Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Once Upon Another Time

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Before I knew which life was mine
Before I left the child behind me
I saw myself in summer nights
In stars lit up like candle lights
I'd make my wish
But mostly I believed...
There was a period of time between the day I found out I had a malignant tumor and the day I found out exactly how bad the cancer was. It is, as they call it (whoever "they" is) - the "waiting game." During that time - a period of five or six days, I was convinced that I was going to die. That the cancer had spread way too far in my body, that I'd waited too long.

My reasoning: I was afraid I'd done too much too quickly in the short life I'd lived. Not to pretend I'm exceptional, but until that day on April 10th, I'd been in control of my choices. I would make a decision and then find a way to follow through with it. In so many ways, I've been so lucky to do the things I've done. Gifts upon gifts... Life.

If anything, people find me annoying because I have too much life. ADD, ADHD, whatever. Always going, talking too loudly, singing, running around without shoes on, blurting opinions, wearing my heart on my sleeve - exuding life to an obnoxious extent (some would argue). For those five or six days before I got official news about the cancer, I was sure that I'd used up all the life in my life too quickly.

I didn't know what it felt like to be void of life until two weeks ago. The day after the day after they put the poison into me via needle and bags of fluid. I didn't realize I was so delicate. When I struggle, I struggle fiercely. I fight, I punch air, I scream and yell and swing my arms. It's not pretty, but it's life. Fierce life. Not death. This is different. From the inside out, I was dying. Life drifting from me, almost literally as my fingertips, lips, and tongue lost the ability to feel. The general "disconnectedness" from life, my body, and everything in between is foreign to me. How did I become this girl?

Certainly I didn't choose this.

And then...

The feeling in my fingers and lips and tongue come back, but my hair goes and takes with it a certain identity I didn't realize I had. Even today, I run my hands past my head to put my hair "back up" and realize it's not there. It shouldn't bother me so much. It's not my identity. But when it goes away I realize that it's been attached to me as long as I can remember. And really, it was pretty important to me, even though I never had good hair. So it's gone. It's not a short haircut. It's gone. It will be years before I have a ponytail again.

It does break my heart. And I realize, I'm slightly delicate. There's nothing to punch. When did this happen? How? Where did I go? Africa, Asia... and ... Chemo? I punch and punch and punch. But I can't hit anything.

Chemo: cough syrup for cancer? Cough syrup for "life?" Stealing life to give life... a strange concept. But then... "The only piece of advice that continues to help is that anyone that's making anything new only breaks something else."
For me: whether I wanted my old life or not, it seems as though new life is not optional. With no home, no job, no hair, new boobs on the horizon and a general uncertainty in every aspect of my life - I am learning to accept that a new life is in order.

The old life was pretty lovely, but she seems so distant these days. Eventually I will stop asking myself what happened to that strong, beautiful girl and accept this version of myself, a woman now - I suppose. All grown up.

But then, about 10 days later strength comes back, the struggle fades, and I start to feel a little bit like myself again. I run the beach, the trails, I swim, I climb my mountain. I am almost back... until the next round. And it continues. 
And there you have the Ferris wheel that is chemo (for me). I have seriously struggled with what to put up here. I've written at least 7 drafts to get me to this point, and really - it doesn't tell you anything about cancer - where it is or what my treatment is or what happens next.

Suffice to say - life continues for me in a form that I cannot even conceive. I don't want this to be a blog about cancer and details about what medicines they're pumping into me or how many rounds of chemo I will have or what the side effects are, or how bad surgery is, or blah blah blah blah... So many people write blogs about that stuff.

I want this to be a blog about life. Clearly, I don't have a great grasp of that right now... but I'm trying. I take my good days and my victories as they come.

I have to say - the most amazing part of all of this is the incredible amount of love and support I've received from my family and friends. It has been endless and overwhelming to me. If you're reading this, you support me and it has made all the difference.


PS - It's a little weird. But I actually kind of enjoy being bald now that I've gotten used to it. Go figure!

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