Before and After, (or, I re-routed my brain today.)

I have finally ventured back outside this past week, in a last-ditch effort to NOT gain more than ten pounds as a result of chemo. I’ve been lucky enough to have company on all of these 5-ish km walks, and I must say great chats can be had on a warm summer’s day tour around a lake or along a river. 

One of the interesting conversations I had with a friend who is currently being treated for breast cancer as well stemmed from a statement I made about running. 

“I used to love trail running.” 

I had to stop myself, and rewind, and examine this new turn of phrase. How often these days do I talk about the things I did pre-Cancer in the past tense? What is the significance of speaking about my likes, my activities, in the past tense as though that is where they now reside? 

It calls to mind a little bit how we tend to talk about exes (“He was a really good cook”) – like we’re referring to someone who has died, or the ex is no longer able to throw down in the kitchen. The ex isn’t dead; he’s just no longer with us, if you know what I mean. And, he can very likely still put together a beautiful meal. Just not for me. This makes sense to me. There are some things that should live only in the past. 

But trail running? Cooking? These things I am NOT abandoning. They are not to be put in a box and shoved under a bed. They are not being put out at the curb and abandoned. 

I thought about that on today’s promenade with another friend, where we walked a trail I used to run  like to run, and at one point on a long lovely sun-speckled muddy downhill, I started to run. My friend joined in and laughed, saying ‘oh okay we’re running – that just happened’ and we ran. For about two minutes. Because it’s hard right now.  Because I DO like to trail run. My body WANTS to run on those trails and dance around roots and rocks and think fast and duck branches and get soakers and be splattered with mud. 

Present tense. My life has been interrupted by this little trip. Not stopped, dammit. 

I Do love to trail run. (And so does my dog.)Image

7 Down, (Or, please forgive me, nurse, for grabbing you during my panic attack.)

I officially have one last chemo session left after today’s very rewarding but totally humiliating fiasco. I went bravely alone to my blood work and doctor’s appointment this morning, knowing that I had already done this Taxol thing twice and I was absolutely fine. First of all, can I just say how lucky I was today to get so many visitors?  There were always four or five people in the room with me, except at one particular moment, which was probably for the best. 

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ImagePrior to receiving the Taxol, I receive about five other drugs to help avoid a reaction. This takes an hour or so, and then the lovely nurse comes in and announces that she’s starting the Taxol drip. Literally in the middle of a conversation with my mom and sister, I nod and smile at the nurse to give her the go-ahead, and within two seconds I feel something explode in my head, and in my chest, and all I can think is ‘I’M GOING DOWN.’ As in, this is it. I’m dying. Right here. Good old, classic, full-blown panic attack. The kind that blinds you and stops you from breathing and makes you need to GET OUT, which is problematic when you’re attached to an IV providing you with poison. The only instinct I had was to reach out to the person beside me to stop me from going down, and, well, my aim was not particularly accurate and I very much by accident grabbed my nurse, not without its irony, by the breast. It all happened very quickly, and within five minutes I had a 1 mg dose of Ativan on board and within 15 minutes (during which the nurse very kindly left us alone so that I could get myself ready) I was fine and she returned. I don’t remember apologizing quite so sincerely for any of my actions at any point in my life. That poor nurse had just told me she was new to the floor, as well. Not new to oncology. She knew her stuff – but I have to wonder if she’s questioning her decision right about now, poor thing. I even offered her cheesecake and chocolate covered mints by way of a peace offering. She handled it all with much grace, I handled it with some humour and much shame, and I very much hope that she doesn’t run the other way when she sees me in two weeks, when I will return for my VERY LAST CHEMO!! 

(I’m thinking boas and wigs all around. And maybe champagne. Thoughts?)

 

Six down, two to go (Or, starting the endurance part of the run)

 

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Wednesday marked the sixth of eight chemo sessions, the beginning of August and some other subtle changes in my psyche. There are a few lines that keep dancing around my head these days: The first is that I am now starting to feel like I’m doing the endurance part of the proverbial chemo run. I love to trail run, but I do it because I love it, and I have never professed to be a long distance runner. There’s a strange bit of truth to this across the board in my life, which is worthy of some thought on my part. I often stop a tough run just before the end of it, and walk the last bit. I almost always leave a bit of food on my plate, even if I’m totally capable of eating all of what’s there. I leave crafts unfinished, scraps of fabric and half-knitted projects stuffed into bags and buried deep in closets. I have countless partially-read books littered and piled around my house. I am known to wash, dry and neglect to fold laundry until the ‘laundry mountain’ threatens to take over the room. Let’s not even talk about relationships and this pattern – certainly on the few occasions that I have committed to going the long haul with someone, it has ended in some pretty spectacular heartache for me. 

Gasp.  Am I really such a non-finisher? 

Not an option at this particular junction. I need to dig deep and summon the energy needed to see this run through to the finish. Where do I start? If I decide today that I’m going to finish that last bit of toast on my plate, will that magically translate into some strengthening of character, create some resolve in other areas of my life? 

More soon. I’m off to fold some laundry with my achy-numb hands. And today I’ll eat my crusts from breakfast and start with that. 

Detoxing from Dexter and Missing the Madness

A friend told me that this one kind of captures the solitude of cancer. There's a great deal of that. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

A friend told me that this one kind of captures the solitude of cancer. There’s a great deal of that. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

I’m now counting down the days to when the total silence in my house can be replaced by the sounds of my children and my dog (yes, even my dog is on vacation). I have had several days filled with endless episodes of Dexter and aimless wandering around my house. I enjoyed the first few, and very quickly started to sink a little bit into a dark place from which I feel like (because I am) I’m literally watching life pass me by. I’m watching my friends travel, return from trips only to disappear on more adventures. They are living their lives in techni-colour while I am living mine in slow motion, in black and white.

Trying to get two boys to sit still and pose for a photo is an impossibility. Courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

Trying to get two boys to sit still and pose for a photo is an impossibility. Courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

Wrestle-mania.  Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

Wrestle-mania.
Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

Talking to my children about their daily adventures while they spend 18 days at a family cottage 18 hours away from me is wonderful, but I can’t hug them or smell their hair or kiss their faces when they go to sleep at night, and although the distinct lack of mess and noise in my house is lovely at times, I am actually a little saddened when I don’t step over or bend down to pick up my youngest’s clothes that he inevitably sheds immediately upon arriving home. Every time I pass their bedroom door I stop and imagine my eldest stretched out with his nose in a book. I will admit to having smelled their pillows at least once over the past week.

The three of us 'cooking'. Always an adventure.

The three of us ‘cooking’. Always an adventure.

It has now been at least a week since I have broken up a fight, solved an argument or counted down from 3 in full-on mama mode. I haven’t had a pile-up snuggle fest, haven’t clipped finger and toenails while marveling at how disgusting they manage to get in a week. I haven’t cursed the ever-growing mountain of dirty laundry and I haven’t repeated a question or a direction more than twice. I haven’t closed myself in my room to do yoga breathing to find my happy place, because I realize that a very big part of my happy place is on vacation, wake-boarding, canoeing, swimming, sunning and owling. And while I am very happy for them and I want them to have their adventures, I am ready now for my babies to come home. Counting the days.

Yoga breathing.

Yoga breathing. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

My goofy boys and me. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.

My goofy boys and me. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Boggett.