Ugly Truths

Note: I wrote this last night. I am feeling much better today, but I think it is important to share the post anyway. To share that my attitude isn’t always Sunshine and Rainbows. That I have bad days. Plus, I’d love some feedback on what you do when you feel down like this.

Hi there readers. Guess what! Tuesday marks my half-way point through this second phase of treatment. Thank you, my sister, for helping me realize that! And, I’m sorry that I wasn’t up for talking. I was hungry, and this blog post will explain a little more.

I am glad to be halfway through this phase. But you know what? I’m pretty much over this whole cancer treatment thing. I’m tired. I am experiencing aches and pains and stomach issues and fatigue. It seems that I cannot get physically comfortable, and I’m having more trouble getting distracted with the things that have intrigued me thus far.

If cancer was a person, I would want want to beat the crap out of it. It makes me angry. It’s like this really annoying person who I tried to be nice to, and it just took advantage of me and my good nature. It needs to go. To get out of my life. To never contact me again. I need to change my number. Move, maybe. Get rid of this stalker.

Up until now, I’ve found things that make me happy. Planning my day-to-day schedule. Using essential oils. Always having my nails done with Jamberry. Blogging. Doing my makeup. Now these things aren’t bringing me as much joy as they were. Why? I’m not entirely sure. I assume that the fatigue is a big part of it. Increasingly, lately, the idea of spending the day in bed is more appealing than putting forth the effort to shower and put on my make-up and “look good.” As I plan my week, I see the how the need to adjust for my fatigue level lessens my productivity. Blogging about positive things gets harder by the day because I’m feeling less positive and less productive. And my concentration is poor, so organizing my thoughts and ideas to actually execute a project becomes increasingly difficult.

It’s not to say that I have no positive thinking. Overall, I am so grateful to my God that He has helped me endure this experience. My prognosis is good, and I am handling Chemo (for the most part) like a champ, so I don’t really have much about which to complain. My family and friends are as supportive as they were at my initial diagnosis, if not more so.

It’s just that cancer sucks. It really does. Treatment is rough. I have it far better than many, but I’m over it. And it does get harder, the more it builds up in one’s system. Discomfort increases and fatigue increases. Right now I have a constantly bloody nose because the Chemo aggravates the irritation in my sinus and nose from the dry heat needed this time of year.

Ugh! I have such a bad attitude, which annoys me. I know I will get over it. And I’ve allowed myself this weekend to acknowledge and feel these feelings. My nearest and dearest have allowed me to vent … nodding in sympathy and laughing in solidarity. This already makes me feel a bit better. And I know that I have a full week ahead that will make me feel productive and accomplished.

Tell me, readers, what do you find helps when you experience times like these? Not specific to cancer, but to feeling in a rut or like nothing is bringing you the joy it once was? Any words of encouragement, empathy, or advice is greatly appreciated.

xoxo

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Happiness through Illness

Almost daily, I am asked “How do you feel?” And I feel almost guilty because I really am holding up well. That’s not to say that Chemo isn’t kicking my butt some days, or that I don’t get frustrated at my limitations or sad that sometimes I have to sleep all day long. But my overall mood is better than it’s been in years.

I credit several actions that I take to my overall sense of wellbeing, and I wanted to share them with you, dear readers, so you if you are currently coping with illness or do in the future, you can try some of these tactics. I hope they work as well for you as they do for me.

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Hope

Hebrews 6:19 tells us, ” We this hope as an actor for the soul, both sure and firm” (Revised New World Translation). As humans, we are born with a spiritual need. I don’t ignore mine, and I have tremendous hope through my faith in God and the promises that He has made for us through His word, The Bible.

This hope keeps me grounded. Through prayer, I throw my anxieties on God, and allow him to calm my heart. It has strengthened my relationship with Him and strengthened my faith in the hope He provides us.

I encourage all who cope with illness to fulfill their spiritual need. Find your hope, because it will anchor your soul.

Stop Negative Thinking

Recently, I was asked about whether or not certain events happened to me before my cancer diagnosis. And I realized, that I had never given a thought to why I had cancer. I already knew. Humans are imperfect. King Solomon said, “The swift do not always win the race, nor to the mighty win the battle … because time and unexpected events overtake them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11,  Revised New World Translation).

Maybe my love affair with wine, bourbon, and bacon contributed to my cancer. Maybe not. Maybe it’s my family history. But does it really matter why? If it wasn’t this, it is likely some other difficulty would have come along.

When I was diagnosed, I did cry. I hated the thought of making people worry about me; turning my family’s world upside down. I felt that way on and off for a few days.

