The Dark Valley

Day 5, second round of chemo is the last day I take 100 mg of Prednisone. The same Prednisone that gave me so much energy in Chemo round 1, has not helped me one bit this week. The only thing it has done for me is to keep me a little anxious and awake day and night. I don’t really feel tired, but I know my body needs rest and I would love to get even a couple of hours of uninterrupted sleep. Television seems to just get on my nerves; I’ve never been one to watch much TV. Last chemo round, I used the paint by number apps on my ipad a lot, painting pretty pictures made me happy, gave me something to do, and took my mind of whatever issue I was having. But, this time around, I can’t seem to focus on anything, everything annoys me, and I can’t concentrate on anything or even have the desire to do anything. I’m mad because I feel bad! I know that is silly, but I’m mad at myself. I thought I would do better, be stronger, which makes me want to just wail at this cancer, “Why did you choose me?” If only we knew the answer to that million dollar question. Why does cancer begin to grow inside the human body? So many people I know who have never smoked a day in their life have lung cancer. How unfair is that! And, the worse part is that cancer is so sneaky. It can hide in the body, growing undetected for years without any symptoms. We hear stories, seemingly every day, about people we know or celebrities who get diagnosed with stage 4 cancer with only weeks or months to live. It’s so disturbing, but, it’s becoming a common occurrence of 21st century life in this world.

I thought I was ready for the weekend “crash” that comes after stopping the Prednisone, but, I wasn’t ready for how low I crashed. The abrupt cessation of the steroids leaves me feeling very tired, a little down, and then I begin to feel the pain from the Neulasta. Luckily, my best friend came over to keep me company and give me something to do which helped me to stay positive. The weather was predicted to be cooler for the weekend, so I got up early to make a pot of veggie soup for our lunch. There is nothing like soup on a cold day, and it was cold. By the time my friend arrived, I was so excited. Being confined to the house most of the time is a challenge for me because I am a people person – I need people! I couldn’t stop smiling the entire time she was here. We had lunch together – she brought shrimp and avocado to add to our soup for lunch. We took the dogs for a walk, played a little scrabble, and went to church together. It was an awesome day. I did have to take my pain meds after lunch because the bone pain had started to move all around my body and intensify to beyond what I could bear. But, I didn’t really register how bad the pain was until my friend left. Just the presence of someone you know and love has the ability to make pain seem lighter and life seem brighter. Her visit was just what I needed and something to reminisce about when I begin to get the blues. My mother used to advise me on how to be a friend and how to choose my friends, she always told me that “a friend in need is a friend indeed.” I’ve learned how blessed I am to have so many true friends who are rallying around me in my need, and how important these friends are to my health and well-being.

Jesus, taught this same lesson to his disciples at the last supper when He told them, “I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (John 13:34-35). Jesus knew how much the disciples would have to rely upon one another and gain strength from one another after He was gone from them. Jesus showed us how to love in a supernatural way. He was the truest of friends, loving everyone who crossed his path; touching the unclean, the untouchables, the afflicted, the sinners, the gentiles, even those who persecuted and tortured him. He treated them with kindness and mercy, loving them all, unconditionally. I pray that I will remember the importance of being a true friend to everyone who crosses my path in this life, even those people who I am loathe to touch.

The next two days was a blur of pain, constipation, and stomach upset. Nothing seemed to help any of my symptoms. By Tuesday, I had to message the doctors office and they doubled the pain meds. As usual, I was very resistant to them doing that. But, I had no choice, the pain had gotten unbearable and debilitating. The reason I don’t like pain meds is that they constipate you and they make you tired and sleepy. But, they do get rid of the pain which helps immensely in my attitude, in my ability to move around and take walks with my dogs, and in being able to get things done around the house when the sleepiness wears off. I’m still working on the constipation and what meds work and how much to take in order to fix that problem. I feel certain I’ll figure it out sooner or later. Like the doctor told me, “its a learning experience.” Like I’ve said before, I’m a stubborn person and I don’t like to admit when I need help – which is a pride thing I suppose. Humility is definitely something I need to pray about and work on. Thinking about humility, for some reason it reminded me of this funny country song by Mac Davis, “O Lord, It’s Hard to be Humble.” Music always filled our house when I was young, so nearly everything reminds me of a song I remember. You might get a laugh out of this one.

On day 12, after making the decision that the benefits of stopping the pain meds would outweigh the side effects they caused (it had begun to diminish considerably) I stopped all pain meds. So, I had a little pain for three days, but not too bad. Today is day 15, and I am truly exhausted in every way: physically, mentally, and spiritually. I’m sure you’ve noticed; I haven’t even had the energy to post on this blog. One night I wrote a post by the hardest and then erased it by mistake before I posted it. After that fiasco, I pretty much decided to wait until I was feeling better and had my mind on straight before I tried posting again.

