(originally posted on CaringBridge on 1/28/13)
Birds flyin’ high you know how I feel . . . Sun in the sky you know how I feel . . . Breeze driftin’ by you know how I feel—It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me, and I’m feeling good.
~ Nina Simone
Feeling Good is one of those cool songs that when you’re feeling really bad, it’s got medicinal properties to pick you up and when you’re feeling really good, it lifts you up higher. Nina Simone always executes that powerful cry for freedom in her music that just shouts . . . Whatever this world throws at me I am still blessed and refreshed because this world can’t take away my inner freedom.
This week marks week 4 of chemotherapy . . . only 16 more weeks to go. There was actually a faint, initial excitement typing the word only until I looked at it a second time . . . then suddenly my mental energy was completely focused on the word – more. The focus shifted to: “What? 16 MORE weeks to go? Seriously?” In truth, this is the easy part of the journey, so I will stick with my optimistic sing-songy attitude “YAY, only 16 more weeks of chemo!” Actually, let’s scratch sing-songy and go with raspy-jazzy-Nina-Simoney. I’m Feeling GOOD.
In terms of side effects—overall, my body has done very well so far. I have heard horror stories and read of people who really fight a brutal battle with the nasty side effects of these life-saving poisons. Therefore, I try not to focus too much on my trivial physical “ailments”— as I’m aware it could be so much worse. In short, I have had moments of extreme fatigue and many more moments of abdominal pain and malaise, but no signs (yet) of neuropathy in my fingers and toes which I’ve been instructed to “expect”—a numbness and tingling that often makes certain tasks more difficult. As for my hair situation, my scalp has become very tender, sort of like that feeling I used to get as a little girl when wearing my hair in a ponytail all day—once that elastic came out at the end of the day, it was sore and tender to the touch. This sensation, so I’ve been told, is the forboding of hair on its way out. It has been gradually thinning a bit . . . mostly showing up in the shower, but nothing unmanageable or overtly noticeable. I’ll know when it’s time to shave the head, and will make no bones about embracing the buzzer when the moment does present itself.
Another newer, more pronounced side effect I’ve had going on . . . joint pain. I know people who struggle and suffer with debilitating forms of joint pain, including Fibromyalgia and rheumatoid arthritis. My heart breaks for those living with thisdaily and I truly sympathize—what must be torturous day in and day out. Now I’m not suddenly claiming to be an expert in pain by any means, but feel there is a tiny part of me that can trade my sympathy for literal empathy. Though I have not walked a mile in the shoes of people in chronic pain, this past week I’ve experienced a noticeable, constant sense of joint pain. One night, mid-sleep, it came out of nowhere and almost felt like there was a little sledgehammer banging by bones from my shoulders down to my feet—a little demolition taking place throughout my body. The thought of people living with this constantly, makes my life look like a walk in the park on a perfect day.
Saturday marked exactly one month since my official diagnosis. If I sit on that thought too long, recalling that day . . . it’s quite possible that the neuropathy I spoke of may actually be starting in my brain—a numbing sensation that still grazes that fine line between fiction and reality. Is this all just a dream? Unfortunately the answer would be a flat out: No. But fortunately, I know my summer’s on its way. John Steinbeck wrote it perfectly in his book, Travels with Charley: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.”
In the meantime, during my cold days of winter, I can say like the Psalmist, David who trusted God beyond anything else . . .
Your righteousness, God, reaches to the heavens, you who have done great things. Who is like you, God? Though you have made me see troubles, many and bitter, you will restore my life again; from the depths of the earth you will again bring me up. (Psalm 71:19-20)