Sunday, August 23, 2009

grumpy with a side of bitter

So. I'm done with chemotherapy. Chemotherapy isn't quite done with me; my acupuncturist tells me it could be a year before all the effects dissipate. I'm giving it until my hair grows back, then I'm considering that chapter over. The drugs' job accomplished, everything back to normal. Wouldn't that be grand?

Many people feel a kind of despair when their chemotherapy is over, especially those people who don't have another treatment option. There is nothing to do but wait and see and it is easy to see how that can make one feel helpless. I felt differently about chemo all along, never believing, completely, that it would be the cure. Just that it was an important stopgap. So I don't have quite that same feeling. But I do find myself in a strange place. I have more decisions to make about my treatment, and instead of finding that empowering, I'm feeling irritated and fed up with it all. I just want to get on with my life. Without cancer. There's a big part of me that still doesn't feel like this whole cancer ordeal could possibly be real. Despite major surgery, a torso that hardly feels like mine yet, chemotherapy treatments and plenty of writing (and complaining) about it all, I still can't quite believe it. Isn't that true for many of us? Before I got diagnosed with cancer, I thought it couldn't ever happen to me. I was sure I was doing everything right. I would look at cancer patients, even my best friend, and think "yes, but s/he smoked/didn't exercise/ate poorly/fill in the blank and I don't. I won't get cancer." And here I am. And I hate to say it, but you could be here, too. I hope not, fervently and sincerely. For all that my hope is worth. 

I haven't been feeling compelled to write lately, and I've been blaming it on the busy summer schedule. But that is only part of it. I don't want to whine or despair here. But sometimes, it is all that I have. I don't want to do any more research about cancer or try to guess what most likely to make it go away for good. I don't want to worry that every little cough means it is my lungs or every little cramp means it's in my abdomen. I don't want to live with this shadow over me for the rest of my life.  

The post that I meant to write was a good deal different from this. I haven't been keeping anyone except the people I see every day very well posted on how the past couple of months have gone for me. So I was going to do a post of little bits of information. Perhaps there is still time to salvage it? Or maybe not, and I should just have a good night's sleep and hope for a better attitude tomorrow.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

the livin' is easy

It's August, and I can't get to all the things on my list. I have a post started that is full of bits and pieces I feel like I've been neglecting to mention. But it's only a start, and I don't know when I'll finish it. In the meantime, I had a lovely summery evening with my family tonight. Between the weather and the crazy schedule Greg and I have had, summer family fun has been in short supply. The kids are getting good doses of it at their day camps, but this evening was one of the first for the four of us together.

It was a hot summer day, my favorite kind. We were all busy for most of the day, but as the day wound down we converged at home and packed a suppertime picnic. Then we headed to Sand Beach.

It was gorgeously, gloriously summery. We ate sandwiches and played in the water and relaxed on the blanket. Claire and I were going to make a beach house for fairies to complement the forest fairy house we made last weekend. She, however, got distracted by some minnows, so I made it by myself. I never thought to make fairy houses when I was a kid, but I could easily while away the better part of a day doing it now as an adult.

That's it, tucked in under the dune. A lovely bit of real estate, I think you'll agree.

This is a closeup, showing the table, chairs and fireplace. A walkway and garden were planned, but construction got delayed. After making fairy houses and catching minnows and playing in the surf, we stopped by Mount Desert Island Ice Cream for yummy cones. If it weren't for the wig, I might have forgotten all about the cancer thing on this lovely evening. 

Sunday, August 9, 2009

visualize this

I have written here before about being overwhelmed by all the advice about how to vanquish this cancer. I am finding, as I proceed along the treatment path, that some things are beginning to fall away, that they just don't make sense to me, for me, at this point in my life. And other things do make sense, and I'm giving them a try. And it's not just the easy stuff I'm keeping, or the hard stuff that I'm letting go. Okay, I'm not going to become a vegan, or eat all raw food, or give up gluten just yet. Those things would be hard for me. But more importantly, they just aren't resonating with me as part of my solution.

I am still in the process of discovering my solutions, but they are coming to me, as I guess I knew they would. Process is hard for me; I am impatient. I would rather know the answer right away, get to the end result quickly. But it is slowly dawning on me that life will be hard if I can't relax and let it all unfold. Because life is a process, and I don't actually want to know the whole answer, or worse, hurry to the end. 

So part of this healing process has been listening and reading and considering all the information and deciding what might work for me. A lower fat diet and a lot more exercise both make sense, though I'm cutting myself some slack on both those fronts until the worst of the chemo crud is behind me. And though I'm still struggling with it, meditating regularly makes sense to me. There have been many studies done on the changes that meditation and visualization can bring about in your brain and in your body. Changes to your heart rate, your immune system, the pain centers in your brain. These studies are comforting to me, I guess, but I'm staying with it because it feels good, despite the deep challenge. The calm that I feel, though fleeting so far, seems to be very valuable indeed. And along with the meditating is a second piece, visualizing. 

Just writing the word brings new age visions of gauzy glowing goddesses to my head.  Many write or speak about "the white light", sitting quietly and visualizing glowing light entering your body and clearing it of cancer cells. I really wasn't getting that. When I closed my eyes and pictured the process of being cured, I kept getting a vision of PacMan. You know, the good little gobbler cell racing around the maze of my blood and lymph vessels, munching up all the bad little ghosty cells. That is what I pictured, and I knew from what I had read that whatever worked for me was fine. But it wasn't actually working for me, wasn't bringing me much by way of belief or relief. Maybe it was the violence of it. Not that I've ever thought of PacMan as being particularly violent, but all along the idea of cells "attacking," and "doing battle," and of the struggle to be cured as being a "war" has been unsettling to me rather than comforting.

Then I was speaking with a very wise friend about the meditating and visualizing process. I didn't tell her about the PacMan, just that I was trying, but the visualization piece wasn't really working for me. And she shared many thoughts about meditation and visualization, but the word that stuck, the word that resonated, was "purify." That I should focus on imagining the chemotherapy and all my other attempts to cure myself as purifying. I'm not sure I've ever thought of myself and the word "pure" in the same sentence before, but the possibility was intriguing.

The next time I sat to visualize this disease leaving my body, a new image came to my head. It is of a stream that flowed behind my parents house, down to the ocean. I played beside it often growing up. It cascaded down out of the woods, crystal clear, over rocks and pine needles and moss and into the cove. And now I picture crystalline, sparkling water like that, flowing through my body, taking the black, slimy gobs of cancer (or is it rotting leaves?) out to sea. Out of me. And I don't know if it is leaving me pure, but I like to believe it is leaving me cancer free.