This second round has brought me to my knees, literally. Prayer has been my only solace most days, my only source of strength that gives me the courage to endure when I want to give in to the despondency that comes with being sick and isolated. I never knew there were so many levels and different ways of feeling rotten. Each day is a new experience of discovering what hurts today, how much does it hurt, and can I lessen the pain in a way that won’t cause me even more aggravating issues. I am learning to weigh what level of nausea and pain I”m willing to put up with against taking meds that often compound the issues. It’s as if I’m in a strategic war between my physical self, my mental self, and my spiritual self. I’m in a constant balancing act between the three, trying to keep it together in a way that is beneficial to all. THAT is the exhausting part.

I’ve had three okay days during this cycle so far, one of them being the day my friend came over. The other one, was a day I spent spreading mud and planting a few shrubs on a hillside with my husband. God only knows where I got the strength to spread 6 tractor buckets of mud, but I did it, and it made me SO happy while I was working. Yes, I even enjoyed spreading the mud with the mud rake! Okay, so I’m weird, but I like mud and getting my hands dirty in the rich soil that brings bountiful life to my gardens. There is a sense of accomplishment in the hard work of readying and digging a garden spot; while, the actual planting, gives me a sense of nurturing and creating beauty where there was none before.

The third day was when my son came over and helped me plant two lemon trees, 2 satsuma trees, an avocado tree, and a blueberry bush. Well, actually, he did the digging and planting as I wasn’t feeling all too swift that day. But, I did manage to rake up some pine needles for the mulch and water what he planted. My son and I both enjoy gardening and working outdoors. He is always ready to lend a hand and has been such a huge help and support for me and my husband since my diagnosis. There is nothing like being with people who love you, even if it’s just watching them dig a hole, that gives you a sense of peace and is so comforting. Their presence keeps you focused on why you continue to fight the good fight each and every day.

Today has been a good day, and I think every day until Chemo will get better. I look forward to feeling better this week. I’ve got pallets of flowers outside my back door that are patiently waiting for me to plant them. This is the week those babies are going to be set free to grow and prosper! This is the week that I will feel like me. The week I will be able to go out in the garden where my God and I speak so intimately to one another, where he heals my soul and gives me everything I need for the journey. This is the week where I feel good enough to meet with my Directees and really listen to them with all of my mind and heart as the Holy Spirit guides our conversations. This is the week where I will reflect on the lessons I’ve learned in the past few weeks, and how I can better prepare for what will inevitably happen during Chemo round 3.

I am thankful for the lessons I’m learning, even though they require all my strength, and especially, because they require a deepening faith. The reading of today, March 25th, in the book by Sarah Young “Jesus Calling” points out that “Gratitude enables you to see the light of My presence shining on all your circumstances.” Sometimes, it is difficult to remain in that attitude of gratitude, but when we begin to list our blessings, it brings light to even the darkest of days.

8 thoughts on “The Dark Valley

  1. Dear Jeanne,

    Thanks for this honest and touching sharing of your life with chemo. You do touch my soul as I remember my walk with my cousin during her lung cancer journey. I don’t think any of us can really know how this feels but you have given a close glimpse of your pain and anxiety trying to keep it balanced and together. Thank you for being so real with us and helping us feel and know what really goes on. The restlessness and anxiety are the hardest to have to endure. Thank goodness for your husband and son who helped you get all your plantings done and for your cherished friend. That is a good feeling of accomplishment. I send my prayers, love and some sacrifices that I offer for you. Of by the way, is your nickname Zoe or is that your given name?

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    1. Diane, I also walked with my cousin when she went through her journey and died of lung cancer. I never really understood what she went through till now. I think this journey will help me to walk with others with debilitating illnesses in my ministry.
      Zoey is just my online name – after the first cat I ever had, who was oh, so sweet.

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  2. Jeanne, you are such a strong person, even though the toughest of times with the debilatating pain that you are experiencing. Don’t think otherwise. I’ve never had someone describe their journey with chemo in such detail and I’m so sorry you have to deal with it. Faith in God will see you through this. My prayers are with you.🙏😘❤️

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  3. I am trying this still another time. I’m not sure if it will work. My other tries failed. I’ve felt technically challenged. Please let me know if you get this Jeanne. I have been praying very hard for you each and every day. Love you much. Roberta

    Liked by 1 person

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