Let me embrace thee, sour adversity, for wise men say it is the wisest course.
~ William Shakespeare
“Easy-Peasy-Lemon-Squeezy” is a tune each of my three boys has declared on more occasions than I can count. The expression was mastered by the boys in Kindergarten, and has since become a jingle of choice, my little mantra in times of difficulty. What I never realized, however, was the amazing truth behind the cutesy rhyme—in its very literal sense. Lemons are truly an easy solution to a multitude of problems.
Many people have asked where I’ve been these days. The normal “zest” I try to tap into every day in some ways turned sour this past month or so. I think I’ve been in survival mode since Christmas, and as deep fatigue and malaise set in with the last phase of chemo, I guess the reality of the “big C” has really weighed on my mind much heavier. I have found it difficult to find inspiration in the things around me that usually bring clarity and joy to my daily life. Instead, I’ve been “puckering” up to the sour circumstances of this thing called cancer and all the un-pleasantries that come with it.
Chemotherapy is now done. Finito.
The last few visits to Dana-Farber had me physically ill before arrival. I guess you’d call it a psychosomatic response to the dreaded poison that was about to make its way into my veins. Ironically, the last infusion of AC was bittersweet—a real sense of relief that chemo was over coupled with the real fear that chemo is over …. surgery looming on the horizon. There were tears, hugs, well-wishes and love poured out on me and my heart ached a bit knowing that the very poison I dreaded every week , the very thing that made me so sick and tired was no longer going to be beating me up to make me well. It sounds sort of warped, but there was a sense of trauma that accompanied me out the door that day.
Lemons. A while back, my sister, Michelle lured me into a lemon love-fest, leading me on an exploration of this citrus gem and all the wonderful medicinal properties it delivers. I won’t lie, as a woman, I love learning about hidden beauty secrets that…well, help me look and feel 20 again. Who doesn’t? So learning that this citrus fruit full of Vitamin C is also a great source of protection from free radicals, y’know those pesky little things that, theoretically speaking—“age” us … led me to begin my love affair with the savant of the citrus family—limones.
Cancer treatment does a number on your body. For many, that number is called something like whopper-doozie or as I like to call it: “le destructeur” to the enth degree. Chemo is cumulative. In short, different symptoms present at different times, many worsening as you go. Completing 20 weeks of chemo—my “le destructeur” wreaked havoc on a few different areas of my body, some worse than others.
First up—Anemia. This past month, my red blood cells were at a relatively speaking all-time low. For me that equated to difficulty walking up a flight of stairs without looking like that annoyingly under-exercised person gasping for air at the top of mere 10 steps (no judgment here). Yup. I was that chick. Only as I was gasping for air, chest pain and often severe headaches accompanied it. It was frustrating. I’m usually the one racing up six flights of stairs in 4 inch stilettos, with a resting pulse rate at the finish line. Seriously—BEYOND frustrating. On the bright side: I could walk up a flight of stairs. After all, some struggling with severe anemia can barely get out of bed because they’re just too exhausted to even put their feet on the floor. Little by little, I am gaining back strength and stamina, but adding the bitter-tasting, yet miraculous power of lemon juice has the added benefit of aiding the body to produce red blood cells, thus speeding along the process.
The beauty of this little yellow fruit knows no bounds as it also helps ease anxiety. Lemon balm has a calming effect and therefore may be able to help remove fatigue and exhaustion, anxiety, nervousness, and tension—pretty much the very things that sour my spirit. I’m not saying Valium can be completely tossed to the curb, but hey…I’ll pucker up. Ironically, I also earned that though I’ve been in a state of brain fog from the chemo, apparently inhaling lemon oil helps to increase concentration and alertness. (I wish I had remembered this fact during all of my forgetful chemo-brained moments … that still plague me).
In many ways my lemon in life has been the source of much sweetness. Cancer’s sour taste has become the old adage: “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” My lemonade has been tasted in the sweetness of new relationships and the beauty that comes with having people to love and be loved by….so many bringing light and joy to my life.
