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What it feels like… (5 weeks in)

I can’t believe it’s been 5 weeks since my diagnosis. It feels like a whole entire lifetime has been squeezed into these handful of days that have passed. So what does it feel like, now that this thing has been around awhile? Well folks, in short, it feels pretty shitty.

Physically it has been a hell of a ride. I have been in a tremendous amount of physical pain from the four surgical procedures I’ve had done in the last month (two biopsies, one medi-port placement and one space baby retrieval) although I am finding that it easy to forget this kind of pain once it’s passed, which I guess is a blessing. Then there is the more general physical discomfort from the chemo. The first week it just made me feel very, very tired. This deep exhaustion ran through everything for a few days, slowing me down and making me drag my feet, until it faded away and it was time to do it again. The second week I had the exhaustion plus a whole host of new symptoms. My muscles ache even though they aren’t being used. My stomach feels fine until I put food into it and then it rebels. I have a kind of heartburn that I didn’t know was possible. My mouth hurts. My chest feels tight. My throat is sore. I could go on and on. I mostly just feel icky, like one of those days where you feel good enough to take a shower and put your clothes on but you know in your heart that you should just call in sick.

I am really trying to be healthy throughout this but I can see that it’s going to be tough. I want to be drinking only green

Second chemo (14 more to go!) aka me, attempting to crochet, while on too much Benadryl

Second chemo (14 more to go!) aka me, attempting to crochet, while on too much Benadryl

smoothies and eating only salads but I don’t really have an appetite for much of anything and even if I enjoy it going down I get a heck of a belly ache afterwards. I worked out this morning and thought I might die. I can still lift the weights up but my lungs don’t want to breath as hard and my heart doesn’t really feel like pumping blood any faster. Come on body! We gotta stay strong! I’m currently trying to figure out how I’ll persevere through these chemo workouts for five whole months while simultaneously fist-waving at my former self whose only workout challenge was her own laziness.

Emotionally, it’s been a bit of a nightmare. As in, it has actually seemed like a bad dream I couldn’t wake up from. Not that every moment has been some dark terrible thing I’ve had to survive. It’s more that there is just this shitty thing in my life that has come home to roost. It’s always there. Even when I’m not thinking about it, which is rare, it’s there waiting for me. It’s changed everything about my life. It’s changed my job. It’s changed my relationships. it’s changed my identity. It’s changed my plans. It’s changed what my next 8 months look like for sure but probably also what my next 8 years look like. It’s terrible news that never goes away. I’ve had more than a few moments when I have wished I could just wake up and it would all be over. I just want my life back. I want to make choices that don’t hinge on cancer and cancer treatments and symptoms from cancer treatments. I want to live my life for the sake of living it and not just to survive cancer. I want to prioritize something, anything at all besides cancer (work, travel, friends, cooking, grad school, photography… the list could go on and on).

Like I am trying to keep my body healthy I am also trying to keep my head and my heart in good working order which is proving to be just as tough. I am trying to make plans in spite of cancer and do things that are good for my soul (hanging out with friends, getting out into nature whenever I can, etc.). I am trying to do things that let me forget about the cancer like going to work whenever I can. I am reaching out to other cancer survivors and going to programs meant to help us cancer kids cope. I am making a countdown to put on my fridge so I can watch the 20 long weeks of chemo get over and done with. I recently cut all of my hair off and was surprised by how much dread and excitement I got out of it, almost in equal measure. I am calling it my emotional stepping stone between long flowing locks and the inevitable baldness. I am cultivating these emotional stepping stones these days, building practices and attitudes that will help me when things get even harder than they already are. I am trying to keep the fear and sadness at bay and trying to stay positive as much as possible. I am not always successful. Mostly I am just trying to loosen the grip of the nightmare feeling, to make my life with cancer still feel like a life, to get through this thing so I can move on. Here’s hoping the next 5, 10, 15 and 20 weeks go by much, much faster.