The day I was diagnosed and told it would be six months and 12 treatments of chemo, I told myself “you can do anything for six months.” And I did. I battled and fought and clenched my teeth for six months. I smiled and put on silly wigs. I answered a million questions about how I was feeling. I slept and slept some more. The chemo part is over! But the poison is still running through my veins, my stomach is still queazy, my head still dizzy, so forgive me if the chemo being done doesn’t relate directly to me being done.
I was so frustrated this weekend because I wasn’t getting better. Usually there is at least one day that I feel a little bit normal. There was no normal this time. I spent all day Friday and Saturday on the couch. I didn’t want to eat. I couldn’t sleep. I felt so dirty and couldn’t figure out how to make it to the shower because I was so dizzy.
A pill for my stomach. A pill for a tight chest. A pill for a headache. This is what I have been preparing myself for. For everyone else, Thursday was the end – the last chemo. And I understand the enthusiasm. But, I knew that while the wall numbers may say zero, my body is also at zero.
While we should celebrate our final chemo days, for it is a big deal, we also need to be patient and kind with our bodies. Six months of built-up poison, destroyed cells, and mental blocks doesn’t go away with the final drug.
I have called this period of my life the Punxsutawney phil period – six months of winter. Ironically, we are actually heading into winter in Uruguay. But I think this is even more fitting. That girl at the beginning of diagnosis really thought “get through this six months and go back to real life.” But that isn’t reality, is it. Because long after the chemo and shots and scans is still a period of physical and mental recovery. There is still a fear of what if this happens again. And I am not sure when that will go away. I do know that I have months of muscle recovery from months of inactivity. I have at least a few weeks of feeling tired because I have weeks of cell recovery. I can’t even eat sushi for another month! I may not be able to make it out past 10 for a while. My tastebuds may decide that certain foods are still really gross for a while. Just as my hair won’t grow back over night, recovery doesn’t happen over night.
As the rain falls on this very grey day and my body is hovering at 75%, I am reminded that I am not superwoman. I have made it through chemo. Hopefully, I have made it through cancer. But winter is not over just yet. Jackets, scarfs, hats, and naps are definitely still needed.
3 thoughts on “The Days after Chemo Number 12”
We will all be here to support and cheer you on for as long as it takes. Your body is in recovery and it might take a while for your mind to heal too, but just know so many of us are out here thinking of you, sending good vibes and will lift a glass to the end of your chemo whenever YOU are ready. XO
You’ve been through more than I ever had to, but I think know a lot of the feelings you have right now. And I’m really hoping you are going to be surprised at how quickly your spirit lifts. Soon you will wake up feeling a little bit better than you did the day before. And then you’ll feel a little better the next day, and the next. And suddenly you’ll REALLY understand that you are done. There is no more chemo. You’re not pulling yourself up to get knocked down again. Your up and your staying up. (And fuck you cancer).
I’m not saying there isn’t going to be a lot of worrying, and I’m sure there will be a lot of hard moments. But I think soon you’ll know that rock bottom is behind. You’ll start to feel that your body is alive again. You might even find yourself spontaneously wanting to skip and run and dance, just because now your body can.
Winter isn’t over, but spring is on its way.
“Winter isn’t over but spring is on its way” is an amazingly succinct expression of the truth. Especially since seasons are cyclic and there is always winter in front of us.
BUT don’t discount what you have achieved: you are 6 months ahead of where you were when diagnosed: you worked hard during those 6 months and are in a better position (long-term) than you were 6 months ago.
Of course you are a different person than you were 6 months ago: that’s always the case, but 6 months like the ones you’ve just experienced result in more substantial changes than the run-of-the-mill 6 months. 6 months from now: you’ll be a different person too.
Tranquila. You’re amazing.