Yo Playas! It’s been such a while since I have blogged – apologies to my first time callers and long time listeners. I have got just over 6 weeks of chemotherapy left. That’s it, my friends. My last infusion should be on Friday the 24th of October. There is absolutely no way that I will not be wearing my onesie to my last chemo. Somebody please organise a marching band and many, many balloons. I am in disbelief that I’ve already done this for 4 and a half months – I’m happy to say that time is not dragging, it has absolutely flown. Thank goodness for that!
The new chemotherapy that I’m on, named Taxol, isn’t nearly as bad as the last drug, AC. I’ve got no nausea. You have to understand, the excitement I feel when I say I’ve got no nausea. How much it actually means. The way I felt on AC, I feel scarred; traumatised from it. Not that I have any enemies, but I wouldn’t wish that experience on my worst enemy. The fatigue was so crazy too. Now that I look back on it, in hindsight, I realise that it was such incapacitating fatigue. Maybe I have already said this in prior blogs, but there were some days that mum would hold my arm, as I incredibly slowly walked a lap of the backyard. So weak I would sometimes have to stop for a break. Crazy, hey? But you know what is amazing, – is that it has only been about 2 months since I have felt like that. Not to say I am feeling perfect now, because I am certainly not. But it is incredible the lengths that your body will go to, to heal itself. If you really think about it, whether it is a scratch, a broken bone, a bruise, a cut, or a reaction to a crazy substance you put in your body like chemo – it will do absolutely anything it can to try and heal itself. It’s weird! It’s amazing! The fact that a cut just eventually disappears? It’s absolutely something to be celebrated and marveled at.
I remember saying at the beginning of my sabbatical that change is as good as a holiday… I get the feeling now that ‘change’ should really be more defined before that quote is taken literally, haha. The list of side effects I have had, and still have, is a long and I don’t think I’m not sure if I will ever be comfortable with the amount of medication I have to take. I am well aware that all the changes that are happening to my body are temporary, and I am one of the lucky ones as I have an end date of treatment with a great prognosis and lots of shining light at the end of the tunnel. But seeing and feeling my body waste has been confronting. The only indicators I have as to how my body is coping are so surface level. It’s hard not to think that, if my eyelashes are falling out, if I get dizzy every time I stand up, if my skin bruises from the slightest touch, what is happening deeper in my body? How are my poor little organs holding up? Little livvy and my two kiddos, as well as my poor tum tum, what’s really happening to them and how are they coping? Will there be any long term complications after all this? The poor little cherubs.
Even though the AC was so horrible nausea/fatigue/constant foggy feeling/illness wise, those symptoms are still no match for the mental anguish, anxiety and turmoil I have felt in the last couple of months. I’m really glad to say, I feel like I am slowly getting on top of it. I am not completely there yet; I feel as though I am sitting with anxiety constantly on my shoulder. It’s there, ready to pop it’s head around and cloud my vision at any moment. But it’s not sitting there right in front of my face, every day, like it was. I’m doing a number of things to try and alleviate all this mayhem. I’m using a number of self help techniques such as journaling, meditation and yoga. I’m seeing a psychologist at the Cancer Care centre; with her we are trying to work through what my triggers are to cause anxiousness, what they symptoms they give my body are and what I can do to overcome these symptoms.
When I become anxious, it is like a cloud covering your vision. It’s everywhere and every way you look; there is no distraction or quick fix. My body tenses up, particularly in my hip flexors and thighs. I clench my fists, like I’m holding on really tight to something and can’t let go. My breath becomes shallow. I scrunch up my face. My voice becomes shakey. I cry at the drop of a hat. My mind races and I feel dizzy. The worst bit is that when you’re in it, deep in that feeling, you cannot possibly see a way out of it. When I’m in it, I am continually, utterly convinced that it is the way I will feel forever. It makes you wonder ‘what’s the point’. It makes you think that the overcast days will never, never ever go away. It makes you feel useless; like you are not contributing to anything substantial or important in life. It makes you feel like giving up.
