticipated. And when everyone was getting ready to go skiing each morning, even if I wasn't going, I could feel that rush of anticipation just as I did when I first started going on ski trips with friends in my early twenties.
We are now at home, my stomach is still cramping but I have more and more moments of good, and I'm really hoping it recovers well enough to handle chemo tomorrow!
I hope that, when you feel moments of frustration, sadness, anger, despair, etc., you are also able to look between and beneath those feelings to unearth and feel the peace, joy, love, laughter, calm and blessings that can co-exist with them.