Thursday, August 30, 2007

Cause there might be something in there

I just finished watching Kris Carr's "Crazy, Sexy Cancer" about her diagnosis and cancer journey. She interviewed several other women living with cancer including the playwright/actress Oni Faida Lampley who said something that made me zingy:

"Everybody has something you either get to accept or fight your whole life long. Now, what do you wanna do? Do you want to fight against what's really happening? Or sink into it somehow. Cause there might be something in there."

She's right on. Sink into the things that scare you. That's where you'll find your true wisdom. And you know what? Once you know something, have explored all its crevices, dark alleys and spacious ornate rooms, it can't scare you anymore. Cause fear is a product of not knowing. Intimacy is the cure for fear.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

3 doctors, no problems

In the last 2 days I have had three doctor's appointments. The first was with a new internist yesterday. He gave me the all clear - my general physical exam was just fine. This morning I met with my OB/Gyn for my yearly exam. She says everything appears to be okay. Then I hopped across the street to meet with my oncologist for my 3 month follow-up. Apparently all my blood work was fine and my CEA level (a test for cancer antibodies) was normal.

Normal? Fine? Okay?

I don't even know what to do with those results. I'm fine? But I had a horrible anxiety headache and felt like I was going to vomit all morning and I barely slept last night. Was that for naught? Am I really fine?

Well Hoo-Ya!

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Fingers Crossed

I'm going for my 3 month checkup tomorrow. I can't hardly believe it's been 3 months since I've finished chemo. In some ways it feel so long ago. I am back to doing most of my favorite activities -- I am cooking and baking again, I can easily walk the dog to the park and I have eyebrows. (Eyebrows is one of my favorite activities?) But in other ways I am reminded of it everyday. Numb fingers and toes, I have to wrap a rubber band around my hair four or five times instead of once or twice, I still forget things occasionally and have trouble remembering the most common words.

I wonder at what point I will feel convinced that I have kicked cancer to the curb. Will I wake up one day and say, "that's it cancer, you can't have any more of my time!"? Or will it be gradual, like realizing you are finally an adult (gee, I probably shouldn't shop in the juniors' section anymore.) In any event, I feel more at peace with it than I did 3 months ago. And, surprisingly, I have come out of this feeling like I am in control. The most crazy, unexpected thing in the world happens to me and I feel like I'm in control? Hmmm, there's a stumper.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Yet another reason why I should listen to my body

I've been trying to eat better since I was diagnosed. My cousin signed me up for an organic produce delivery service (Yum!) and I've been eating more poultry and fish and less red meat. And let me qualify this by saying that before all this I *loved* red meat. Would eat it everyday if I could. Burgers, steaks, lamb chops. Oh, I loved it all.

Since I stopped chemo I've noticed something weird. I don't want red meat anymore. The thought of it makes me feel a bit sick, actually. Which is really perplexing. Then, something equally as strange happened the other day; I got some fries, ate about 10 of them and then stopped. I just didn't want them. Who doesn't like fries?

Then, I read this today:

It basically says that if you eat a diet high in red meat, fat and sugar you have a 350% greater chance of colon cancer reccurrence.


I'm telling you folks, just pay attention to your body. It has more wisdom than you know.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I like Chinese food, but Chinese food doesn't always like me

I think Chinese food is great. You get your protein, your veggies and your rice. What more do you need? Thousands of years and millions (billions?) of Chinese people can't be wrong.

Sometimes, though, the Chinese food doesn't love me back. (Sigh.)

You see, gentle reader, I am viciously allergic to MSG. If I eat even a small amount, perhaps a picogram, I get a migraine lasting for four or five days. If you don't know anyone who gets migraines I'll just say that a friend of mine once said that the only pain she's felt that comes close to that of a migraine is childbirth.

So, I generally steer clear of Chinese food. But really, can one be expected to live without it completely? No, the answer is clearly no.

Here begins my quest: find good tasting Chinese food delivery with no MSG. And not just one whose menu says "No MSG" because I can tell you many stories of charlatans and hucksters who claim "No MSG" but have poisoned me with their evil brew, nonetheless.

