It is now Day 11 post Chemo #4 and although this round started out surprisingly easier than the others, it turned out to be one of the most challenging courses due to prolonged severe fatigue complicated by a low level of Magnesium.
Since I spent a lot of time incapacitated and unable to accomplish anything of any physical importance, to amuse myself I focused on simply noticing the surprises I have experienced since my diagnosis and treatment.
For my list I will begin at the beginning, a fitting place, it seems. Since my surprise list is already long and growing, I will offer these in segments, beginning with the top 11.
Surprise #1: Although I was not surprised to calmly respond to the news of my diagnosis, I was surprised that I did not recoil in fear at the news of needing to receive Chemotherapy. My underlying thought at the time was countless others have survived this, so I can too.
Surprise #2: A week after my first Chemo treatment I found myself hospitalized with severe dehydration and kidney failure. In the worst days of that week in the hospital I was surprised to be in a state of unconditional peace, even though it was the weakest and most uncomfortable I had ever been.
Surprise #3: When my hair began to loosen itself from it’s follicles, shaving my head was simply something that was needed to be done to bring me comfort. My hair hurt. I don’t like to hurt, so my husband shaved my head as I sat on the bench in the mud room the day I was discharged from the hospital. It was not an emotional, meaningful time, but just something that needed to be done. That surprised me. I thought I would take it hard and need a lot of support.
Surprise #4: I was surprised by the number of people that rallied around me in support after learning of my diagnosis. Many were folks that hardly knew me or people that I haven’t seen for years. Cards, gifts, meals, messages have continued to flow from day 1. At the same time I was suprised that some of the folks closest to me have shown very little interest in my status or progress. I believe this is likely not due to a lack of love for me, but their own fears of cancer or simply being caught up in their own busy lives.
Surprise #5: I have been surprised to learn how much energy flossing can take on my bad days. I never thought I would need endurance training for oral hygiene.
Surprise #6: I still have normal eyebrows! I also still have eyelashes. There may be only about 15 on each eye, but there’s enough that with the help of Loreal mascara, an illusion of looking normal can be created.
Surprise #7: I expected to resent watching others living their normal and active lives. I even expected to be jealous and to feel sorry for myself as my life was on pause while my friends were living vibrant and fun lives. What I noticied instead was I was happy for them. I celebrated their vacations, their busy work schedules and their health. I enjoyed hearing details of their adventures and was genuinely happy for them.
Surprise #8: Even though I have experienced a lot of ick throughout Chemo, I enjoy browsing the internet for new recipes and watching cooking shows, looking for things to try when I am well.
Surprise #9: Although I have experienced some unexpected side-effects with the Chemo such as my chronically low Magnesium, there are several common side effects that have not affected me at all, such as bone pain, chemo brain (the inability to think or speak clearly due to a loss of memory), having an abnormal taste of food, and neuropathy.
Surprise #10: Each time I crawl out of the hole of post Chemo darkness I am repeatedly surprised and delighted to find myself feeling normal. My energy returns (at least close to my normal), I have an appetite, my creativity comes back and my ability to be present in coaching my clients is as sharp as ever.
Surprise #11: Even on my sickest days, I still have a sense of humor and can easily laugh at myself. I can also observe myself from a higher place that is without fear and holds complete acceptance of what is present, knowing it is all temporary. I have been surprised by my level of patience.
Since this adventure is far from over, I have no doubt more surprises will appear. Since I also love to be surprised, I expect to be well entertained no matter what is yet to come.