I keep telling myself and others that “the hard part is over.” I truly believe this. I know that i still have a long way to go: three more weeks of radiation, Herceptin injections until November, 1-2 more surgeries to replace my expanders with implants, an outpatient surgery to have my port removed, 5-10 years of taking hormone therapy pills, and ongoing follow-up appointments to constantly monitor if/when my cancer returns. Even with all this still ahead of me, i feel like the mastectomy and the chemotherapy were the worst parts of my treatment. These two things took the most out of me – physically, emotionally, socially, and professionally. So now that i am done with both of these, i have this perception that i can resume living the way i used to.
This perception is misguided.
Cancer still has its grip on me. I keep trying to deny that, and it keeps reminding me that i am wrong. On Wednesday, for example, i hit my head. I was at work, hovering over a dirty toilet and trying to push the pee out as quickly as possible because my thighs are not as strong as they used to be, but i didn’t want to sit down on that toilet seat. My muscles started burning after only 10 seconds, and when i happened to look down to wipe, my vertigo kicked in, and i hit the top of my head on the wall in front of me. Luckily, the room was small, and my left hand instinctively reached up to cushion the blow … but the hit still brought tears to my eyes, and i ended up sitting on that nasty toilet seat anyway just to wait for the room to stop spinning. Another reminder came this weekend, when i found myself dealing with even more vertigo after drinking two nights in a row. It wasn’t even that much (at least not for me): three ounces of whiskey over a 4-hour period on Friday, and one glass of wine on Saturday. In my “normal” days, this amount would have done little more than warm up my tummy … but i found myself too dizzy and lightheaded all weekend to go to the gym, and i lost my balance this morning even trying to vacuum a recliner.
And then there is the physical evidence that chemo drugs are still running their course. I’ve noticed a number of changes, some of which i’ve already discussed in previous blogs, but the latest one is that my nails are all falling off. They started bruising under my nail beds about three months ago and then painfully tearing last month. I’ve covered this up with ongoing manicures, and it was only today that i got to see what they look like without nail polish. It’s crazy to me that chemotherapy drugs i stopped taking a month and a half ago continue to wreak havoc on various areas of my body.
Part of my learning process throughout all of this is that i have to step back and be patient while i focus on this particular battle, while disregarding other things i need/want to do. This is difficult for me. I look at my atrophied arm and leg muscles, and i get mad at myself for not going to the gym more. I look at how messy my house is, and i get frustrated that simple tasks like vacuuming, mopping, and cleaning the litter boxes get make me dizzy, nauseous, and tired. I look at my back yard, and i get upset because there were a number of landscaping things i wanted to have done this year before it hit triple-digits, but i haven’t done much more than pick the weeds … and even that task isn’t finished. I’m getting antsy. My energy and strength has been compromised for six months now, and i’m over it.