And then, I realized how blessed I am to have parents who jumped in to take work responsibilities off me. To have a husband who has yet to argue with me, even when I am at my most ridiculous. To have a son who understands my current limitations, and shows concern for me in the sweetest and subtlest ways. To have my sister drop everything to visit me whenever I need her. To have an outpouring of kindness from friends near and far. The first month after my diagnosis, not one single day passed that I did not receive a care package or cards. I have a beautiful kindred spirit who sends me a card every single week, texts me several times during the week, and arranges FaceTime “dates” every few weeks. All with two kids! Friends are arranging to visit, even just for a long weekend (an 11 hour drive with two kids) or a day or two during the week (from 3 hours away).

How can I be sad? I have never felt more loved in my life.

If you are faced with illness, please try to push negative thoughts away so you can see how much you are truly loved.

Surround Yourself with Those You Love and Who Love You

Illness saps our energy and it is easy to end up isolating ourselves. Try not to. It’s difficult for me, because honestly I don’t know if I will be too fatigued to leave the house. But I do conditionally accept invitations. And with some careful planning, i am able to make these invitations work.

Mom and Dad take turns bringing me to Chemo (I cannot drive myself). And as much as I plan to get certain things done, we usually end up talking. Sometimes it’s about the shop (work). Sometimes its catching up on other things. But we talk and it’s fun and it makes the time go quickly.

When my son comes home from school, I try to engage him a little bit. He’s nine, so he’d rather play Minecraft, but we at least talk about his day and get his homework finished. I try to spend time with my husband during the days that I’m able to keep my eyes open.  And we go to my parents once a weekend for dinner. Always.

This leads me to my next practice.

Plan Out Your Days

You already know that I am a planner. A paper planner. You’ve seen it. I won’t bore you with details. But both chronic and temporary illnesses can  cause forgetfulness, foggy thinking and more. So right now more than ever, I find it essential to writ out and plan my days.

I divide my days into my most important topics (Spiritual, Health, and Work/Personal). And then I write my goals in each section, keeping in mind how I feel during each day. And I don’t try not to get upset if I have to move some to another day. Last week, an entire day had to be rescheduled. It is what it is. I plan heavier on days I know I’ll be hopped up on Steroids, and lighter on the days I know my fatigue is bad. And I plan so that I can do my best to be where I want to be and accept invitations.

I don’t know if this will work for you, but I think it’s worth a shot. It doesn’t have to be in a planner. It can be a to do list. The sense of accomplishment you will feel when you’re able to cross items off your list, is sure to improve your outlook.

Unlock Your Passion

For me it’s always been writing. It is cathartic. It makes me happy. I also enjoy grown-up coloring, creating fun looks with clothing and makeup (see the Beauty menu), and listening to music. These are things I do for myself and not anyone else. I think we all need to do that from time to time.

Do you want to learn to knit? Go for it! Do you like to paint? Create some art. Find something that makes you feel good and that you do just for yourself and not for anyone else. Unless you’re really good. Then sell that stuff 😉

In all seriousness, though, sometimes what we love doing we do want to share. That’s why I write this blog. In the hopes that what I love to do and write about might help others.

Communicate With Your Friends

We have sort of covered this already. But it’s important to be in touch with friends even when there is distance between us. I usually HATE FaceTime, but it is one of my favorite things to do right now. To see someone’s face that I don’t get to see daily fills me with joy. The introvert in me hates speaking on the phone, but I try not to ignore any phone calls.

I try to write thank you notes when someone gives me a gift. It helps me to remain grateful and appreciative, and it also a great way to extend my forms of communication.

Do I speak with my friends as much as I want to? No. And I like to think that they understand. Sometimes days get away from me. But I do try to respond and reach out as much as possible. It prevents me from being completely isolated, especially on days when I’m not up to going out.

Last Thoughts

I realize that we all have different personalities. You may be reading some — or all — of these, thinking that I’m ridiculous. And that’s OK. But for me, these things work, and they have made me happier and more contented than I’ve felt in years.

Yes, I have days when sadness overcomes me, or I get angry at my limitations. But eventually I am able to put things into perspective and regain my happiness. I hope that some of these ideas will help you, sweet readers.

 

 

3 Down, 1 to Go

Don’t get too excited … one more left in Phase I of my Chemo. My first phase was a combo of Adriamycin and Cytoxan (AC). It was given every other week for eight weeks. The second Phase is going to be either Taxetere or Taxol to be given every week for twelve weeks. So I’m not even actually half-way through, but it’s still something to celebrate 🙂

My chemo companion was Daddy today. He picked me up in his 1965 Austin Healey. Rag top was down because 75 degrees on December 15th is how we roll in our neck of the woods. I wanted to take what I think would be the coolest picture — my reflection in the the side mirrors (located at the front of the vehicle), but my phone was in a bag in the back seat, and I thought I could get it on the way home (he ended up having to leave before I was done — center was running late today). I will try to re-create it soon.

I will share pics of me, but it will be in my forthcoming first Beauty Post. Stay tuned ….

