Sunny days

This past winter was a particularly miserable one for the city of Toronto, where I live. Cold, windy, grey, and what appeared to be never-ending. I often felt as though the weather outside was mimicking my own misery and sickness. That spring would come as I started to emerge from the darkness. I realize it sounds very narcissistic, to believe that I somehow can control the weather. But sure enough, this past week as I started to heal from my latest surgery and as my mood began to lift, the sun came out, the tree buds bloomed, and everyone seemed to let out a collective sigh of relief. We made it through the worst.

I made it through the worst.

I’ve been having quite a lot of, dare I say, fun the past few days. Friday I had my treatment, which ran just about as smoothly as that kind of thing can. Service in the chemo ward was top-notch, and I received multiple offers of pillows and apple juice. It was also fairly quiet, and no one around me appeared to be dying, which is always a nice bonus. Afterward, my mom and I met my sister and we got some frozen yogurt and went to the park and popped into a few boutiques. Then in the evening, the hubs and I went for a delicious dinner, where we sat on a patio, and relished the moment.  By the end of the day, I don’t think I even remembered that I had just had drugs injected into a vein near my neck a few hours earlier. Score.

Yesterday, I continued on my quest to be a normal young person in the city. After having a nice visit with my aunt, uncle, and little cousin (I am devouring my aunt’s butterscotch banana bread right now!) I had a nice walk through my neighbourhood and around the park and surrounding area. My feet ached from wearing terrible sandals. A regular person kind of ache. Not a chemo ache. There is a very, very big difference, and I was glad for it. Then at night, we went to see Iron Man 3.

Yesterday, getting ready for my date with Robert Downey (and my husband).
Yesterday, getting ready for my date with Robert Downey (and my husband).

I don’t know how to properly convey how excited I was to do something as simple as see a big blockbuster movie on its opening weekend. It has been a long time since I was able to do something like that. To be able to say I feel like doing this thing that many other people will be doing at the same time and then actually do it. It was amazing. Climbing the stairs up the large theatre was a bit of a challenge, but that was the only time I felt limited. I wore my wig, and from what I can tell, blended right in with the masses. Just another 20-something out on date night, watching a movie, wearing ridiculous 3D glasses. I enjoyed every second of it. I thought about how far special effects have come, and how watching a movie is one of my greatest simple pleasures. And I did not think about cancer. Explosions, and fast cars, and Gwyneth Paltrow’s abs. But not cancer.

Things are still difficult for me. My muscle and joint pain makes me feel as though I am a brittle old lady. When I sit down on the ground, it takes some serious problem solving to get myself back up. I am waking up each day, waiting for it to subside, but so far the pain is sticking around. I am also still wrestling with the emotional trauma from everything I have experienced. Sometimes it is these very moments, when I’m feeling happy and alive, that the fear creeps in. What if this doesn’t last too long? What if this is just a tease? What if I have a limited amount of happy, good days left, and then it all goes to shit? It is so hard to push these thoughts aside and it’s something I will have to work on. I don’t expect to have it all figured out anytime soon. But I’m trying.

I have my next phase of treatment approaching. I will go into more detail as it gets closer, but for now I don’t want to think about it for any longer than it takes me to type this sentence. I want to be young, and I want to play in the sun. So I’m going to go do that.

See ya.

An update

Update on Steph for those who truly want to know the mundane details of my life right now. For those who prefer the happy dancing cool cancer chick moments, feel free to skip this one for now and I hope to provide some more of that soon enough.

-I’ve been ignoring most emails and phone calls. It’s nothing personal. I have very little energy and it’s been another rough week, probably the worst yet, and I’m finding it hard to talk to anyone right now. But as always, I appreciate the love so much and really really hope to have at least one or two friends after all of this.

-I have styes on my eyes. I’m sure Dr. Seuss would be able to make that into some sort of interesting storybook, but in reality, it’s not very exciting. Itchy. Red. Styes.

-My skin has turned grey. Not pale, but grey. I used to think being pale was kind of lame, but now grey takes the prize.

-I took a walk today. Spring has sprung. I’m still wearing a black hood with big sunglasses because I can’t really bear for anyone to see my face right now. I seem to get stares wherever I go. Sometimes I just want to shout at strangers on the street, I have cancer, it’s not contagious, get over it. I have come to realize how oblivious we all are to other people’s suffering. How we just walk by, stare, and ignore. I’m sure I have done it a hundred times. Now when I see someone who I think has cancer, I just want to hug them and cry and ask them to come to my home and build a fort with me and hide in it.

