Thursday, April 30, 2015

Patients and Patience

Last week, CB decided to wake up at 5:00 am  bright-eyed and bushy tailed for the day. I suppose it wasn't so bad, given that I had been awake since 4:00 am, lying in bed with my eyes closed praying that sleep would eventually overtake me. This was the third day in a row that CB woke before the sun was up. But on that particular day, I took solace in the fact that 5:00 am is better than 1:00 am because you can actually just get up up and tend to things, like packing lunches and unloading the dishwasher. I seemed on top of everything by the time the three little ones were awake, happy for the head start to the day even though I was already exhausted and it wasn't even 8:00 am.

After Dr. Fabulous took Pink out to the bus at 7:20, it was just me and the three remaining girls speeding through regular morning routine - hair brushing, bag packing, breakfast making, shoe finding, someone whining, something forgotten... then, I smelled it. CB, dressed and ready for school about 20 minutes before her bus would arrive, had a diaper blow out. Code Brown as we call it around here.  The kind of accident that required an immediate bath because no amount of baby wipes would suffice.

Basically, in this house the motto "Sh*t Happens" is not figurative.

By the grace of God, I somehow got her bathed, re-dressed and everyone made it to their respective busses on time. If there was an Olympic medal for this sh*t, I'd be on a freakin' Wheaties box. I ended the morning mayhem with a last minute, unexpected dash over to Pink's school to deliver the binder that she left on the kitchen table. By 9:30, I was on my way to radiation forgoing both the shower and the coffee I had planned in the world of "well laid plans" I fool myself into believing I live in.

I wish I could say that little scenario last week was an unusual morning, but morning mayhem is all par for the course 'round here. Just this week alone there was a repeat performance of "Dirty Diaper" one morning and a grand mal seizure at 4:00 am another morning, complete with accompanying bloody nose after said seizure knocked her out of bed and face first onto the floor.

Perhaps it has been feeling more hectic when a daily trip to the Cancer Center is added to the mix. Every morning, Monday through  Friday, off to radiation I go. No matter what is happening, no matter how I feel, no matter what the plan or plan-shaker-upper — no excuses. At 9:30 am I leave the house, come rain or shine, hell or high water. My grandfather's Memorial Service? Pink's Science Fair? Sick kids at home? Sick kids needing to be picked up at school? An injured husband needing a ride to the Med Emerge? A field trip or a concert? Cancer doesn't care and its treatment doesn't relent. Cancer is rude like that and its treatment behaves with an equal amount of intolerance. Oddly, everything in your life both screeches to a halt while simultaneously carrying on. But, like all the other stuff life throws at us, we somehow figure it all out.

Before I started my 30 day, six week course of radiation, I was very optimistic and nonchalant about it all. I felt so happy that I had dodged the chemo bullet, that radiation felt like a walk in the park. Who the hell was I to complain?

"I'll be fine," I told everyone. "I'll get a bit tired, that's all." That was all true. I would be fine. I would be tired. Sure, I knew the hassle of losing every morning to the drive back and forth as the same deadlines and work and domestic chores clammored to get done. I knew I'd get sore and swollen and eventually uncomfortably burned. But, as Week 1 of radiation started, I quickly realized I was ill-prepared for this leg of the journey. Mostly, I wasn't prepared to feel like a cancer patient for the very first time since my diagnosis. 

Every day I swallowed a pill to prevent more cancer, I drove to the Cancer Center, I sat with other cancer patients, and received radiation to treat MY cancer. I couldn't escape it. I was a cancer patient. But, I was the lucky kind so I felt blessed. Blessed and sad and guilty and overwhelmed and tired and sometimes alone. I felt humbled and conflicted and emotionally upended. Every single morning this dumb diagnosis of mine was "in my face;" the side effects lingering the rest of the day as a reminder. The real problem was this — I had expected a sprint but I was running a marathon. Marathons require a different type of pace. Marathons are all mental, and I was cracking.