Last Wednesday I had an MRI to see how the cancer responded to the chemo. I won’t learn results until this Thursday, but ultimately know the full picture won’t be revealed until I’m opened up. My prayer is that chemo did its thing … which will help guide the surgeon to a goal of a better outcome. My surgery date has been set: June 14. I felt a pit in my stomach when I got the call confirming the date… but I know it’s time. The date however does bring special significance—Logan’s birthday (also Flag Day). I was further inspired by my friend and colleague, Sarah—her Grandmother also sharing that birthday, a precious soul who lived to be 101.
Nothing in life is a coincidence. His timing is perfect.
My son, Logan recently placed a scripture on my bathroom mirror. His note brought tears to my eyes as he wrote: Mom, Isaiah 43:1-4 says it perfect— “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name; you are Mine!”
Thank God, I am His.
Little by little, I’m shaking off my sour to make room for the sweetness and zest that comes from indulging in the lemon that has been sent my way for a season … for a reason … for a greater purpose than I may not be able to grasp just yet. Though I feel changed, I know that my Father has not changed and will forever be in the business of unfolding His plan and purpose for my life. That fact alone brings me peace that passes all understanding.
All my love . . . Nicole
(originally written on my CaringBridge page on 1/19/13)
If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant. ~Anne Bradstreet
Thursday marked my second treatment at Dana-Farber. The late afternoon infusions work out well because not only can I work most of the day, the entire atmosphere at DFCI is quiet & relaxed.
I was blessed to have my mom come with me this week, and my prayer beforehand was that everything would be seamless—from driving in, parking, to overall ease of the treatment process. I really needed her there with me early on this journey, so her mind could eliminate any scary, pre-conceived notions that often come with the idea of chemotherapy. It was just as I had hoped for . . . drama-free. Actually, we even had 10 minutes to spare upon arrival, so we popped into the boutique where my wig was waiting to be picked up. They brought us out back and I tried it on for her . . . she was amazed at how natural it looked—exactly like my hair, fresh out of the salon. I laughed at the idea that soon, I could eliminate “bad hair days” for a while from my life. Glass half full thought of the day.
My anxiety level was considerably reduced this week before treatment because I knew what to expect, confident in knowing how my body handled it last time—the likelihood lessoned of an anaphylactic response this round. My nurse heated my arm in advance, helping to ease the pre-treatment Benadryl pain. He will also be gradually decreasing the amount each week, as I prove to tolerate the drug more and more. Fighting the grogginess from Benadryl and the high from the steroids makes for a “unique” slumber experience (or there a lack of).
Arriving home late on a school night, I was unable to spend time with the boys. Instead, waiting for my arrival was my other boy, my “angel nurse dog,” Miles who anxiously greeted me with kisses and love.
Miles’, our German Shepherd is now referred to as my angelic nurse dog, because he’s glued to my side whenever I’m home, checking on me all through the night, and if tears are ever present on my face, he licks them away. He’s got a level of intelligence and heart revealed in those beautiful eyes that blows my mind. God knew in advance, how much I needed his companionship during this time . . . and I’m blessed to have a furry prince to add to the “court”.
Though I felt depleted of all energy, Miles carried on a “Chewbacca” conversation with me for 20 minutes, tilting his head back and forth, as I snuggled in a blanket watching him. I knew he was eager for some Miles/mommy time that we relish each day—usually consisting of lots of outdoor exercise and play, but sadly it was not physically possible for me. I know he’s “just a dog,” but he honestly seems to get it, and he came over to me, gently motioning his head toward the dining room, nudging me along. I got up and followed him.
There, we did laps around the dining room table, me following his lead. It was honestly hilarious—a YouTube moment to behold for sure. He started us off walking. Next, a slow jog …then into a sprint. He’d look back at me periodically, making sure I was keeping up. We must have done 150 laps before we were done. It was amazingly therapeutic.
Though my steep climb just begins on this uphill venture, I am blessed beyond words for the “cream” that has risen to the top of my relationships. I am so grateful for the AMAZING people in my life who have gone above and beyond to support me, love me and encourage me. The generosity of each of you is overwhelming . . . truly overwhelming. You are loved beyond words.