At the moment, there are a small handful of people that have been dragging me through the mud when I seem to get stuck! They are amazing. They are incredible. I am forever indebted to their commitment to a relationship with me. They know who they are and I love them dearly. It might sound ridic, but it’s the small, everyday tasks that I am finding difficult. If you know me well, you would know I am quite renowned for misplacing things and living in a semi-organised chaos! It’s a running joke with anyone that knows me. Mum and Dad laugh at me because I will leave the house and very, very often I have to come back because I have forgotten something. My boss at Merrylands made me write a checklist to leave on my desk at work, and a list to stick on the wall as I left my house of a morning of necessary items for my departure. This is because there were numerous times I would get to work and have forgotten to wear shoes. I wish I was joking. (I’m not really a fan of shoes, anyway, but they are kind of necessary for a PE teacher). Anyway, I am feeling more disorganised than ever and the small tasks are a really, really big chore. I feel pressure at the thought of cooking, I am struggling to keep my clothes/personal items in any significant order and even showering is really difficult. But I am still showering (I promise I am). It’s almost like the process is just too much for me – showering – washing face – washing body – getting out – drying – moisturising – finding clothes to wear. It’s overwhelming. It’s tiring. But I’ll keep showering, I guess. If I have to.
As food has been a big contributor to my anxiety throughout this journey (I loathe the word journey, it is so overused in the cancer world, but I can’t seem to think of a better one to take its place), it has often been a hot topic of mine to talk (meltdown) about. I’ve had a really difficult time separating myself from this anxiety and thinking rationally and realistically about it. What started as a healthy, well intentioned effort to clean up my eating (not that I consider myself to have been very unhealthy), progressed to somewhat of a tumultuous, self sabotaging, unrealistic food obsession. There have been times I have found myself sitting somewhere in a cafe, having ordered a salad, absolutely freaking out in my brain that everything I am about to consume will give me/progress my cancer. The chickpeas are from a can; they will give me cancer. The greens aren’t organic, they have pesticides on them, they haven’t been washed properly; they will give me cancer. The dressing is full of sugar; it will give me cancer. These thoughts spiral, consume and eventually paralyse me. To the point that I feel like I can’t eat anything. As I said earlier, when you are in the mindset, it seems like there is no way out of it. It’s funny though, sometimes I can happily sit and demolish a whole Monte’s Pizza and not even think twice about it. Other times, it’s all I can think/stress about. I absolutely feel like these thoughts are becoming less and less frequent, compared to the consumption they were having over me daily a few weeks/months ago.
What I am really trying to focus on at the moment, is being kind to myself. Adopting behaviours that are self nourishing and loving. Letting go of old habits, routines and relationships that are no longer serving me positively. I’m also trying to get my head around the fact that ‘TREAT YO’ SELF’ isn’t selfish. I want to help keep my mind strong and rational. If I am ever in the situation again where I am bed ridden (goodness forbid) and ‘alone with my mind’, not being able to do the things that I enjoy doing, then I want to be content and strong in my mindset. I want to be happy. When you think about it, I could spend my days looking forward to all the amazing things that are going to come into my life after chemo. I could look forward to holidays next year, to not having to go to the Cancer Care centre every couple of days, to having eyelashes again, to not having itchy skin, to going back to work fulltime and to pulling an all nighter with the gays on the dancefloor at Palms. All those things will be amazing. But if I spend my time thinking about all the good things that are going to come to me next year, what do I do in the meantime? Wait? Isn’t that just delaying happiness? If I can choose, why would I put a time frame on when happiness should arrive to me? I want it now! I want it all now. So if I have to put up with being eyelashless, being tired, being absent on the dance floor when the gays are busting a move, then so be it. What else can I find in this moment to be happy about? What can I put into my daily practice that could help me be (and stay) happy. This is where the ‘being kind to myself’ part comes in. I have an amazing friend who shared an analogy with me a few weeks ago, and since she shared it with me, I have heard it four more times from different people. She explained that you need to think of yourself as a well. Your well is filled up with love, energy and joy from God, others and experiences. An almost empty well has dirty water, which isn’t helpful for anyone. You need to be filled with healthy water before you can overflow and can help others.
So I am trying to fill up my well xx