It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted, and I had intended to write a longer, more purposeful article today… but just couldn’t. Sorry everyone.
I finished the worst round of chemo of my life about three weeks ago (think: hospitalized for neutropenic fevers, constant, unremitting fatigue and pain, walking around with no immune system for weeks, mouth sores so painful and crippling I couldn’t eat…
Anyway, I have recovered significantly since then, but unfortunately have not recovered enough to start my next chemo round. On top of everything else, I caught some virus a few weeks ago when I was visiting friends in LA, started spiking fevers up to 103, and had to cut the trip short and fly home early. Since then my white blood cell count (the immune system cells that fight infection) has been abnormally low, making it unsafe to start my next round of chemo.
It’s nice to have a break, but not so nice knowing that every week I have off now will be an extra week this shitty year-long process will be drawn out. I had though originally I would be done with chemo in late October in time for my birthday. Now I’d be glad just to finish before it’s 2015.
It’s been a long year—and, at the same time, it feels like just yesterday I showed up to the ER only to have my whole world collapse around me in the 48 hours that followed (Congrats, buddy, you have stage IV cancer!). My chemotherapy protocol is unusually long, and I’m starting to hear of people diagnosed with cancer after I was who are now done with treatment.
“What a second…” I wonder. “What about me? When will I be done?”
I want it to be over so badly. I am so tired. It is not me who shows up for appointments, who chit chats with the nurses, who dutifully double-checks the plan to make sure I’m getting the right drugs—it is my shell. My shell is there to keep going when the ‘me’ inside is lost.
I had a session with a wonderful massage therapist today (it was on the list of “things Elana really wants to do but does not have the energy to set up”). She was skilled, and very intuitive, and explained how unaddressed emotional distress can manifest as physical pain in the body.
I have had severe chronic pain since starting chemotherapy, and as she spoke I couldn’t help but hear the part of me that I push down below because it’s too much for me to deal with when I’m sick and tired and just need to make it to my goddamn 3pm appointment on time.
I haven’t listened to this part of me in a while. She says that she’s so, so sad and she needs to grieve. She is angry other people have “easier” cancers than she does, or don’t have cancer at all. She still can’t believe this is happening to her, and even though it’s been eight months, every day is like a new sucker punch to the gut. “What?” she cries out. “I have cancer? Are you serious?”
The other day this Elana started crying as she remembered being told when she was first diagnosed that she would never have children, and would go into menopause shortly after treatment started. She cried as if she were being told for the first time.
I have sixteen more weeks of chemotherapy before I’m done with the intensive phase and can move on to maintenance. Once I’ve recovered, hopefully a few months after that, I will be able to go back to the life I left. I will move back to Santa Monica, I will go back to work, I will hang out with my friends (and we sure won’t talk about cancer), I will date, I will move on with my life.
But there’s still the question of my other voice, who I ignore because her words remind of moments that are too painful to think about. How does she fit it? When will she have her day?