Thursday, January 17, 2013

Reality...

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I finished my 33rd and final radiation treatment today. I am overwhelmed with relief. With New Zealand on the horizon and a lifetime of dreams on the line, I was so worried I'd break out into a huge, infected blister and have to worry about getting myself healed in 3 short weeks before my obligations abroad began.

Reality is, cancer is rough. To kill cancer, they have to pump poison through your body. So much poison that your hair falls out and your fingernails and taste buds die and you become disoriented. Reality is, it's so hard to kill cancer that they prefer to cut it out of you. So they do. They cut body parts off of you to save your life. Cancer is so strong that when it grows in places where they cannot cut it out, they burn it to death - killing everything in its path.

I am pretty sure I sat and watched all of the above play out in front of me as my life (and this blog) became all about cancer. But still, as I sat and watched them navigate the scans of my body every day before radiation, I thought, "certainly this isn't MY BODY they're looking at!" And even as I look down at my burnt, nippleless chest, and feel the fuzz that's slowly becoming hair on my head, I think, "I didn't have cancer. I had chemo, and surgery, and radiation... what is cancer anyway???"

To read this, you might think that I'm in some kind of denial about what's happened. Don't worry, I'm not. I'm well aware of what's happened and what could happen from here. But it's a strange notion to have this disease that never had a chance to make you sick, but that's so strong that they have to bring you as close to death as possible to save your life. You do find yourself thinking, "But, I wasn't sick...  I was gonna run seven miles the day I was diagnosed. I'd just climbed the highest mountain in Africa!"

Sorry if it's too much skin, but it's really just skin. Burnt skin with the last "radiation sticker" halfway peeled off. It's gone now... A HUGE victory for me!!!
My daily routine with radiation started with the dressing room. I'd sign in, walk straight to the dressing room, change into my gown, and wait for the technician to call me into the treatment room over the loud speaker. Turns out, that little waiting room becomes a sort of happy hour/counseling session for the ladies undergoing treatment. Like the chemo treatment center, I have made so many great friends in my time in this little room. I love these women. I find myself wanting to do anything I can to make their lives easier; they are so lovely. I will miss seeing them every day.

Walking out of the treatment center today, I saw this posted on the bulletin board. I literally belly laughed!

It's weird to me that something that is supposed to be so restrictive and deadly has brought me more life and happiness than I could have imagined possible. I don't get it. I don't pretend to, but I am very, very grateful for it.



Sunday, January 6, 2013

Update - Welcome, 2013!

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Not gonna lie, 2012 was a DOOSIE! I was really hoping to be done with the hard-core treatments by the time 2013 started... But alas, I am at the doctor more these days than ever.

I'm 3/4 of the way through radiation (25 down, 8 to go). At first it seemed like the radiation was making me really tired and really nauseous.  I seem to feel better the more I have it, which is opposite of what's supposed to happen. I am becoming super crispy. Like sandpaper skin that's becoming so dry that it's starting to break and peel off. It is SUPER ITCHY. It's worst under my armpit and right in the center of my chest up to my throat and around the right clavicle. Because of the skin breakdown, they've asked me to to keep it slathered in aquaphor as often as I can tolerate - which really just makes it itchier. AAAAGH! I have to be careful scratching cause I will literally scratch the skin right off... and while it feels like a sunburn, it's not in that the layer of skin underneath the skin that comes off is NOT ready to be exposed. (It hurts.)

Enough complaining. I'm VERY HAPPY to report that aside from the burning, I'm doing great! I'm still riding to radiation (NOT every day, but as often as I can). I'm running like a fiend, training for New Zealand and for a half marathon that I'll do right before I head out. I managed to muster out 30 miles on my feet this week, the most running I've done in a week in a long, long time. The running and the riding and the return of muscles in my legs are making me feel more like myself. I've never been more grateful to have such a strong body.

My hair is returning and so far, seems to be the same color it was before (maybe a little bit lighter). Everyone who's lost their hair to chemo tells me that I'm still in the "bunny fuzz" phase, and that it will still probably change color and texture. I'm cool with whatever it is, I'm just SO HAPPY to have it! It is however, growing straight out of my head like I stuck my finger in a light socket. It's not sexy at all, so I'm styling it into a faux hawk until it does anything different. It's kind of hilarious.

So, in the next 4-5 weeks I need to pull the giant yellow backpack out of my parent's garage, figure out what I need for 9 weeks of trekking in New Zealand, figure out how to get what I don't have for 9 weeks of trekking in New Zealand, train for a half marathon, train my back and shoulders to be ready to lug a backpack around for 9 weeks, complete radiation, move my stuff out of this house and back into my parents garage, take care of all the stuff that I can foresee becoming an issue during the time I'm away (bills, etc),  see all my doctors, and say goodbye to my peeps - again.

Deja vu? Yes. What a trip. I did this almost exactly one year ago. The difference, when I left last year I was unsure and insecure and nervous... this time around I'm excited and ready to soak in all that this journey has to offer.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Resolved

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I am a New Year's Resolution girl. I've found that having clear written goals to work toward is the best way to get me going.

Clearly 2012 was different than any other year for me, so I'm heading into 2013 with a different concept. I've decided that I will have one goal for 2013: to live by the lessons I learned in 2012.

Here they are. I've organized them in a way that makes sense to me...


People:
All people are valid. Doesn't matter where they come from, what they look like, what they do, if/where they went to school, and how much money they make; they deserve to be treated well. 

Be kind, always. Nothing is lost from being kind.

Everybody has a story. I am not exceptional.

Energy:
What I put out to the world in energy is what I’ll get back from the world in energy.

My mind will be consumed with what I choose to fill it with; what I am consumed with is what I will become.

Stress and anxiety are killers and are not worth the energy they cost; I need to keep my eye on the things that matter.

I may not always have control over all of the challenges I face, but I always have control over my reaction to the challenge.

Strength:
My challenges will shape and mold me into the person I need to be to fill my purpose.

Embrace change. It always works out.

It’s ok to let go, sometimes.

Keep my mind, heart, and arms open.

Personal:
It’s ok to let others see me sick, sad, or upset. 

It’s important to express gratitude.

Enjoy every second of feeling good, healthy and strong. Health can be fleeting.

Feel what I need to feel and rest when I need to rest. But don’t give up. Life comes back.

I am not invincible. I am very strong. 

New Hair for the New Year! YAY!