-I haven’t had a good sleep in a long time. Between my nightmares, body aches, hot flashes, and the raccoons that seem to enjoy scratching under the window, I can’t seem to make it through the night.

-I have collapsed into a puddle of tears on several occasions the past week. I’m not sure where it is all coming from, most likely exhaustion and the fact that I am almost completely cut off from the outside world and am in some form of pain most minutes of my day. In a moment of sobbing hysteria, I asked my husband if he could cover all the mirrors so I wouldn’t have to see myself anymore. It made me think of all the shiva houses I had been to when I was younger and how I would stare at the foggy mirrors. But I have no idea what people spray to fog the mirrors and am also far too vain to stop looking at myself, so my mirrors remain as they were.

-I watched The Princess Bride last night and it was the first thing in awhile that made me laugh, so thanks to Rob Reiner and all who were involved if you ever read my blog.

-I ate some beets today. Straight out of the jar. It’s a crazy, crazy life.

Things I’m grateful for today:

The sunshine
The comments people leave on this blog
Toast
Health insurance
The few eyebrow hairs I have left
Movies
My friend Rebecca who always says “that is so so shitty” whenever I describe the gross and weird things happening to me, instead of “it’s ok, you can do it!”
My friend Lily who buys way too many things for me
My good friends who check in on me constantly and stick around through the dark days
My husband who lets me soak through all his shirts with my tears and who tells me I’m pretty when I have styes on my eyes
My mother-in-law who sends me photos of rainbows
My parents who do everything
My siblings who are the only friends I see anymore
Everyone who sends me cards and nice things in the mail
The fact that I’m still here
Tomorrow

Looking forward

RIP eyelashes, you are sorely missed.
RIP eyelashes, you are sorely missed.

I looked at the results earlier this week from my routine blood draw, and for the first time, it showed a red flag instead of a check mark. The change alarmed me, as I stared at the ominous graphic of a down-facing arrow, signifying a drop of some sort. The description stated that I am anemic. As someone who has never failed a test, I was disheartened to see I had failed this one, after having a perfect score thus far throughout my chemo treatments. It was also an odd feeling, realizing that I am not in control of what is happening to my body right now. And things are most definitely happening. I suppose this should be reassuring, but there’s also something upsetting about it. I found the staff oncologist and asked her if the drop in my levels was anything to be concerned over. She explained that my numbers were still fine, and to be expected, for someone undergoing chemotherapy. The regular range only applies to regular people.

I am growing tired of the whole chemo routine and having all these bizarre things happen to my body.  I have about half an eyebrow on both sides and a significant portion of my once lusciously long eyelashes have fallen out. I was reading today that for many women, it takes a very long time for their lashes to come back, and often when they do, they are not as long as they once were. Something so silly, yet it made me feel quite sad. I have a few “things” and my lashes are (were) one of them. I often get compliments on them or people asking me if they’re real (they are….were). It can be rough to think of some of the long-term side effects from the chemotherapy, or the ones that will linger for some time. It is also somewhat of a heavy feeling, to think of the treatments and long road I still have to walk after chemo is complete. Despite what future post-chemo blood results might show, I know I will never quite be a “regular” person again. But let’s be honest, I never really was.

So in order to not get completely depressed, I’ve decided to make a list of some of the things I am looking forward to after chemo is over. Because there are things, and I need to remember them, especially when all that is going through my head right now is the fact that in a few days, I will once again be in a massive amount of pain and threatening to jump out windows.

Here is what I am looking forward to:

Eating sushi… the real kind
Not being afraid that every person who coughs or sneezes is going to kill me
Grocery shopping without passing out in the cereal aisle
Spring and the end of a miserable winter
Going for long walks
Not feeling like I am walking on hot coals
Hair regrowth, hopefully in the right places
Not having people stare at me with a does she have cancer or is she just some artsy girl wearing a scarf on her head look
Eating a real caesar salad
Having my skin return to normal and losing the not-so-sexy red patches that have taken up residence on my cheeks
Gaining my energy back (this one can take months, or years, but even a small increase will be something to celebrate)
Writing bitchy comments on people’s facebook statuses such as “I just endured four grueling months of chemo, but I do really sympathize with your seasonal cold that lasted three days.” (I will never actually have the nerve to do that, but I think about it all. the. time.)
Not having a perma-runny nose
Tastebuds that work properly
Not basing my entire life around my chemo schedule
Planning the most needed vacation ever in the history of vacations, even though I still can’t take one for some time
Being able to say I’m 28 years old and survived chemotherapy. And I’m still standing.