Thursday, March 10, 2011
Chemo Eve - Again
I have officially survived my first week of Taxol. It feels strange to be going back for more already, strange to notice that there are eleven weeks left of this. Even more strange to notice that nine weeks — five of sixteen treatments — are done. It's dawning on me, on some new visceral level, that this will indeed end.
This morning I swam with my usual buddies, one of whom is into her second week of radiation. (No chemo for her, luckily.) She's tired, a little sore, but still setting a challenging pace in the water.
I had lunch this afternoon with a woman I've known since the fifth grade. We have seen each other a mere handful of times since high school graduation — reunions, a wedding... Though I'd always liked her, we'd never been particularly close. We're sisters now. "Could you have ever guessed we'd find ourselves here?" I asked her. We both shook our heads. Of course not.
Her breast cancer is more advanced than mine, her treatments are not finite. Rather, the hope is that she can stay on them for a long time, that they continue to benefit her, keeping her cancer at bay. She has put her beloved teaching career on hold.
While I cling to the idea of light at the end of this tunnel, for her, the hope is that the tunnel continues a good long while. She is matter of fact about it. She has young children. She wants to live.
Another friend, younger than me, has been fighting breast cancer on and off for years. She is a brilliant mathematician with an infectious grin. Like my former classmate, she has also left teaching for long-term disability. Cancer is in her spinal column now, in the marrow, pushing through and fracturing her bones.
It upsets me that so many fine women of my generation are facing this disease. We have so much to offer our communities, our families, the world. It is awful that so much beautiful liveliness is diverted into such a pointless black hole. There are so many other things we'd like to do. It's not fair.
It's been a rough week. Pumped up on steroids, I had an energetic Saturday. But for most of the week that followed, I've had a headache, low energy, and searingly dry eyes.
Even in the best of times, I often resist sleep, conjuring one more thing to do, to read, to watch, to write, anything but succumbing to the end of a day. On the surface it seems that sleep is boring, but underneath that, I know, when I find myself thinking this way, there are emotions I'm struggling to avoid. Eventually, after days or even weeks of this, sleep is all I can think of and I finally give up, nap or go to bed early, and face the void. A few tears into my pillow and I can finally sleep well again.
Knowing this is my pattern, and that I was once again engaging in it, last night I turned off the light earlier than usual and went bravely and alertly into that dark place. And found myself remembering a rough patch of childhood sleeplessness when I was enraged with my Dad. I felt surprised but also detached from those old feelings, only remembering how awful it had been to be consumed by them, to feel so powerless and overcome. And then I slipped off into a good long sleep.
The mind is a mysterious thing.