Looking in the mirror

Last week I think I hit a new low of sheer misery. The fatigue that comes with chemotherapy is truly cumulative, and with each new treatment, it is growing increasingly difficult to do any of the things I once enjoyed. Such as taking a walk. Or lifting my laptop. Or lifting my head. The tiniest things we all take for granted have become incomprehensible to me. Memories of the past. Of a life I once lived, where my body would do whatever I asked of it, with ease. I feel as though I have been thrust into old age almost overnight. My bones ache when I try to move them. My body cries out for rest after walking up a few stairs. I wake up at night with hot flashes, my cheeks burning, thanks to the menopausal effects of chemo. Creases are starting to form on the outer corners of my eyes. My stomach and face are bloated constantly from all the drugs, making me look like I am five months pregnant. I can’t follow a basic conversation without losing focus, or feeling like I need to shut my eyes. I am an old lady. At the ripe age of 28.

Chillin with my Goodnight Moon bunny in bed, where I spent all of last week. I am looking super cancer-y these days. Yikes.

It has been difficult for me to look in the mirror lately. I don’t like what I see. A bald, puffy face, with red patches all over my cheeks and glossy eyes. Is that really me? It is hard to feel healthy or strong, when the image reflected back at me is anything but. Lately I am starting to feel as though I will never get my old self back. I can’t imagine having life in my face again. Or having hair. It seems like appearance should be relatively low on the list of things to feel bad about, when you’re dealing with all the crap that comes with a cancer diagnosis. But it is proving to be one of the biggest challenges for me. Looks aren’t everything, but when you’re already feeling just about as low as a human can feel, it really does add insult to injury.

It is hard for me to look at pre-cancer photos of myself now. I feel very disconnected from the girl I see. She’s pretty, and healthy, and happy, and completely unaware of what is about to happen to her. It’s as though I am looking at someone else’s life, even though I know she is me. Did I really do all those things at one time? Did I really look like that? Did I really have hair? I want to go back into those photos, just for one minute, just to remember what it’s like, to be happy and pretty. To soak up those moments. Because they are starting to slip away from me.


I hope that eventually I can start feeling better about what I see in the mirror. View my reflection as an image of a brave warrior, rather than one of a sick cancer patient whose body has been continuously cut, poked, and poisoned. I don’t want to be that girl who cries when she looks in the mirror. I have never been that girl. I refuse to let her win. And anyone who knows me knows I always get my way.

Chemo daze

I often refrain from writing anything during chemo weeks because I am miserable and have poison running through my veins and I am worried about what I might say that I then might regret later. But I am also feeling so antsy and bored and restless in my own skin and worried that if I don’t write, my brain will just turn to complete mush from spending my days lying flat in the bathtub while watching Real Housewives.

A lot of cancer patients experience a sort of brain fog throughout their treatment, and sometimes long after. This is a very real fear of mine. My brain is pretty important to me. I’ve worked hard on making it a useful one and it has served me quite well. I don’t like the idea of becoming distracted, forgetful, unfocused. Unable to complete a task as quickly as I once could have before. I want to keep my brain sharp. I don’t want to let it down. Unfortunately, I don’t have much choice over the matter. I am exhausted and my thoughts are cloudy, at best. The idea of reading a book or even watching an intelligent movie just seems impossible at this time. Even writing a coherent email is getting to be a bit difficult, as I’m sure a couple friends can attest to who received one over the past few days. Is it the steroids? The chemo? The sleep deprivation? The fact that I sit alone most of the day with nothing to entertain me except my weird, usually morbid thoughts? I guess it’s all enough to make anyone go a little crazy. I just really hope none of this is permanent.

The feeling of wasted time has really started to weigh heavily on me. I wish that I could be using this time to do something productive, something great and meaningful. But that’s not how this works. Cancer treatment isn’t a fun vacation. At least mine isn’t. Lately I’ve started torturing myself by looking at vacation destinations online. Warm places with beaches where people are happy and not bald and not pale and not peeling and not bleeding. Last night, after a terrible few hours of being sick and weak and crying so hard I started hyperventilating and nearly fainted on my toilet, I even resorted to watching youtube videos of rides at Disney World, trying to remember the feeling of being a happy kid who just wanted to meet Mickey Mouse and didn’t even know about the word cancer. The Dumbo ride was my favourite ride when I was a wee one. All it does is go round and round and that’s about it. Do you know how badly I want to be sitting in one of those stupid elephants, flying through the air right now? You have no idea.