The Cancer Center was crowded today. I mean packed! I’m not sure if its because of the holidays, or if we have new patients (I did notice at least two). But they were running behind. No worries for me … it gives me time to people-watch.

An older African-American woman was on her way out, flanked by two other women. My experience is that black women age VERY well, so if I think she looked a little older, who knows? She could have been pushing 90. Anyway, she looked so pleased with herself, and she was carrying (close to her face, like she was showing it off) a wrapped blow pop. I immediately grinned (I love blow pops too) and she gave me a beautiful smile back.

Fortunately I was taken back after only a few minutes of waiting. Many may be familiar with the Chemo process, but for those of you who aren’t, a brief primer. Each time a patient arrives for Chemo, vitals are taken and a full CBC (complete blood count) is done (This is one of multiple reasons for patients like me to have a porto-cath placed under the skin … less poking of veins). The CBC is done to ensure several things: to make sure that my white blood count is good (chemo and illness can lower it); to make sure that my liver function looks good (it takes a toll on that, too); and to make sure I’m not dehydrated. I’m sure there are other things the Doc looks for, but that’s what they have mentioned to me so far.

Since I have been sick and may have used a certain home remedy involving a certain favorite spirit to help with my cough (as recently as last night), I was nervous about my blood work. However, it turned out wonderfully (whew! got away with the Bourbon-nipping). Onward and upward, as they say.

Chemotherapy and the rest of the day went off without a hitch! Stay tuned for my first Beauty Post!

xoxo

Marriage, Parenthood, and Illness

Bear with me this evening as I attempt to gather my thoughts …

Fifteen years ago — on October 22 — I married my best friend. I’ve only ever been in three relationships. The first was as a teenager, and it was full of poetry, drama, hidden issues, and eventually heartbreak.

The second was one of those “storybook” romances … I moved into the same area as a young man who, when we were children, my grandmother insisted I would marry. Sadly, the romance included “conditions” that I eventually decided I would never be happy conforming to.

As a young adult, I was convinced I’d marry someone I’d known my whole life. As it turns out, I married a man I met one evening at an innocent get-together. We dated six months before he asked me to marry him, and honestly I was already planning our wedding. He was so refreshingly different from my previous suitors … protective, hilarious, and sweet (not romantic, but there was no doubt in my mind about his feelings towards me). My mother has said that her primary memory of our courtship (I lived at home) was laughter. We had many differences in background, maturity, and interests. But with him, I was safe.

Ours was a whirlwind romance … we married one year to the day after we met. We did so much getting to know each other in those first years of marriage. Did we have struggles? Of course! But even when doubts crowded my mind, I held onto three things: 1) This man loves me like crazy; 2) I feel completely safe — safer than I’d felt in years — with him; and 3) He makes me laugh. We make each other laugh.

You’ll notice that the above is written in present tense. That’s because they have been a constant in our marriage. And I am not exaggerating when I write that we have been through a lot! Over the last 15 years we have been diagnosed with chronic illnesses, we have lost family members to death, we got through the shock of a surprise pregnancy and are so far raising an awesome kid. Together, we have gone through five surgeries (one for him and four for me), numerous diagnoses, and several scary issues.

I love him. I love him. I love him. He is the definition of a good man. And he continues to be as we face more scary possibilities.

This evening I was researching something related to my health when my son ran over to me. He thought I was still playing a game I’d played earlier. I quickly pulled my iPad away from view — I didn’t want him to see what I was researching — and he decided it was an investigation. He commenced sneaking around trying to see the screen. Eventually my husband explained that Mommy didn’t want him to see because I didn’t want him to worry. After that explanation, he continued to engage in whatever game he was playing, but changed his role to be protector over me.

I wonder if he has learned this from his father. Does he see how my husband takes care of me and feel that he should protect me, too? Is it a typical mother-son relationship? I don’t know, but I am all at once filled with gratefulness and regret. Gratefulness that our son is growing up to be a sensitive boy in some ways. And regretful that at age nine, he would feel a need to protect his mother.

Our kid was a surprise. I cannot pretend that I planned how I would mother. The reality is that I had already been diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis (aka PsA; an autoimmune disease), and my husband and I decided it would probably be better if we did not have children. But we welcomed our pregnancy fiercely, protectively, and with our whole hearts enmeshed in it.

We have had parenting fails and parenting successes. Days come where this Mama just can’t and we have to improvise. Days have come where I’ve felt well and been able to focus on the kid like I focus on a good book.

Recently my days have been filled with unusual symptoms and diagnoses and an overwhelming fatigue. Not to mention the ongoing question of, “Is it allergies or an infection.” (I never know, especially not having PsA). I certainly did not want to raise a child while combatting illness, but it is our reality.

I hold onto — our whole family does — the hope and the knowledge that things will get better. And so, as I cope with uncertain times, I pray (a lot), I enjoy my kid as much as I possibly can, and I rely on my husband to continue to make me laugh.