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.

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.