A couple days ago, I was looking through all the comments from this blog. A lot of times, people add comments long after I’ve made a post, so I imagine most people who just read my current posts never see these comments. But I see them all. And reading through them made me quite happy, especially all the people who don’t know me but seem to be my biggest fans, or the people who tell me I am helping them through their own illness. So I guess I have been doing something sort of productive, even though it is hard to feel that way sometimes. So thank you for giving me that and for reading and supporting.

I got some great packages in the mail yesterday including beautiful handmade cards from a bunch of kind strangers, pins, magnets, a blanket, a book. Last week I got a lovely robe from a friend of a friend that she sewed just for me and I have worn it every day since. I love these things so much. I know I keep expressing it over and over, but I want people to know that it is all so appreciated, even when I am just a big sad sack of moodiness and gloom like I am right now. Although I managed to muster up the energy to go to my mail box today and all that was there was junk mail and disability-related papers, so that was a bit of a letdown. Hopefully this means I will get double presents tomorrow. I have become super greedy with my expectations of receiving tokens in the mail. I have no shame admitting it. I have no shame admitting anything right now. Like the fact that moments ago, I attempted to sneak a candy bar from the top shelf of my cupboard by almost climbing on a chair, and then realized I would likely stumble off the chair and smash my head on the table, and the idea of dying that way after everything I have been through just seemed a bit ridiculous, so I abandoned the plan altogether.

Hey, look at that, my brain still works.

UPDATE: My mom just sent me an actual video of me on the Dumbo ride from many moons ago. I am very impressed that my parents figured out how to make a movie file from our old Beta footage. Thanks guys!

This just in – cancer sucks

Sorry for the lack of updates this week and to all the many wonderful people in my life who have written to me and who did not receive a response. Please know that I love getting your messages and I feel like a really crappy friend for not being able to write back. Part of it has been because writing a text or email has felt like a herculean task for the last several days, due to a complete lack of energy. The other half is that, quite frankly, I have had nothing funny or upbeat to say. No positive spin. I have been a sadsack and a major Debbie Downer and I don’t wish to bring everyone down with me. So sometimes, it is just too difficult to respond.

I know that often people write and say “I’m not sure what to say”, but know that I still really appreciate those messages and I like to hear that you’re thinking of me. No one knows what to say. Cancer is stupid. It’s a real conversation killer. But saying something is always better than saying nothing. So in conclusion, please keep writing to me, never worry about saying the “right” thing, and please don’t think I’m a big ungrateful meanie for not always writing back. Thank you.

Although I don’t have many uplifting words of wisdom to share right now, I do still feel compelled to keep up with this blog, even through the dark times. There are now many people who actually follow it and check in for updates, which is pretty neat. I was even recognized by a young nurse at the hospital last weekend who had seen the blog, which made me feel like a total celeb (Hi, Gillian!). So here I am, to tell it like it is, and risk majorly ruining everyone’s pre-holiday cheer. You have been warned.

Cancer has kicked my ass this week.

It took all of 3 days into my chemo cycle to contract some sort of virus from hell. My legs and head have ached to the point that I wondered if it would be possible to cut them off and somehow float around without a head, or legs. I have been so tired that just thinking about going to the kitchen to get a glass of water feels like I am trying to solve some type of impossible mathematical equation. I have lost my typically ravenous appetite and as such, have lost a lot of weight. I have cried and screamed in agony, with my poor husband standing by, likely googling phone numbers for local exorcists. I have felt completely detached from everyone else’s reality. Babies. Work. Holidays. Vacations. Life. I stare at images of these things on my computer and feel like an alien, looking down from Planet Cancer, not understanding what it is I am looking at. And when I think that I still have many long months ahead of feeling like this, or worse, it makes me want to punch a hole right through my wall. Except I don’t have the energy to punch anything. So I have to just imagine it, which is completely unsatisfying, and nowhere near as bad-ass.

So that is my reality for the time being.

Right now, I don’t feel strong. I don’t feel a “positive” attitude. I don’t feel up to the task of inspiring anyone. I want someone to knock me over the head and wake me up when this is all over. I want to give up and throw in the towel. I want to be able to go outside for a walk, get my own groceries, go to work, and post boring photos on Facebook of me doing boring things. I want to be healthy and happy. I want to not feel like a burden to everyone around me. Mostly, I just want my life back. A simple, normal life, and nothing more.

Does anyone have any leads on this whole cancer cure thing? If you do, feel free to write to me.

I promise I’ll respond to that one.