The State of Affairs v.3.
I'm in a weird little place right now. The "hopeful halfway". Round three is done and if everything is going according to plan, we are halfway through the hard chemo. All I need to do now is exactly what I've already done - minus the recovery from major surgery so, in theory, it should actually be easier. But if I've been reminded of anything lately, its that things don't often go according to plan.
So its a bit like holding my breath for the next two weeks, until we can get the results from the CT Scan that Dr. Carter is so interested in.
I am cautiously optimistic.
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I am adjusting to being bald. I still don't love it. I still don't think I look like me. I still feel a bit manly. But I've gotten comfortable enough to walk Hope around the neighborhood without a hat on, and when I accidentally left the house to run an errand without a hat recently I didn't go back home to pick one up. I'm stalking other survivors' hair growth pictures on Instagram to see how long I will have to wait to be me again. Its looking like awhile. But I'm taking solace in the fact that I might be able to pull off a faux hawk at the office for a brief window in the fall. My partner did it a few years back - maybe I can get him to rock one with me.
Its the little things.
On the other hand, I noticed today that my eyebrows and eyelashes have thinned tremendously. I wonder if they will hang on for three more rounds. I'm not sure I can deal with their loss too. But I've thought that about so many things in the last few months.
It would seem I am becoming quite good at managing loss.
We drained my abdomen again on Friday and I got lucky with both my favorite nurse and my favorite radiology tech. We took a measly 5.3 liters off (for reference, I think our biggest pull was 7.9 liters). My nurse calculated that with the previous procedure, over the exact same time frame we drained 6.8 liters, so its definitely slowing down. This elates me.
I watch my stomach like a hawk. If I thought I had issues with my belly before, I knew nothing before this. I catch myself at least every other hour staring to see if anything has built up. I don't know that I have ever wanted something as much as for this fluid to not come back. It impacts my physical comfort, my sleep, my body image.
At the same time, this morning I looked at my stomach and actually thought, "yeah - I'll be able to wear a bikini again one day." My scar doesn't bother me the way it used to. Do I love it yet? No. But its a symbol of strength and I think I am on the way to being proud of it.
I've also gotten the tattoo itch again. This was coming - we all knew it. My favorite studio will tattoo me if Dr. Carter gives the okay (I am still on twice daily blood thinners, which isn't a deal breaker for them, but they make the doctor approve first). Here's hoping I can persuade her this week.
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Mentally and emotionally, this journey continues to be a roller coaster. Yesterday I needed pep talks multiple times throughout the day. I couldn't see the light. I was in pain and tired and so sick of the couch. Today, with a little sunshine and a reprieve from the bone pain, I feel legitimately happy. Am I still frustrated and lost? Yes. But happiness permeates the shell of those emotions and lets the light in.
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As time moves along, its slowly being revealed to me what it is that I am meant to work on in this space. Letting go of control - admitting the actual breadth of my powerlessness - was a big one. Another that I discovered during round three is my perfectionism.
I want nothing more than to be the cancer patient who doesn't miss a day of work, volunteering, or church during chemo and - oh yeah - trains for a marathon at the same time. I want to be the wonder woman who doesn't miss a beat while her body is being ravaged by a cocktail of poison. The one who never cries, never fears, never feels the darkness creep in. I want to maintain the status quo even as things are anything but status quo.
But this simply is not reality.
I spent the better part of last weekend beating myself up over all the things I should be doing. My sponsor's voice kept ringing in my head - telling me not to "should on myself", but I couldn't stop. There are so many things I tell myself I should be doing that I just can't.
I should be eating a vegan diet. Even though my stomach just can't handle it.
I should be working every day. Even though I can barely keep my eyes open many days.
I should be finished unpacking my house. Even though my bones hurt too much to move.
I should be practicing yoga daily. Even though my incision and swelling belly still makes it painful.
There are so many shoulds. Things that in my mind would make this time productive, valuable, meaningful.
I am learning that right now healing has to be enough. It has to be enough to run just one errand a day (if that). It has to be enough to walk Hope around the neighborhood for fifteen minutes. It has to be enough that I eat whatever my body can keep down.
There is value in this space, growth in this space, meaning in this space, even if it doesn't look the way I might wantit to. I am learning to listen to my body. To give it what it needs.
And that is enough.