Week 1 was supposed to be a cake walk, but it was tough. My grandfather died during my first week of radiation. I also started taking Tomoxifen, the drug I will be on for at least 5 years to prevent the growth of any new tumors. So, between the adjustment to treatment, the estrogen-blocking effects of Tomoxifen (basically, it throws you into a state of pseudo-menopause), and the sadness of losing my grandad, I was a hot freakin' mess.

Weeks 2 and 3 weren't much better. I was, honestly, sitting inside a case of the moody blues. By the time we hit the fourth week, Dr. Fabulous injured his neck something fierce and was incapacitated while Pink was assaulted with the stomach flu which always seems to hit at 2:00 in the morning. Nothing like scrubbing the vomit stains out of a floor at 2:00 am, I tell you. And why can't a 10 year old barf in the toilet? I'll never know. Weekday evenings are filled every single night with all the kids' activities which are in full force right now and weekends are hijacked by soccer games, races, swimming, birthday parties, and other family, social and work obligations. No rest for the weary, and all that jazz ... which makes the weary quite crabby and nasty.

I'm all good now, in case you're wondering. Adjusted to the Tomoxifen and got my mojo back... and by mojo I mean my positive attitude. After returning to myself, the diapers and seizures and puking and radiation and over-scheduled craziness all felt like "normal" again. You know; funny, manageable, and just so "us."

Part of me is kicking myself because there were so many things I could have written about along the way, in real time, instead of glossing over everything in one colossal recap. Talk about awesome fodder for a blog! Every day there was something learned — a gift, an interaction, a lesson, an inspiration, an act of kindness extended to me. There were tough days, there were easy days. There were days I drove in the rain with a mood to match the grey clouds, days I jammed out to Uptown Funk feeling quite grateful and days I enjoyed the company and laughter of sweet friends. There was an outpouring of support unlike anything I could have ever imagined, and there were moments I felt so incredibly alone and fragile. There were people I met who inspired me while my heart secretly broke for them. Weeks and weeks of this, all unblogged.

I suppose I was tired, mentally and physically. Employing my useless brain and staying up past bedtime to write a blog post held no appeal. I suppose too that so much of this journey just had to be plowed through. I didn't want to really stop and analyze things too much. I didn't want to dissect my feelings or dwell in some deep introspection. I just wanted to put my head down and plow straight through the center of the storm it until I saw the light at the end. That light is so bright right now. Two days left of treatment. TWO!! I'm in my "boost" sessions now, a concentrated dose of radiation focused specifically on the surgical bed. It's shorter, it's affecting less tissue, it means I'm just about done.

I'm ready to cross the finish line of this marathon. I came out of the gate too fast and furious, I lost my way, I started to hurt, whine and unravel. But, because of everyone cheering me on from the sidelines, I found my center, eased into the pace, opened my heart to let everything in, controlled my breath, experienced it all — the good and the not so good. It's all a part of it. Some of the greatest gifts in life are only revealed through unbearable acts of patience.

I'm in the home stretch, the finish line clearly in sight. I see it lined with so many people who have cared for me along the way. Without them, I might well be hobbling along, crying and ready to quit. Instead, I'm pumping those arms and digging deep.

After four crazy months, I've made it to the end ... only to be rewarded with a thousand new beginnings. 


Anonymous said...

Beautifully written Alicia...I've been praying for heart goes out to you and your family...God bless you!

Linda Blotta~

kario said...

I am over here taking deep breaths for you and sending you love and light. If I were closer, I'd certainly offer to come hang out and help get things ready in the morning so you could take your time and feel less rushed. So happy you're seeing the finish line of this particular marathon and feeling support from time to time.

Elizabeth said...

Holy shit. That's what I have to say. I admire and love you so much. And you know what? If I lived closer, I'd come over and change every one of those Brown-Outs for you. I'm dead serious.

lily cedar said...

I'm a nurse who works in cancer care. I had a girlfriend who went through radiation treatment a year ago and I have a severely disabled daughter who loves to paint with poop. I'm also dealing with The Menopuase and it is kicking me in the ass. You deserve a medal for getting through it all with your sanity intact.

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