I can officially say I am more than half way through radiation treatment. My lack of writing is a testament to things running smoothly and minimum emotional breakdowns. Treatment has finally fallen into a routine beginning with my 6:00 am “dad alarm clock”. Hello high school. Then we hop into the car and I nap while he listens to anything but radio baseball (it’s not on that early, sorry about your luck dad).
(Me in treatment with my pink mask)
We usually get there early and I am in and out of treatment by 8:40 am. Somedays we stay longer to meet with the doctor or the integrative wellness team but for the most part we are home by 10:30 am with our whole day ahead of us. Dad spends most of his day gardening, helping me with things, or playing on his tablet. I stay busy running, reading, puzzling, coloring, or doing yoga. Part of me feels like I have regressed out of adulthood, but I think both of us are grateful, me for the sense of protection, and him for the sense of control.
As far as symptoms go…
Just when I thought my though little hair follicles would defy the odds and give a big “FU” to cancer they let go. I don’t blame them but the aftermath is a baseball (not golfball) sized bald spot on the back of my head. Please spare me the “it will grow back” comments I am reserving my right to bitch. I am 28 and while I’d like to think I am above the superficial importance of cosmetics in the face of cancer, I am not. I love my hair, every last follicle and I wish it did not have to go. Also, I wish it didn’t have to keep going every time after I shower. With that said, it is not lost on me that if this is the largest inconvenience in my life, all things considered, I am beyond grateful. Fatigue comes and goes in waves and I can usually fight it with a run or a walk, my incision is healing very well, and even my light sensitivity has started to fade.
The hardest part of the healing is the 15-20 minutes before bed I spend with my thoughts. The time of the day where I remember I have cancer and ponder my mortality. I try to create some algorithm in my mind of the facts of my case. I fill up each side of the scale with my unique risk and protective factors as if right there in my bed I can come to the conclusion of my fate if I just think hard enough. I cannot and my worries are not helpful, but I am learning to accept them as part of the healing process.
How I am coping…
- Reading cancer memoirs- I am not always in the mood and sometimes these books trigger fear but they are helping provide me with a vocabulary for my feelings. They normalize suffering as a part of life and remind me to look for beauty despite despair. I would recommend “When Breath Becomes Air” and “Everything Happens for a Reason and All the Other Lies I Loved” to anyone going through a challenging time or caring for someone in a challenging time.
- Journaling and blogging- writing helps me unpack my thoughts so I know longer need to carry the heavy load alone.
- Running and yoga- physical activity helps me remember how healthy and strong I am and allows me to use all my bottled up energy in a healthy way. I am so grateful for my physical health amongst the emotional turmoil.
- Talking to family and friends- Sometimes it is a distraction from my thoughts and sometimes it is another place to unload.
- Crying- Over the years I have learned to become comfortable with crying although it’s usually alone in my car or with a select few people that know me well. I am learning to get more comfortable crying in front of strangers, therapists, and doctors without feeling ashamed or weak. It is a process but I am growing and getting better.
- *Spending time with family and friends living 🙂
(Jeff and I at the New River State Park for MDW).
I have two and half more weeks of treatment and then I am hoping to get back to my normal life in Richmond. I am currently waiting on genetic tests and a DNA sequence of my tumor but for the most part the rest of my appointments will be follow up scans. Most importantly I get to go back to living my life and trying to savor every moment.