Wednesday, April 13, 2016

YOU KNOW YOU'VE GOT CANCER/CHEMO WHEN.....

I'm compiling a list. Lists are good when your mind is shredded, your body floppy, and you are looking for some order and control in your life--something in short supply when going through chemo. As my favorite Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, says, "Suffering is whenever you are not in control." Check!

So here's my list, a way of ascertaining that you are in the midst of this struggle, just in case you didn't know:

--Your favorite time of day is bedtime when you can take off your makeup and false eyebrows, pull off your wig, and get into pajamas. Ah....

--You have started to reread your Kindle books again even though you just reread them 3 weeks ago. For me that includes Elly Griffiths' "The Crossing Places" (English forensic detective) and Deborah Harkness's "Discovery of Witches."  I like the known right now; I don't want any surprises. My life already has too many of them.

--On the vanity in the bathroom you have side by side: nausea pills, stool softener, Imodium, and laxatives. Do NOT take them all at the same time!

--You discover that following Kate Middleton on Pinterest is utterly absorbing, and small exclamations of delight escape at each new fabulous outfit and trendy hat. I don't even like hats, but I am comforted by following a happy lady who seems to have it all together, and, at least for now, is unmarked by tragedy.

--You make a list of friends and family to call one day, but it only has two names on it because that is all you can decently manage without babbling and falling into a fugue state.

--You schedule visits with folks very carefully because two-three a week is about all you can do. Chemo/cancer is a vast energy drain which makes ordinary social occasions--like meeting a friend for a cappuchino--difficult.

--You catch a glimpse of your bald head in the mirror in the morning and start back. "Say it ain't so! Is that me?" You think you are getting used to it but---My husband assures me my head is "elegant" but all I can think of is my strange resemblance to an opossum.

--You pour a glass of lovely chilled Chardonnay (hopefully "Toasted Head") one night and realize after one sip that you'd really prefer water or Gatorade instead. Your taste buds have changed.

--You try and roll a joint (courtesy of legal MM) and realize your education is seriously deficient. The weed falls out, the paper unrolls, and I singe what's left of my eyebrows trying to keep the joint lit. Husband goes on YouTube for tips on how to roll joints, which they cunningly call, "Herbal Infusion." My kids think this is all simply hilarious.

--You think you are doing fine, keeping up your spirits and courage, and then one day find yourself with tears streaming down your face.  "I want my life back," you sob.

--These are just a few of the markers I've found in the last months. You, or someone you know and love, might have different markers. But what we share is this deep sense of vulnerability; a yearning for our lost life "before"; and a fierce hope that one day all will be well even though you know that your life has changed and you with it.

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