This coming Tuesday marks part four, round one of Chemomania. So far so tolerable.
The post-injection effects are inconvenient rather than debilitating. Heartburn after every meal and snack, tired in the afternoons, burned out tongue and throat, wretched guts, wretched skin and a touch of chemo brain (forgetting words, names and where children have hidden). A walk in the park, really, compared to what others have to endure or what could happen at any moment in the future. I'll take it.
Is it working? Well, the adorable little cancer rash on my chest is almost completely gone already, which excites and scares the pants off me because wow, I'm only in cycle one, and shit, I'm only in cycle one, what else is going to burn to the ground over the next 5.5 months?
The immediate post-chemo experience has also been pleasantly manageable. During the one-drug weeks, it's 2.5 hours in the chair, then pour me into the car in my Benadryl haze before delivering me unto the couch, greeting various children with a mumble, making a few phone calls and collapsing in a non-sleep coma for an hour before the steroids call me to the feedbag. Last week, my Ma delivered dinner and it was Xanadu on roller skates. I don't think I could have concocted a boiled egg, let alone a meal my kids would eat.
During the the recovery days that follow, I try not to become a hermit. I walk, garden, clean, bake - sometimes a tad out of season, like the late bunny that showed up today - write to friends, see family, knock off various appointments and nap. I'm also immersing myself in the anti-cancer movement all over again.
A few weeks ago I decided to truly rally all the troops in my kingdom and signed up at Inspire Health, a provincial integrative cancer care organization funded by the Ministry of Health but operated on donations. I paid a decent sum of money ($450) and made a commitment to listen to whatever they had to tell me.
Pete signed up, too. He took last week off work to go to chemo with me and attend a 2-day program with Inspire Health that ran the gamut from nutrition, acupuncture, meditation, mindfulness, communication and just generally taking control of your health. I was a bit skeptical going in, but I was mostly game.
There were nine other people in the program, which included sickies and their support people all in various stages of treatment and recovery as well as age and life situation. I tried my best not to stab my eyeballs with the uneven presentation skills and random capitalization on the PowerPoint slides and as a result, opened up and actually absorbed a lot of great stuff over the two days.
Two big epiphanies: don't wait for permission to take control and embrace my dabbling nature.
Since my kids were born I've had this brutal time trying to take time for myself. I travel, I work a lot and the time I have off seems best spent shuttling my kids around or otherwise trying to force family time. Entire weekends, months and years have gone by without taking the time I need to figure out own health. I feed on the guilt and resentment like some kind of badly drawn fiction character. We're done with that now.
On the dabbling side of the equation, when I do take time, I'm all over the place. Biking here, running there, meditating whenever, chocolate cake for breakfast and kale for dessert. But after two days of truly planning out my war path, this is actually feeling okay. As long as I make time to do something every day that prioritizes my health, I'm not fighting the dabbler in me anymore.
The actual skills and information we took away from the program were more specific than that, but it was a new spirit I was after and I got it.
So I'm back on the dedicated anti-cancer train with revitalized shits and giggles. I'm moving beyond focusing on the cure and the cancer cells and into the realm of creating a patented super-Carissa, able to fight off the nastiest of diseases with the swing of my lasso.