51. When the pinkening goes "Red Wedding"...or the REAL meaning of "cumulative effects"
ONE More Day!!
As I went in to meet with DR W on Tuesday, she smiled and reminded me, “ just three more sessions.” It had been a long and somewhat tedious three and a half weeks, frankly. But up until the end of session fifteen, the advice I had been given was mostly true.
Chemo is harder.
Radiation mostly just makes you feel tired.
You may get a “little” pink, kinda like a light sunburn.
But it’s always the big “reveal,” like the one that befell the King of the North, that really kicks you in the teeth.
Sure, I was feeling physically better than chemo, but emotionally? It was a full on internal assault.
As opposed to feeling like crap, or semi-crap, (crap-ish?) and just working through it, radiation brought with it a bunch of surprising hurdles.
I unequivocally have not been getting enough actual rest, because it hurts to sleep. Why?
My right breast - or the space where my right breast once was and will be again - has become gradually more and more sensitive. What started as light “sunburn” has literally lit up like a reindeer’s nose.
There are also the “hot flashes”, that are part of the “early menopause” chemo has “gifted” me. Waking up a ball of sweat, then taking the AC down so low there is not enough blankets to keep my Manitoban husband warm, might help my symptoms is not necessarily the formula for a happy marriage.
And then there’s the seemingly arbitrary joint issues. Throughout chemo, I was able to teach my classes pretty well, even though there were a couple of days I realized I should have called out. Post chemo, and into radiation, the inflammation has increased exponentially. The joint pain has increased in a way that has me scheduled for a bone scan to determine if indeed I have “chemo induced arthritis.” (SURPRISE, that’s a thing!)
Seriously, I haven’t posted earlier because for a good five days my thumb and fingers ached too much to type.
So in addition to all of that, I have kinda just been a full on bitch. The zen I managed to find in the midst of chemo and its blah’s, has been replaced with anxiety and irritable outbursts over things that shouldn’t be sweated. A mini tidal-wave of negative thoughts and self doubt that I mistakenly thought had been excised with the chemical obliteration of my system, has been swinging its proverbial swords at my psyche.
Those tapes you run in your mind? Those self judgy thoughts? All that noise that tells you how you are failing? When you are tired, but perhaps don’t realize how tired you are, they get louder and louder and louder.
And if you let them, those thoughts, those judgements, all those doubts, will multiply and drown you don’t keep them in check. You need to be brave enough to confront them head on.
Radiation may have not been a giant physical battle, but it has been the part of this war that has made me wrestle with outmoded self-talk regarding my identity, my body image, and my self-worth .
Because instead of reveling in the way my fitness has aided in tolerating all of this cancer treatment nonsense, those thoughts tell myself how “fat” I am getting because I am one of the people who has ended up holding weight rather than losing it. ( FYI, chemo doesn’t necessarily = skinny , no matter what the title of the blog may be.)
My husband has been kind enough to remind me that my body is a hormone wasteland and until all of this is over, there is no way to know what my “new normal” will be. And as thoughts as poison as the chemo itself wash through my brain, I am at very least conscious of their arrival.
I’m leaning into them, trying to douse them with a light as bright as the radiation field that’s been blasting my body for these past few weeks.
Because much like those cancer cells, they have no place here anymore .
And I will slay every last one of them, a merciless slaughter, like my very own “Red Wedding.” No, it’s not and won’t be pretty. But this is war, people. And you fight a war on every front you can.