I love October. Love the crispness in the air, cardboard cut-outs in the football stadiums, ghouls and ghosts drifting down the street amongst lighted trees.
I’m not a New Year’s resolution girl but I generally do a little reflection on the past year as my birthday approaches.
Turning 50 wasn’t so bad.
Being 50, well, this has been another matter entirely.
It’s been 10 months since I checked myself into the ER for abdominal pain and only because my husband insisted.
I’ve watched my body change this past year from familiar to frail.
Watched my hair fall out, the pounds drop off and my skin change from a landscape of freckles to a roadmap of wounds.
I also gained a third nipple and lost my butt entirely —
Where did it go?!
I stand in front of the mirror and look for it sometimes, lift it back up where it’s supposed to be.
Glenn catches me doing this more than once and reminds me it’s downstairs in the living room, our COVID gym where muscles and butts are made.
I return to mirror gazing.
My arms are wrapped in gauze up to my elbows, a trick I learned when I picked up Amazon boxes and went to deposit them inside. They slid off my arms and the skin tore open like tissue paper.
You don’t stop living because you have wounds.
You learn to avoid creating more.
I admit, I’m not very good at this.
After all, it wasn’t me who put the hold on chemo and radiation last month — It was Bruce Lee. And I was surprised when he did it, this despite mouth sores preventing food intake, my lips splitting open along with my fingertips and the soles of my feet and a 3rd degree burn inhabiting the side of my neck.
He sent me home and I felt like a teenager playing hookey!
Radiation Doc however, is another breed. Bruce Lee put radiation on hold again this week and she’s been calling me every day to schedule.
Hey, you two roshambo over it.
Meanwhile, back to mirror gazing.
My hair is getting thicker by the day. I’ve just woken up and I’m a walking ad for bedhead, hair sticking every which way like a crazy cartoon rooster.
This chemo might be dreadful on my body but it doesn’t cause hair loss.
There’s the silver lining.
There’s always a silver lining.
I look closer. Wait a minute…
There’s a lot of hair growth. Like, on my face.
Not soft, fine hair either. Thick, black and course, like a man’s beard.
ON MY FACE.
I wonder about menopause. The chemo slung-shot me into that fun zone when all this started and damned if I’m not growing a mustache! And sprouting black hair on my forehead and cheeks.
You might imagine, this Freaked. Me. Out.
I ask Bruce Lee, “What the hell is this? I look like a baby werewolf!”
He peers closely at me. No idea. Not his wheelhouse. In fact, he dismisses it like he can’t even see it.
“Oh, that? It’s barely noticeable.”
“Barely noticeable? I’m a fucking baby werewolf and it’s barely noticeable?”
Dr. Google to the rescue.
When I started the new chemo with Vectibix, I read about the horrible acne-like rash of pustules certain to launch across the landscape of my body and prepared for war.
I researched what other doctors and patients had used to manage it and took that list to Bruce Lee who filled the various scripts for creams, gels and one little pill called Prednisone
A steroid that, if used for over 30 days, can cause the growth of — you got it — facial hair.
GAH! Prednisone, down the toilet!
Amazon to the rescue with a facial wax kit.
Ok, so I still have some vanity..
Remember, I have extremely sensitive skin…
I apply the wax and RIIIIIIIIP!
Mutherf—– OW! Instant blood rash erupts along my jawline.
I have no love for COVID-19 but it couldn’t be a better time to wear a mask for me.
It’s a veritable funhouse this cancer, surprises around every corner.
September set a new record for the pendulum swing of extremes when Bruce Lee cancelled chemo and radiation to allow my body time to heal.
This is where all of you showed up to help, showering me with your energy and prayers at 3:33pm on September 13th…
Do you know what you did for me?
I had a CT scan scheduled for the next day.
Now, despite our very best efforts to remain positive, despite hoping for the best, CT week is an undertow sucking at the edges of our minds and emotions:
The chemo isn’t doing the job.
The mass behind your stomach has grown.
The tumor in your throat has grown and is squishing your jugular, making it dangerous for blood clots. Commence radiation.
In short, CT week has a history of major suckage.
This time, when Glenn and I walked into the appointment with Bruce Lee for the results, I felt different.
I had all of your energy and prayers flowing through me from the Reiki Circle.
I was filled with love.
I was ready for whatever.
I was not ready for good news.
Bruce Lee looks at his laptop, peers over it at me.
“The vast majority of your lung nodules are disappearing…”
“And the mass behind your stomach… It’s shrinking. Part of it is liquifying… This means it’s dying.”
Do I believe in the Divine power of prayer and energy?
You bet I do. God and I, we have coffee together every morning.
No way could I get through this without faith that there’s something greater at work here.
No way could I get through this without you.
And maybe, just maybe, this is for you. To show you that, you too, have the strength to overcome whatever trials you face.
Lord knows, we have enough to choose from right now.
This week, Bruce Lee put radiation on hold again. He considered putting the chemo on hold as well but I refused.
“No, please. It’s working, doc.”
So we compromised and he took the strength down by 25% …
“This one time only,” I said.
Despite the detrimental effects on my body, I will push for more. I know this about myself, a creature of extremes, a baby werewolf in the making.
We’re going for a cancer-free diagnosis. Anything less is unacceptable.
A week off of radiation allows me 10 days between chemo treatments and I bring one last request to Bruce Lee:
“Do you think we could go see my parents in Oregon? We’ve been cooped up with cancer and COVID for 10 months… Thought we’d roll up the I-5 in an RV like a couple of retirees.”
Bruce Lee is nodding before I can finish. “Go.”
Never did I ever think I’d spend a birthday lumbering up the freeway in a land-submarine. Or want to…
When I turned 50, my focus was on the physical aspects of aging.
Now that I’m turning 51, my focus is on the spiritual aspects of well-being.
What a difference a year makes.
Thank you for walking through it with us.