I am now 7 sessions away from finishing radiation and I think I can truly say that I am in the final stretch now. But I don't exactly feel that surge of energy that runners talk about when they start to make out the finish line. I am feeling quite the opposite really – utter exhaustion. I had been doing so much the last few weeks – enjoying life post chemo and feeling good. Gone were the sweat pants replaced with skinny jeans again, the blowdryer came back out to play and makeup become mandatory. I was feeling really good and people were noticing. Many people talked about me having this glow about me again and it made me feel positive because maybe it meant I was turning the corner because sick people just don't glow do they? But as the days passed and my skin grew redder and redder, the energy levels dropped. This past weekend I got home from a full day of activities and just couldn't move. My body forced me to realise it was running on empty when I woke up Monday with a pounding headache and couldn't stop throwing up. It wasn't the flu – it was my body's way of telling me it needed to stop and rest. I totally panicked though and started imagining horrible things while sitting alone in my living room trying to figure out who to call and how to get myself to the hospital for treatment. I sometimes imagine myself collapsing out of the blue and how I would get help. You could say there was some definite catastrophising going on. I burst into tears at the hospital that day and the technicians were quick to notice my messy hair, ashen face and sweat pants. I was not myself. You could say that again. I felt safer when my husband arrived...less alone, less vulnerable. We discussed things with them and decided that driving myself to and from the hospital every day was proving too much for me so alternate arrangements needed to be made. If I think back to the last time I did this, I did have a breakdown at the same exact point. That is how radiation works – it starts out slowly at first, unsuspectingly sucking little bits of energy here and there, but with every week the momentum increases until you feel on the brink of collapse. I have found myself here this week and I need to listen to my body. I have to be strict with myself - only doing the most important things and allow my body to rest every single day which is something I find so difficult to do. There is so much living to do out there and the thought of wasting it in my bed just feels so useless. But my body is resisting so much more this time and every morning I wake up feeling worse with literally every part of me aching down to my knuckles. I feel like a 90 year old woman most days. I know it isn't forever and I need to remind myself this is temporary. But god is this hard.
Yesterday I got distracted from my primary cancer and found myself at another hospital for my “other” cancer screening appointment. It is so difficult to worry about so many body parts that are seemingly ticking time bombs. One cancer is stressful enough! I had forgotten about my other threat the last 6 months with everything that had gone on but reality came racing back to me again. I always make jokes with my doctors and this serious German one was no exception. I think she was surprised by my upbeat mood considering the gory details that she had just read in my journal. But that is how I survive – it is my way of continuing on this long lonely road. I joked that I was running out of body parts to remove! Cancer patients are permitted to have fairly morbid senses of humour. I told her how I lucked out and ended up with the full cancer spa package as well – lucky me can they throw in a pedi as well? When we got down to business, we talked through things and she brought up the discussion of my ovaries again. “So what discussions have gone on regarding the removal of these?” she asked. Hmmm....simple question long answer. What I said next came straight from my heart, from that place where hope still lives. I told her that we had discussed this is exhaustive detail many times and that I had fought my oncologists to keep them in longer. I had the support of some of the specialists who believed there was no urgency for now and that making a young 33 year old woman menopausal potentially held greater risks. I explained that I was fully aware of the seriousness of my situation and my absolute first priority was to stay alive. However I still had dreams and in those dreams maybe just maybe one day I would get the chance to bring another child into this world. I almost feel naïve and silly saying this out loud considering I have been fighting for my life but like I said to the doctor – I need to believe in the future and in doing so I also need to hold onto my dreams because they are the things that keep me from falling into that deep dark hole. If I don't allow myself to dream then what the hell is the point of living? I just wasn't mentally prepared to close that door forever. She nodded and told me she understood where I was coming from. I think I shocked with my honesty but after being in this cancer game for so long, I realised that you just can't waste any more time beating around the bush. Honesty is everything.
I told her I needed time. Time to process things, time to make decisions and time to recover from all these traumas. I told her I was imposing a 4 month cancer break on myself when I finished radiation. I don't want to set foot in a doctors office until the New Year unless I absolutely have to. No scans, no bloodtests, no controls. I need to step out of this world for a little while or I am afraid I will drown under the pressure of it all. There is so much riding on that next scan for me. My life is depending on it so I need time to prepare for that moment when I will need to be the bravest and strongest I have ever been. And when was a holiday ever a bad idea? :)