Unexpected Side Trip
Part of having breast cancer is apparently being ready for the unexpected. Although I was pleased with how well my journey was going, about ten days ago, I took a significant side trip from which I am still recovering.
The following is the story of how my breast cancer journey was interrupted as well as some of the learning I picked up along the way.
Months ago (long before my diagnosis) I was invited to speak to our local BPW (Business and Professional Women) organization. I was looking forward to it since it is always fun for me to get a roomful of women together for an interactive presentation on empowerment. I was excited when the time came for me to show up and I felt well enough to create a fun experience for the audience.
Thankfully, all went well and my first lesson was that when I turn my attention outside myself (in this case, to the audience) I can over-ride my feeling of fatigue or nausea. This was a welcomed lesson since I imagine there will be other times in the future when I will be expected to speak when not feeling so well over the remainder of my chemo treatment.
Immediately when the talk was over and I was finished with signing books that were purchased, I suddenly felt ill. . .very ill. Within an hour I was violently hit with good old V&D and after several hours appeared in our local E.R. where I was noted to be severely dehydrated and in kidney failure with dangerously low blood pressure.
Feeling sicker than I have ever felt I was admitted to the hospital hours later and tested for a variety of GI-related illnesses/bacteria etc. Unfortunately, my condition worsened due to repeated bouts of diarrhea, eventually occurring every hour. Naturally, sleep eluded me and I became weaker as the medical team worked hard to get my electrolytes back to a normal range. Unfortunately, my body was eliminating fluid faster than it could drip in my IV.
As the days ticked on one by one, I felt like a rag doll unable to physically help myself. I was completely dependent on the help of the nurses to do the simplest tasks. While in this prolonged state of weakness I found myself naturally taking the role of the observer. I observed my physical body suffering, yet did not identify fully with it. In some ways, it felt as if my highest and invulnerable self was the one in charge. even though I felt the discomfort and the weakness, I was able to find a way to be at peace with it all. I truly felt the power of non-resistance and accepting what I could not change.
Having the experience of slipping into the observer mode in this extreme situation reminded me that it is possible at any time with any challenge. I can be the observer when I’m frightened or intimidated, anxious or even angry. I was delighted to see that I did not have to be completely taken over by what may be in my face at any given moment. Even though I was physically weak and very ill, I was not a victim.
As the days blurred from one to another without any significant gains, the Doc’s concern grew that something drastic may be needed such as surgery. I knew what that might mean, so that night as I lay in my hospital bed looking out the window at the snow covered tree branches I mentally prepared to meet whatever was needed procedurally so that I can live. Once again, acceptance was called for, not resistance. As I felt myself calmly breathe, I prayed for a shift, some sign of improvement so that it was clear my body was going to finally change gears and take me down a healthier track.
I peacefully fell asleep and miraculously slept for four hours and when I awakened and walked my IV pole to the bathroom, a miracle happened. My body which previously was only putting out small amounts of urine at a time, let loose breaking my all-time record for one sitting. It was also the first time since my admission that my bowels took a break. I squealed with delight and needed to be reminded by the CNA to be careful not to move so fast.
From that moment of shift, I knew I could now quickly turn things around and recover my strength and stamina. My appetite increased, my eyes became brighter (according to my husband), my voice changed from dull and low to vibrant and alive and my enthusiasm for life went off the charts. I literally went from half dead to my usual joyful sparkly self.
After a full week in the hospital, I was discharged two days ago to home with lots of instructions on how to keep my recovery on track so I can be ready for my second chemo treatment next Tuesday.
I am in awe of the resilience of this body where my spirit so happily lives and will continue to stay awake and learn the lessons it has to teach me.