Cancer Journal

February 4

God is teaching me much, and walking through it with me, sending me messages of hope, strength, and appreciation of my abundant blessings. I’m learning about how sick the treatment can make you, how supportive your loved ones can be, how blessed I am to have the comforts of a good home, a good job, and excellent insurance. Not everyone has all these things and I can truly say how very hard that pulls at my heart. 

The poison that drips into my veins for 3 days, that seeks out the cancer cells, also kills good cells. The ‘cocktail’ of drugs as they call it, causes strange and awful side effects. Nausea and vomiting that can’t be eliminated even with all the anti-nausea meds they give you, fatigue that makes you want to lay down and nap on the spot, rolling waves of abdominal pain, cold neuropathies in your hands, feet, and throat of all places. These neuropathies cause a painful pins and needles sensation in your fingertips if you touch something cold, and in your feet if you walk on a cold floor. Wearing oven mitts or gloves to take something out of the fridge is a must! If you take a breath of cold air your throat spasms in pain and you have to make sure your mouth and nose are covered to warm the air that you breathe. So many details that you just don’t consider unless you go through this process. The strangest sensation I’ve experienced so far is my bones feeling like they are frozen. I can feel the flesh around them being warmer than them and the actual bones feel like ice. SO very weird. You know the expression, “I feel cold to the bone.”? Well this is the opposite. Your bones are like ice suspended in a glass of water, chilling the rest of you down. Burrowing into a pile of blankets with a hot rice bag helps eventually. This set of what I’ve come to call the “uglies”, so far, lasts about 3 days for me. But I’m only two treatments in and I’ve been told the effects are cumulative. Geez.

Then an unexpected thing happened. I woke in the night after I had been disconnected from my second treatment with severe right arm pain. I thought I had slept on it wrong and spent the next few days wondering why it wasn’t getting any better. Upon calling my doctor’s office, I was scheduled for an ultrasound of the arm and it was discovered to have extensive DVT, blocking one of the veins. Off to the emergency room I went, where I was assessed and admitted for three days to get IV blood thinner and more testing. Turned out my lungs had a bunch of blood clots in them too and my port tube had moved out of the vein, into a smaller vein and could no longer be used.  So another surgery was had to replace the port with a new one. Now I’m on blood thinner pills for the foreseeable future (and maybe forever). Now I deal with the effects of that. Short of breath with any exertion. Even taking a shower is tiring. This will improve as the clots dissolve, but they leave scars behind, so I’ll never be 100% again where that’s concerned. More uglies. But I’m blessed with an excellent team of medical professionals who are thorough and treat things quickly. And they have great compassion. Thank you Lord for these people who take care of me.

There is no slowing down with this process though, no taking a break to rest and heal, and the very next week I kept my scheduled appointment for treatment number three. But wait, my white cell and neutrophils levels were much too low to have treatment. Another setback. But also a much needed rest. A double-edged sword as you don’t want to take too long between treatments if they are to be successful. With white cells being so low, you can’t fight off germs and recover like you normally would. You have to be very careful not to get sick or you could end up in the hospital getting IV antibiotics. Guess what? My husband just came down with a nasty head cold. Now we are masking in the house, avoiding each other, sanitizing, and sleeping in separate bedrooms. Ayiyi. It’s just one thing after another.

I’m learning so many things, and some of them are admittedly difficult for me. Accepting help. Boy that’s a hard one. I’ve always been the one to help others and find solutions to their issues. I’m the problem solver, the one who powers through every situation. Now I have a long string of problem after problem of my own and have to accept the help that is extended to me. I’ve cultivated gratitude and graciousness as I appreciate the help so very much.

I’ve learned to savor every moment of feeling relatively good. How often do we stop and consider the fact that we feel good? It’s just something we take for granted until we get sick or hurt. Then we may appreciate it for a short time as we heal, but we fall back into our normal and it’s lost from view again. 

Another thing I’m discovering is I’m not as strong as I thought I was. People tell me I am, but I think that’s just an effort to shore me up. There are days during the worst of the uglies that I wish I could close my eyes, sleep, and not wake up to this. Or I wish for a miracle, or perhaps think about not continuing treatment and just living life as comfortably as I can until it takes over and my end comes. There are so many different paths my thoughts take, and so many more paths not explored yet I’m sure. But all of us who go this must share the same thought explorations. How can we not? This takes over your whole life and every tiny facet must be looked at and considered. Then the uglies recede and I vow to be strong again, if not for myself, then at least for my loved ones who feel helpless as they watch me go through this, knowing they can’t do anything to make it better. I keep my deep thoughts hidden from them, they are mine alone to bear, and I’m strong enough for that.

Dear Lord, thank you for the abundant blessings you shower on me. Thank you for the lessons I’m learning. Thank you for walking with me and giving me the strength to get through. Thank you for the love and compassion of the people surrounding me. Thank you for the beauty of this world.

Blessings on you Lord. Amen.

Rethinking Birthdays

We mark our passage through time each year on our birthday by celebrating ourselves and the fact that we have been in the world for x amount of years. It seems foolish that we don’t also celebrate our parents (and their ancestors) with thanks and respect each year on the date of our birth. We are not the ones who did all the work of creating our little bodies, which grew inside of our mothers. All we did was appear when it was time. We should include paying our respects to our parents for all that they did to bring us into the world and raise us they best they could. The sacrifices they made, the dreams they set aside, the love they gave, the guidance they provided— and continued to provide long after we grew to adulthood and flew from the nest.

I know, I know, there is Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, but they seem so separate and cold. Forced almost, like some holidays. Wouldn’t it be cozier and more loving if we acknowledged our birthday as not only achieving another year of life, but as a family appreciation event as well?  

 From now on I’ll be spending a good part of my birthdays thinking about my parents and all who came before them. If not for every single one of them I wouldn’t be here.  Even though Mum & Dad are both long gone from this world, I can still appreciate them, think of them, and take the time to look at my life from their loving perspective. I appreciate the work they did to keep the bills paid, a roof over our heads, and good food in our bellies. I appreciate all that they taught me— right from the first breath of life and into the decades beyond. 

 Think about it. Think about the myriad of skills you were taught or learned by watching your parents. 

Some of the basics from my early years: Learning to walk, using a toilet, taking a bath, using silverware, playing nice with others and not cheating at games, learning to turn the other cheek when the kids at school were cruel, writing thank you notes, being considerate of others and sharing toys and food, learning to save money in a piggy bank, being honest and doing my best at whatever task I was faced with, working hard in school, and of course, the freedom to explore any book I wanted to read no matter how ‘old’ it was for my age because Mum recognized the value of knowledge and self-learning.

Some of the valuable lessons of my middle and older years: being on time for appointments, keeping up with healthcare, eating healthy, looking for the good in even the most difficult situations, caring for family not just every day but through the tough times too, and preserving & building on the family history that will be passed down through the generations so that family will know a bit about their ancestors.

 Many lessons are just the basics of everyday functioning. But others have to do with character and being a strong, independent person. One thing Mum always said that has really stayed with me no matter what is “Better days are coming.” It’s the first thought I have when I have a bad moment, a bad day, an issue to work through, or whatever challenges me. Better days are coming. And it’s true. All things pass and circumstances usually improve or at least change to the point where you can get a fresh start. Solutions are found. New scenarios are had. These four valuable words keep me going when things get tough. Just four simple words passed along by a woman who had experienced much during her decades here on earth.

What wisdom has been passed along to you? 

If you were to rename the birthday experience to include the celebration and appreciation of our family members what would it be called?  👩🏻‍💻