Highs and Lows

On Tuesday night, I had a bit of a breakdown.  After a particularly nasty moment of becoming violently and physically sick after dinner, I sat on the floor with my head in my hands and cried/laughed.  It was a particularly low moment; one where I wondered what I had done to deserve cancer.  They say Karma can be a cruel and indifferent bitch, but when you are trapped in a dark, giant pit looking out into the sun you really understand what they mean.  Even with support, it can be a lonely place; no one truly understands what you are going through.  In fact, each cancer survivor and fighter seems to have a slightly different experience.  There are places where treatments and side effects overlap, but for the most part cancer is a disease you go through alone even in a crowd.  So for a little while, I let myself wallow, let the pain and suffering wash over me.  Tired and emotionally drained, I remember thinking that I don’t want to die.  I don’t wan to suffer anymore, either.  What I needed was my life back from cancer. Whenever there has been some semblance of normalcy, it has been taken away by an extraordinarily bad day.  It has been emotionally and physically draining; I needed a sign.

Two days later, a woman that was visiting our work (Cindy) said something that caught me off guard.  She asked when I had been diagnosed and I told her the gritty details.  I have been open and honest with everyone; cancer isn’t a disease I feel people should be embarrassed or shy about.  Cindy was surprised that my diagnosis had only been last month; she commented that my spirits seemed high and I looked really good.  I replied, “Cancer has taken my hobbies from me, stripped me of my soccer team and a job I love and pretty much messed with my body.  I decided it couldn’t have my personality.  That was mine.”  The answer rolled off my tongue without even a thought.  It was the truth: cancer had been stripping my life away one piece at a time but it hadn’t taken away me.  As long as I continued to be me, I was winning!  Cindy’s response: become a motivational speaker.  Apparently listening to me made her feel like she should stop letting little things bother her.  If I could stay optimistic through cancer, she shouldn’t sweat the small stuff.

I don’t feel like I’m some sort of huge motivational force.  I’m just a person doing the best she can to get through a really rough time.  It’s ironic that for someone like me, who loves her birthday because it’s a day everyone has to pay attention to her, I really hate the attention that comes with being sick.  I’m the person that loves to do for others.  When friends need something, I jump to do it no matter what the personal cost to me might be.  I hate letting people down and it eats at me when I do.  This time, I can’t be the person that rescues, I need rescuing.  I need the help and it’s frustrating.

As for the physical me, since Dr. Brooks decreased my dose I haven’t felt near as ill as before.  I’ve tolerated food better, maintained my weight (to the delight of medical staff and disappointment of me) and had more energy.  Chemo day is pretty much a standard day of the week now. When I don’t have it, I’m able to delude myself into thinking I’m fine, especially if I don’t feel too ill.  This past Friday, I didn’t get to have Carla as my nurse and the only thing I can say for the nurse I did have is…wow.  I was both afraid of getting an infection (who touches shoes and then a port-a-cath site?!) and that I wouldn’t get my chemo (she pretty much ignored me most of the time I was there.)  If Tawnya hadn’t been with me and encouraged me to finally speak up, I might still be waiting for my chemo dose.

To finish on a slightly higher note, I am going to share this: my hair is falling out –ok, perhaps that isn’t the higher note.  Not huge uneven chunks, but more than the regular amount of hair that should fall out daily.  It was extremely disheartening.  I had considered cutting my hair before now, just in case it started falling out.  The only reason I hesitated was my hair: I loved it.  It was long and curly, very girly.  Well, not anymore.  Saturday, with Malika’s blessing, I went and had my hair cut, styled and…colored.  Introducing: new Janine…


5 thoughts on “Highs and Lows

  1. 9 month cancer survivor. Looking forward to one year cancer free soon. God bless, Keep the faith and be encouraged.

  2. River says:

    Your “new hair” is awesome, but it’s only a part of who you are. Your determination will be the driving force – you can tell it from this post.

    Everyone is entitled to a day where they feel like “the big deep hole” is all there is. That’s natural and quite human. Keep being yourself and you will be able to handle at least 98% of what’s tossed in your path. And the othe 2%? It’s ok to NOT handle some things.

  3. Beth says:

    You look beautiful!! And you are a really wonderful writer.

    Thank you, thank you for taking the time and effort to give an honest, positive, hopeful picture of something so scary and unknown.

    Thank you for reminding me when you said “God has this.” Maybe all you can do right now is buckle up, drink from your sippy cup, notice the scenery when you can, (you are doing a beautiful job) and hang on with all your strength and power.

    I have a confession to make. When I heard about your cancer diagnosis, I started to pray for you each day. And then I’d worry. This went on for a while, until one day I woke up and remembered … the shirt.

    You know the one. You wore it at reunion, and it has a fairy on the front. (Tinkerbell? Or maybe a princess.) I thought: “Aha! She has fairy power!” Instead of worrying, I can imagine all the powers of fairies, Disney princesses, and various mythical creatures doing battle against the cancer and winging you safely to the other side. So I am. I hope that is okay.

    Much love to you and Milo.

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