Don't gag, but on my yoga mat in my "Zen" room (or what was supposed to be a zen room, if more effort was put forth in making it one), I pray for my health and take in how I'm feeling and thank God for everything I hold dear - my life, Mike, my friends, and all who have reached our in ways small and large. I pray for my mom.
If I didn't undergo this process of reflection and introspection you would see in this blog my fleeting but very real grief along with tiny bouts of hopelessness. I see the futility in carrying on this way and refuse to dwell or make the "why's" into anything bigger than they deserve. I refuse to make that what this blog is about. Shitty things happen to people all the time, and the truth is I love my life. I am grateful.
With that said...
I come here today not having fully purged some pain and emotional wreckage, so hopefully unloading it here will help.
This week was supposed to be my lucky #9. It was the number on my gender-bending softball uniform (those vests!) hurling pitches in response to Coach Poore bellowing, “Throw some SMOKE, Nikki, throw some SMOKE!" I’d glare at her from the mound, wanting to blow that SMOKE right back up her patoot. (Then I would throw some smoke, and she knew I would - if only out of spite - and that is why the mastermind Coach Poore owned and controlled my mental landscape for four full years.)
Anyway, 9 is also the last digit of my birth date, so for these (baseless) reasons I expected this would be a good week, a propeller, a launch point. I could breeze through the final 3 weeks of this round of treatment. 3 weeks doesn't sound so bad. 3 weeks I can do. 3 weeks will fly by.
Unfortunately I am an impatient person, and as time wears on and the end draws near (for anything), the more antsy and apprehensive and exasperated I grow. On the last leg of a long trip, you'll see me tearing through traffic like a psycho. Running a few miles, that last half mile I'm killing myself sprinting because I JUST WANT IT TO BE DONE.
In this vein, nine consecutive weeks of chemo and my attitude of "let's get this shit over with because I'm pretty goddamned sick of it" caused me to carry on miserably this week.
First, I have a newfound intolerance for heat on this treatment regimen. Usually I'm like a pig in shit in heat and a shivering, helpless little turd in the cold. But this heat was dizzying and frightening.
Second, I've always heard the word "fatigue" and never really grasped the gravity of it; I always thought, So you're tired, rest! But it really is like a 1,000 pound weight that envelops you and drags your whole being down, down, down.
On Saturday I took advantage of my energetic morning because I knew I’d be tired later on. I went on a run/walk, sipped an iced tea, got ready for the beach - great, so far, so good - sat for a few minutes, and then had to abruptly get up and leave in a dizzying fog to go sleep three straight hours.
Okay, that was weird, a little roadblock. That night, I'd regained some steam, and all I wanted was a mudslide. Even if I didn't finish that mudslide, even if I got a virgin mudslide, didn’t matter, I wanted one, and I wanted to meet up with friends. Friends. Normalcy. I had my blonde wig on with the Rambo headband, liner drawn across my lower lids to mask the missing eyelashes, and I was ready to go. Until, right before leaving, blood plopped on the table. Originating from my face. The nosebleed leaked for longer than I was comfortable, so off went the wig, on went the pajama pants, and up my nose went the Aquifor. Commence me feeling sorry for myself over a mudslide. But it was more than a mudslide.
I knew going through this during summer would be difficult. Every year I look forward to seeing my friends; I think we all have a rare, special bond shared from having grown up on that peninsula. Summers are full of reuniting and catching up and going to the Beachcomber and slurping up $1 oysters and smacking golf balls at the range and riding bikes on the rail trail...I could go on about what I love down there, but this weekend I truly felt alienated from everyone. I felt shackled and lonely and bald and disgusting and nose-bleedy and like this state of being sick is never going to end. Yes, I know how fortunate I am for having caught this tumor in my boob early and that it won't last forever. I even hate pointing this out because for my mother, this is not the case. And I know how fortunate I am that I can even enjoy the Cape as often as I do; I feel foolish complaining. But you recognize what you love in life, what makes you truly happy and free, and hold it dear. The Cape and my friends is that for me.
[The good news is that in my jammies we watched Stranger Things on Netflix. If you're a Goonies fan, or an 80's/90's child and you love ET and creepy and weird and sci-fi-ish things, I think you'll love it because I am loving it.]
The next day Mike and I rode bikes, had a nice lunch, and even though I enjoyed it while it lasted, I then came home, took a gander at myself in the mirror, and started bawling. Out of nowhere! I wasn't even tired. It came on in a swift burst. It was nice to get it out, but I couldn't place exactly why I was so bereft. Until the obvious hit me: Trying to pretend that everything is normal is not working. I'm failing miserably. This is not a normal summer, I am not the same Nicole. I have cancer for fuck's sake. Why can’t I accept that?
Three more weeks of treatment. A mini vacation. Then surgery. Then 4 more rounds of treatment. Until then, I'll try to accept that while everything is so not normal, that maybe - in the end, it's for a reason.
[Just hurry the F up]