HOW I KNOW I AM GETTING BETTER
- My muscles are no longer screaming for oxygen. A month ago, just walking across the street would leave my whole body burning like i was hiking a steep mountain. Now, the only time i get this feeling is when i am exercising at the gym.
- I can eat what i want again. Nothing tastes like metal. Chewing no longer feels tedious and nausea-inducing. If i eat something fried, i don’t immediately get sick afterwards. Bathroom trips are back to normal.
- My energy is building. If i have to run errands all afternoon in the Phoenix heat, i can do it. There was a point where i would get exhausted from going to just one doctor’s appointment in a day. This past Thursday, though, i had eight scheduled appointments/tasks, and i completed seven of them.
- My strength is building. A couple months ago, i tried to do one push-up and fell flat on my face; i also couldn’t even lift my hands behind my head to do a sit-up. Yesterday, i completed two modified versions of push-ups and made it to double digits. I still couldn’t do a full sit-up, but i was able to put my hands behind my head in order to do 30 crunches. Minor improvements are still improvements….
- I’m starting to fret about trivial things again. I made a point to put on make-up yesterday before my radiation appointment; 2-3 months ago, the only thing i consistently cared about was making sure i eliminated the vomit smell out of my mouth before leaving the house.
HOW I KNOW I AM STILL NOT THERE YET
- I feel hung over after a busy day. Thursday was a prime example. It started with a trip to the gym at 5:15 … to a 7:30 coffee date … to a 10:00 FFD exam … to a stop at Optical Expressions to fix my broken glasses … to lunch at Cafe Rio’s, where i got hit on by a cop … to chemotherapy … to radiation … to the dermatologist. I was supposed to head to central Phoenix after this for a 6:00 Cancer & Cannabis workshop, but i had no more energy left. The next day, i was completely drained. My gym trip was pushed back hours after my plan, and i spent most of the day lying in bed mindlessly watching TV. The lack of energy and delayed cognitive reaction truly felt like i had spent the night before out partying, and it took me almost all of Friday to regain my strength and focus.
- Things still have to be modified. I cut my workouts short. I adjust the way i try to do push-ups and sit-ups. I still have to ask my roommates to do certain cleaning tasks. I have to take breaks in between activities. I limit the times i need to multi-task, especially regarding work on the computer or instances where there is background noise. This continues to be a huge source of frustration for me.
- My body continues to remind and betray me. It’s not just the weakness and the lack of energy. The scars and tears along my chest still look red and raw. I am starting to see a sunburn spreading across the area i receive radiation. My right expander is growing tighter and harder, another side effect from the radiation, and accidentally turning over on that side in the middle of the night causes me to wake up in pain. I find myself avoiding having to even look at my body, which is not only unhealthy but un-feminist. I should be proud, right? I should look at those marks, and i should revel in the battle scars that show i survived something major. But i don’t. Not yet. And this alone lets me know that i still have a lot of work to do on this journey – not just medically, but within myself.