The end of chemo is not the end, it’s just the beginning of the next phase of your cancer diagnosis. While I was going through chemo, I was too sick to even think very much about what came next. When I did think about it, I would put it out of my mind. But, now that chemo is over my mind has gone into overdrive, worrying, studying about my cancer, reading about the long term and late effects that going through chemo does to your body. It is way too much information! In preparation for my doctor’s visit this week I wanted to be prepared so as I studied, I made a list of questions I wanted to ask him. A long list. After a few days of this insanity and many sleepless nights, I woke up one morning and picked up my 365 day devotional book “Jesus Calling.” I can’t say that I read the entries for every day of the year, but on those days that I pick up the book there is always something that applies to what is going on in my life and this day was no different. The word of the day from Jesus was “Relax and know that I am God with you…Stop trying to monitor MY responsibilities – things that are beyond your control. Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain.”
When the “word” speaks to my heart it is as if it is dancing off the page and coming right towards me in all caps with the preface that screams, “Hey, this is specifically for you!” Of course, it is often something I know in my heart already, but I need reminders, especially when I get obsessive about something. God is so good to me, always leading me where I need to go to get enlightened and comforted when I need His wisdom. That’s all I needed to stop the madness, to chill, to let go and let God. The truth is, worrying will not help because this cancer is out of my control, whatever may happen in the future cannot be predicted by me or even by my doctor. It is the unknown variable. I hate the unknown, it has always scared me. But, I have to live with it because I have no choice. I can either let fear define me or I can live my life being grateful for each day, and making the most of the time I have left on this earth. No one really knows how much time there is left in life, so I chose to live without fear! And, when I forget that, I trust that God will find a way to remind me that He is the one who is in control. “Don’t be afraid; just believe” (Luke 8:50).
The doctor ordered my Pet Scan which will happen sometime in the next week or two. I’m praying that it will be free of cancer so I don’t have to have any radiation – we shall see. In answer to my question of when I will begin to get my strength back, he told me that the chemo was an assault on my body, big time, and that it would take at least 6 months for me to feel like my old self – though there may be some lingering side effects. Well, that was something I didn’t want to hear. I want to be well, like NOW.
Each morning I wake up, expecting to feel a little better, a little more energized and sometimes, I do. But, it never lasts. Getting dressed, a short walk, picking up around the house, watering the flowers, driving the car, going to church – those small efforts leave me exhausted and in the need of rest. I have no choice. This past weekend, nearly 3 weeks since chemo, I was expecting to feel a lot better. Instead, I was still confined to the sofa most of day with low blood pressure because of dehydration. I had gone out just for about 30 minutes to work in my garden but it was too much for me. Dehydration causes me to feel so awful, almost as if I am too drugged to move my body, while at the same time my head feels weird, foggy, and aching. I really should have gone in for fluids. The doctor had told me to listen to my body. Well, that was good advice, though I don’t like it. This body is such a nag, it won’t let me do anything I want to do, and it won’t take “no” for an answer. It pretty much downright refuses to listen to me when I try to tell it what to do. So, I rest a lot, nap a lot, and bemoan my weakened state a lot. My husband keeps telling me, “it’s temporary,” but that doesn’t make me feel any better.
Even though most of the hair on my body is gone, there are a few broken stubs of hair here and there. But, with each chemo round there were fewer and fewer stubs left. After this past chemo my body is pretty much like a cue ball, smooth and devoid of all hair. My scalp gets really tender about two weeks after chemo which, I’ve learned from experience, is a sign that it is destroying hair follicles. I’ve read that my hair will start to grow, though sporadically, about two months after my last chemo, though it may look “different.” Apparently the chemo damages the follicles so that the hair doesn’t grow back normal and full until about 6 months after chemo. Now THAT gives me the blues because I cannot take wearing hot chemo caps or my wig. I only wear those when I have to go out in public. My neighbors have gotten used to seeing my bald head. The only reason I wear it in public is because I don’t want to make people feel uncomfortable around me. I can tell they are because even just seeing the chemo cap makes them turn their head away; they don’t know what to say to me. I cannot wait until I have at least a few stubs growing so that I can go out in public without any headgear.
Tomorrow is the day I get my Pet Scan. Yes, I am a little anxious, but also full of hope. I’ve come a long way these past few months and gone through a lot of pain and suffering, but it has made me stronger and, I hope, wiser. Life is precious. Each day is a blessing from God, and each person who loves us a gift that must be treasured. I worry that I may have been a “Debbie Downer” during those times when I have complained on this blog about all my issues. I certainly didn’t mean to make anyone sad on my account. My desire is to be a light that always reflects my faith and love for Jesus, whether I’m on the mountaintop or in the dark valleys of life.