September 3rd, 2014. A big day on several fronts. Exactly one year ago today, I completed the second and longest portion of my treatment for cancer. I had my 8th chemo treatment 365 days ago. The PICC line came out that day, granting me the freedom to swim, shower, paddle, do more of the things that I loved. We celebrated afterwards at my house, a gathering which is hazy in my memory due to the number of drugs I had in my system. Benadryl, Taxol, three different kinds of steroids, Ativan, the list was long. I was very relieved to be done with it, and my family and friends carried me through that last day, wearing wigs and boas to my treatment and celebrating with me afterwards. There was a crowd with me all day, applauding when I rang the bell signifying the end of chemo. The support of my friends and family was overwhelming, and for that I found myself very, very lucky.
Different people have stepped up at different points over the past year and a half, supporting me in whatever ways I have needed. Yesterday, when I sat down at my first staff meeting in a year and a half, I was very anxious, to say the least. Worried that I would break into a full body sweat if I had to speak, and that would set off a chain reaction.
Anxious – full-body sweat – hair starts to curl – really anxious – more sweating – tighter curls – metamorphosis into a very red chia pet with clenched hands and sweat running down its back- desperate need to flee – yoga breathing, etc.
So when I sat down in my usual seat in the back row, next to my usual seat mate (and yes, I asked him in advance), and then arranged ‘my people’ around me as they walked in, I knew I was going to be okay. They don’t know what that did for me or how much I needed that something familiar. They will never know how much I appreciated the fact that even though they were freezing cold and eventually had to add layers of clothing, the fan was placed right behind me so that I could stay cool as a cucumber and avoid the chia pet look. It probably wouldn’t occur to them that the reason I was able to contribute to discussions and not completely launch myself into the above cycle when I was called on to introduce myself was that they were surrounding me. Later, when I had questions about new buzzwords, or lost login passwords, or forgotten photocopier codes, they were all met with smiles, generosity and patience. I am truly getting a soft landing in my return to work. They’re even granting me a week’s grace before they start making me blush at the staffroom lunch table. (Really, it’s sport to them.)
This morning, before I went into my classroom to start my portion of the day, a student launched herself at me with a hug on her way to the washroom, and squeezed me and told me she missed me SO much. So that was a nice way to take that walk to my room. When I peeked my head in to sneak some papers into my cubby, a few of the students caught me and whispers turned into exclamations, and they all sounded like happy ones. A lovely sneak peek. Later, in class, when my former students chimed in as I was explaining to some newer students how, in Madame Gouthro’s class, if you speak English you do 20 push-ups (I changed it to 10 this year, because I do them with them, and my arms are not exactly in push-up shape right now), I realized that, no matter how much I’ve gone through and how much I know I am changed, I’m familiar to them, and that – well, that reminds me of me. And that’s kind of a nice feeling.
What better way to celebrate the chemoversary than to feel familiar to myself, and to reconnect with someone who’s been estranged for so long?
It gets better. After work, which really is wiping me out this week, I wanted to do something special for me and the boys to celebrate the chemoversary. Checking my balance, I decided I should watch my money until I figure out how this new pay schedule is going to work. I sent the boys for a walk with the dog, and dug around in the freezer, finding lovely vacuum-packed burger patties a friend made for me last fall. And here I thought they were all gone. As I was getting excited about that, another friend who lives close-by texted to say my boys were visiting, that they had dropped by and were entertaining her boys, and would we like to join them for dinner? Burgers, I will savour you tomorrow. Tonight, it’s dinner out! We had found ourselves a place to celebrate.
I brought the centrepiece.
Tanya, looking forward to celebrating two years post-chemo.
Madame Gouthro, welcome back.