“Do you feel okay?”
I am struggling to stand up from my lounger by the pool. Its an overcast afternoon in Tucson, and I am taking the chance to do some reading in the fresh air without the risk of burning up.
“My bones hurt. It’s a chemo side effect.”
“Isn’t that over yet?”
This is not an infrequent conversation in my world. Its easy enough for me to understand – I myself often forget that I am still deep in the world of healing. Dr. Jones reminded me last week that it will take at least a year before my body stops devoting the majority of its energy to repairing not only the damage caused by the chemotherapy, but the major surgery that my body endured. He reminds me not to push it. To rest. To give it time.
Hope and I have slowly developed some routines around here. They are ones that feel good, that are nourishing and soul caring and that help me sink into the healing process a little deeper. Since I get a lot of questions about what this initial year after chemo looks like - what my life actually consists of now - I thought I'd share some details of that here.
I’ve said it before and will until the end of time – no one thing works for everyone. I believe this is true not only for determining the best way to heal what ails you, but for determining what makes a truly happy life for you. So maybe you love two or three things I list here. Maybe you cant even imagine doing five of them. Take what you like and leave the rest. The hope is simply to give y’all some glimpse into what this healing space looks like in my world.
* * *
Before this recent diagnosis, I was a regular at the 6am yoga and spin classes at my studios. I tried to get back into this after chemo, but it was too difficult to get out of bed after tossing and turning for most of the night. So I finally gave myself permission to stop trying to make it to these classes.
This was hard. During chemo I fantasized about getting back into my super-busy-5am-till-midnight routine. It was very, very difficult to realize that this simply wasn't going to work anymore.
Some days, when my alarm goes off my body is so tired that I need to reset it for two hours later. And that’s okay. Sometimes I hit snooze once or twice. Sometimes I can easily get out of bed. Whatever my body needs is what happens unless I have something urgent to tend to early in the day.
I no longer rush off to the office as fast as possible. I spend at least 15 minutes in meditation most mornings. I take Hope for a decent length walk in the quiet and talk to God. I take a shower this is probably too long and too hot.
I also take time each morning to sit down and make note of the day’s schedule, to draft a short to-do list, and to set a written intention for the day. My intention is usually simple. To be present. To find joy in small things. To take a particularly busy day at the office bird by bird.
These mornings make me happy, largely because I allow myself to ease into them. My body is often particularly achy in the morning, so the steam from the shower helps me work out some of the stiffness I wake with. The time outside with Hope grounds me and reminds me to be grateful for the simple act of taking a breath. My meditation allows me to set a calm tone for the day.
In the past, I was so busy running around in the morning that everything that followed was also hectic. The calm sweetness of the mornings now remind me that despite the fact that I am back in the world, my healing needs to remain front and center.
* * *
Although its difficult sometimes, moving actually helps my body aches quite a bit. I think maybe because the movement helps stretch things out. I’m not sure. At any rate, I try to spend some time after I get home from the office walking with Hope, moving through an asana practice, and/or hooping. If things are a little too achy, I’ll curl up to write, read, or make some malas. I’m hoping to pick my guitar back up soon. My fingers aren’t there yet.
* * *
By 8:00, I try to start winding things down. I take my 15 supplements (hey – its way down from where it used to be!) and run at hot bath. To help relax my system, I dry brush before soaking in a lavender bath. Hot water is one of the few things that relieves the pain in my joints and bones, so making time for this really helps me prepare for sleep.
I have several essential oils that I use in the evening for a number of different things. Hops is a particularly big fan and I usually get a good licking bath following the rest of my evening routine.
I sit in meditation for another 15 minutes in the evening before doing some written reflection on the day, including my gratitude list.
Hope and I hang out and read until lights out, which I’ve been moving closer to 10pm on the advice of my Ayurvedic consultant. I’ve developed a bit of an elaborate set up for sleep – diffusing essential oils, playing Solfeggio frequencies for the specific attunements that feel necessary, and making sure the my trauma releasing sacred geometry patterns are at the foot of the bed.
* * *
When people ask what I do with my time, it feels like I don’t really do much. But when I write it all out, when I look at it and think about it, it feels like quite a bit.
While all of this definitely feels good - right - its been difficult to maintain in some ways. Its hard to remember that it will take time to get back to where I once was - if I ever return there. I'm not a patient person, and after feeling so terrible for so long, there is certainly a part of me that longs to move on full speed ahead. But thats no the right thing.
Slow and steady.
Thats the name of this race.