Last night, I dared to dream the impossible dream -- I ordered Chinese delivery.

It came quickly, 20 minutes or so, and smelled wonderful. I spooned out some Hunan Chicken and rice and put 2 potstickers on a small side plate. Then, I opened my mouth and shoveled it in. "Once more into the breech!" I cried as I dipped a potsticker in sauce and took a gigantic bite.

Then, I waited. If I was going to get a migraine I would start to get the auras (little visual hallucinations) about 30-45 minutes after the meal.

30 min passed. 40 min. 1 hour. No headache! I have found a Chinese restaurant that loves me back!

Hooray for Hunan Cafe #2!

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Fear Nugget

Today I am home in bed, sidelined by a cough/sore throat/fatigue-like amorphous sickness. Nothing serious - just a bug of some sort. Mildly annoying as I was supposed to take an overnight trip to the coast with a friend, but harmless overall.

I had been lying in bed with my cat, Gatsby, sleeping on my lap, reading one of those thrillers that cater to the ego of the intellectual but are really just high falutin' airplane books, when I felt a familiar tightening in my chest, somewhere just below my diaphragm. "Fear" I thought, "that's a feeling of fear." I stopped reading so I could pay attention to what my body was telling me. At first I assumed that the fear was a product of being alone in my house - I have a bit of a phobia of someone breaking into my home - but that didn't seem right. So I closed my eyes and opened my heart to what I was feeling. The fear surged and I understood.

Fear of sickness. My body was sounding the alarm.

Who knows what triggered it - my immune response, the pain of my sore throat, the act of lying in my bed all day reading - but my body knew. And it knew to be scared. As soon as I'd made this realization, the fear subsided and I welled up with tears. Grieving for the trauma that I've had to endure for the last year. Grieving for the fact that a slight cold set off the panic response. Grieving for the loss of naiveté of just having a little bug that will pass in a day or two.

All in all I think I'm making forward progress with my psychological and physical recovery. I've (mostly) passed through a period of intense depression that followed the chemo, I've had some very encouraging test results from my MRI and I've started exercising again. But then there are moments like this. Moments when the past infects the present, defense mechanisms sound the alarm and for a brief minute I am living the cancer again.

It reminds me of the Godfather, "Just when I thought I was out they pull me back in."

Or, as Quint says, "Bad fish! Not like going down to the pond and chasing bluegills and tommycod. This shark, swallow ya whole. Little shakin', little tenderizin', down you go."

Okay, I know... life cannot be summarized by movie quotes. But I still say Camus' got nothin' on "Jaws."

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Dream a Little Dream

Last night I was lying awake at about 3am trying to will myself to sleep and letting my mind wander. I thought about my eggs in my one remaining ovary and the fact that, once released, they have nowhere to go now. No fallopian tube, no endometrium. I was struck by an image of my egg detaching from my ovary and slowly floating away into the extracellular space.

Whoop, bang! I suddenly had a very vivid memory of a dream I'd had during chemo.

I am an astronaut on a space walk outside my ship. I am performing some routine task when I get detached from the ship and gently pushed away. I watch as the space between myself and the ship increases very slowly. There is nothing I can do. Once I start floating away from the spaceship there is no way to "swim" back due to the absence or air pressure and there is no friction to slow down my motion. I panic. I know I'm going to die. I watch as the ship gets smaller and smaller until I am not sure if I can make it out at all and then it is gone. I think about what will happen to me and conclude that I will die of dehydration in a few days. (In the light of day I realize that I would probably suffocate or freeze first, but in the dream it's dehydration.) I look up at the stars and they are beautiful. Nothing but stars everywhere. No horizon, no spaceship, just points of light surrounding me. I realize that I have this amazing opportunity to just float among the stars for a few days, with nothing to do but soak in the sight of them. Since I'm going to die, I can just let go of everything else except the beauty of my starshow. And so I let go. The panic subsides. I am truly living in the moment for the first time ever. I have no future to worry about and no way to save myself. I am free to just gaze out for as long as I have left and look at this sight that most humans are not lucky enough to see.