Everyone loves a great comeback story. The more I think about it, people don’t really care about the magnitude of the comeback? They just love a comeback story. Perhaps it’s more about the human spirit. The forward progress – has us all yelling – “Keep going, keep going, you got this”. Whether it’s the kid who has never made that shot on a basketball court or the adult that finishes a marathon hours after ALL the spectators have left.
This latest round of treatments has me begging for mercy and at times contemplating whether this is “it”. Is this where it ends? I’ve had a hell of a run – this year marks a full decade. So many treatments, so many amazing memories I never thought I’d see or be part of. So many phases with the kids that were preschoolers when we started this and now, now they are teenagers, they are driving, they are going to proms, they are getting first jobs…and I am soaking it all in.
But, this comeback. The comeback that I am still not totally certain is happening – man, this comeback is different in all the ways. Turns out ten years of cancer treatment will kick your ass physically but it’s the mind, the spirit that really takes the brunt of it.
Weekly treatments with a newly minted “triple negative” status have beat me down. Scans not favoring me as a victor have allowed all that uncertainly to sneak into my psyche. I’ve always proudly, lovingly accepted my status as an “exceptional responder”. Yes – I am one of the lucky ones. Each new torture method (treatment option) always had me rolling out like a champ. Yep – beaten and battered but still with two feet firmly planted on this earth (picture Rocky, a bit roughed up but still here again….and again! How many Rocky movies did they make?). This newest weekly chemotherapy/immunotherapy combination has been different. First off, there’s all the uncertainty -will it even work? Secondly, will it work fast enough? This has never been a concern for me – because along with being an exceptional responder I have also had the pleasure of being owner to a fairly disoriented cancer. You know the kind that takes a minute to get his friends onboard with marching forward and taking over full organs and bones. Like a little dysfunctional gang with questionable leadership. This new triple negative regime is a different beast all together. They have militant-style leadership ready to march to victory.
So all that gets into your head. Into your thinking. And while that is tough, I tend to lean into intuition more often. And it was what my intuition was telling me that has been freaking me out A LOT. The idea of a comeback seemed as far away as anything. My intuition, my gut – it was telling me to get my shit together because, yes, this could be it. This could be that illusive end that has been chasing me for a decade. You can only run for so long before you’re found. Now, I have to say the mouth sores, the body aches, the nausea, the inability to eat, to sleep, to get my ass out of bed for days at a time – pretty sure all those things were playing into my “gut”, into my “intuition” as well.
The hope needed for a comeback felt so far away, so not available to me. I can’t say that I have ever felt this way. Ever. I found myself hesitant to fully drink in joy and happiness, love and possibility. Distancing myself from all those things that make us human – connection, laughter, love. If I slowly eliminated all these things that make being human so freaking epic – well, it would be easier to leave. It would be easier for me to say goodbye. It would be easier for them, for my hubs and kids to peacefully, logically usher me to the next place. They could say things like, “She was ready” or “she’s at peace now” or “she’s out of pain”. Honestly, this is NOT how I pictured my last months? I pictured total excess. Yes, absolute excess in the immediate weeks, months and days preceding my impending death. Excess laughter, love, travel, friends, food – my final farewell. The idea of hope felt too cruel to even consider. It was easier to come to peace with the end for so many reasons. I had come to some sort of understanding with my impending death being sooner rather than later. Again, a damn good run.
I should probably insert here – no matter how dark or paralyzing the cancer or the treatment side effects have been I have had the joy of quite literally bathing in light showered upon me from friends and cousins near and far. They’ve lifted me up on their shoulders (picturing Rudy here – another epic comeback or maybe Rudy falls under “Possbility/Hope”). They’ve helped me fulfill my bucket list Oscar night get together in pajamas (even though I had to kick everyone’s ass with the winning ballot!!), they’ve driven my kids around, they’ve delivered meals, they’ve reached out in beautiful emails, texts, messages, they’ve sent heartfelt cards. They’ve not given up on me. They’ve bought me crazy beautiful headwear for this bald dome, they’ve crocheted and knitted beautiful headwear, they’ve sent spunky socks, mouth sprays, ice packs, great books, notebooks, protein drinks, they’ve spent hours in the car driving me to chemo and hours with me at chemo. They’ve offered their skills and energy with reiki and massage. And most importantly – they let me say the things I had to say without judgement, without trying to make it all better. They held buckets and buckets of space for me. And when I missed my family so much it hurt – these friends and cousins loved me unconditionally. They showed my kids compassion and love. And it’s been painful, so painful to see and feel all this love and keep myself numb. Numb because damn, that’s a lot of humanity right there man! I am trying to prepare myself to leave this place!!
It took a two week break. Two GLORIOUS weeks without treatment. Two weeks in a row to feel me! I AM STILL HERE! For two weeks I have slowly felt my knees firmly hold me, my mouth sores healing. My stomach free of the bad kind of butterflies, the ones that flutter right before the anti-nausea med goes down the hatch. The me, that could wake up in the morning without begging to get right back in bed – exhausted and beaten. It’s been humbling and frustrating to feel every part of my body scream, rage against each treatment. This break, it was my savior. Familiar old friends have emerged – possibility and hope. If I have to leave – I gotta go on a high note. Imbibing in all THIS HUMANITY. ALL. OF. IT.
So – while I am still cautiously contemplating letting this hope in – the light, awe man – it feels so damn good, so freaking HUMAN. I miss this feeling. I need this feeling. Today – it was back to the “dreaded chair”, the chemo chair. But, I am happy to report something felt different.