When you finish chemo, it's kind of like coming out of a tornado cellar beneath your house, looking around, and wondering what's still standing. The house to your left is completely leveled, but the one to your right is, despite all logic, still standing. Trees are down. Lines spark across the street. A dog wanders sadly into a house, nosing the debris. Somewhere a child cries. Desolate does not describe it.
I expected to feel some elation--and I did; some lifting of mood--and I did. I was grateful to be done with toxic chemicals. I suspected there would be ups and downs--and there are. There is no clean finish here, no decisive end to the battle where you lay down your arms and say, "It is finished, thank God." Rather it's a dribble of depression; a frisson of gloom; and a cold draft of fear.
What if they didn't get it all? What if there's another tumor growing somewhere that they missed? Will I be able to have a "normal life-span," whatever that is? Will I be able to pick up the life I had before cancer and somehow resume it? Will I even be the same person I was before?
I rather doubt it. I don't think you can go through the radical rearrangement of cancer without changing significantly. We have been stripped down. Our bodies have felt wretched for days, weeks, and months on end. Our hair is gone (everywhere!), our nails hurt when we type, our legs still wobble after the last infusion, and the gut--well, enough said about that. At least I am able to eat some of the fantastic Blue Apron meals (Christmas in a box!), which is a joy.
But that is the tough part--feeling joy. I don't quite trust life in the same way I did before, even though I knew there would be some depth charges waiting for me. My guard is up. My fists are curled in a defensive position. I know I need to let go and let suffering and the months of treatment have their way with me. I've got some serious work to do inside to process where I have been--where we have been as a family--and where I am now.
I saw a video clip on FB recently of a stunningly graceful ray swimming along through the ocean. It seemed so effortless, just waving its fins from time to time to keep gliding through the water. I yearned to be like that creature, completely at home in the water, able to move with the minimum of effort and at home in its surroundings.
I am not at home right now
and will have to figure out a way to become so once again. I know prayer, friends, family, and church will form a big part of this, as well as long walks, talking with my homies, and my dear husband. Probably petting the Jack Russell's fur will help too, but it ain't gonna be quick, and it ain't gonna be easy. The landscape still seems leveled, and I have to figure out how to deal with that.