Confessions of attempts at being a normal person living with cancer

I wish I could report my days after chemo were filled with clear skies and sunshine. Instead, I was at the ER and been in bed ever since. I do recall this error in judgement of living in denial when I received a gift of pneumonia after a visit to the zoo. Was it the bar mitzvah high coupled with the reality of the cancer job? Was it Alex’s teenage behavior paired with his geometry anxiety? Was it  the reality of my tumor marker rising once again paired with an expert opinion of nothingness? Was it simply bad timing of chemo paired with a lovely virus that won’t  leave my immune comprised body? Whatever it was, it is now the gift that keeps giving. To say my household has been impacted by my demands to be taken by ambulance over the weekend is an understatement. I often wonder how Jim and Alex cope daily as the clouds of fog clear my head.

Here is what I remember. After chemo, I didn’t feel any differently except I thought the headache that often occurs as a side effect seemed to be worse. Since I am not an authority of migraines, I knew something wasn’t right on Saturday night when Alex and I were watching TV.  Sunday was a blur of many drugs taken, but nothing working. I did the unthinkable. I vomited. I have vomit phobia and have never vomited the entire time on chemo for over 4 years. It was a mystery why the drugs weren’t working. My headache was so bad that nothing helped. As I gripped the rim of the toilet, I whispered to call 911. Alex was crying in the background. I heard Jim’s calm voice. I was drugged enough to not know how I was going to get to the ER from my bathroom and I didn’t want to vomit in the car and the 133 seemed too far away from Hoag Irvine. In my mind, a helicopter seemed like a better idea. With a lot of help from my friends along with the calmness of my husband, I appeared in the ER magically. I really thought a helicopter took me. All I know is that I felt like I was some drug addict. The pain was horrific and all I could mumble was, “more please.” Finally, I got some relief along with fluids which I needed from not drinking and too much vomiting. I also had a brain scan to show absolutely nothing. Thank goodness. My poor rock star husband was hearing all the possibilities which all ended with side effects of chemo combined with a virus most likely.
I was happy that my UCLA doc was virtually there with Jim who was planning my next plan of taking a chemo pill to add to the existing combo. I could barely think about that as I was too drugged to think. Once the fog cleared, I was too weak, had a low fever, and had to deal with all the pain med side effects…ie: constipation.
I can honestly say that I have been reminded once again that I am a cancer patient and cannot abuse my body or push my body as I used to. My body does whisper, but then it yells. I am just too stubborn to hear it. So, what is the lesson here? It is flu and cold season. I must avoid crowds, slow down, pick my errands, do some online shopping, and prioritize my moments. What else do I know as the experts pointed out so expertly? The cancer is growing and is complex mostly drug resistant. How to get these cells to stop or slow down is only going to be by a combination treatment? Can I think about tomorrow, December, spring break, summer vacation? It is in the back of my mind, but I am on survival as usual. My goal is to be strong enough to get chemo on Tuesday like usual. My goal is for my boys to smile more, laugh more, cry less, sleep better, and stop the worry. I want them to be happy. I want to get downstairs, get off the sofa, and have them drive me like a dog with my head out the window smelling the ocean air.
What can I say about Thanksgiving? Be truly grateful, for your health. When you have a job like mine, the days of normalcy are not so often. I treasure each good day, each Sunshiney day, even if the sunshine is all about a shower. I am thinking most of you woke up this morning, took a deep breath, and had nothing much to complain about. If that is the case, take your child’s hand even if he/she is 30 and tell them you love them. Listen to music (their music, yes it can be torture), laugh at their stories, and live each moment, now. Stop the hurrying, stop the complaining, and my favorite saying is, it is only stuff. Stuff doesn’t matter, it is the experiences, the memories, the singing, the dancing, the laughing. Stop rushing, stop running, and enjoy your moment, find your moment, and watch the smiles, the eyes full of joy, and know that today is now. Be grateful for today. I am grateful for my boys, my family and all of you. As my fog clears, I will find my sunshine in a shower filled with Philosophy Amazing Grace shower gel and a new pair of clean pajamas.
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