Today I finally got around to unpacking my chemo cooler (the cooler Paul and I brought with us to every infusion), as well as the “cancer shelf” in our pantry. The cooler and shelf housed all sorts of crackers, gummies, lozenges, candies, licorice, gatorade, chapstick, purell — you name it — it was in there. We always brought a wide variety of things with us to chemo because I never knew what would be palatable and comforting from week to week.
Truth be told, I don’t think I ever ate anything out of the cooler. I know we shared our saltines with another woman in the infusion room. And I think Paul got into some of the goldfish — but I don’t think I actually ever consumed one thing from it. Yet, we lugged it to Garrett’s office for every chemo! Bringing it was more ritual than anything else by the end.
I don’t know why it’s taken me this long to clean this stuff. I think I was avoiding it. Cleaning it means I’m done with active treatment, and as shitty as that was, it was also comforting to know we were nuking any possible cancer in my body. Cleaning it means I have to really start working on re-entering society and the land of the living. Cleaning it means I have to go back to “normal” life with all you non-cancer people out there (yup, that’s how I view you now — as a “non-cancer” — sorry if that’s offensive).
But, honestly, the notion of going back to “normal” life is still too daunting for me. I still have my days where I’m knocked on my ass because I over-exerted myself. On those days I don’t leave the house and I don’t really get out of bed.
I’m scared of recurrence, I’m scared of the unknown, I’m scared of every ache and shooting pain in my body because, in the back of my mind, I think it’s cancer again. I’m scared of my appointment with Garrett in two weeks. Three months has flown by, but I’m worried about my tumor markers. I’m scared of my appointment with Dr. Hong next week because I still have a lot of swelling and tons of shooting pains in my foobs — I’m convinced it’s not normal. According to my support group and the many cancer forums I’m a part of, none of these feelings are abnormal. I guess I take some comfort in that.
Slowly but surely, however, I’m working on re-training my mind. I have to get 60 hours of re-certification credits to keep my PHR in good standing — so I’ve been taking a bunch of online HR courses (HR Metrics, Measuring the Value of Human Capital, Practical Accounting for HR, Leaves of Absences, The HR landscape after the Latest Supreme Court Rulings and How to Draft an Employee Handbook, among other things). It’s exciting to use my brain again — to test my fine motor skills by taking notes by hand! I genuinely look forward to class time. It feels good to have a purpose other than cancer again. These classes are a good gateway to help ease me back into the real world — to give me the confidence to return to work.
I’ll know I’m finally there when I get rid of the cancer TV in our bedroom. Once I feel I can let go of that, I’ll be well on my way. But, as of today, I’m not ready. I still spend an inordinate amount of time in bed.
Well, I can’t end this post without a picture for you all. Here’s the latest incarnation of me! As you can see, I decided to color my hair. This is just one of the many looks I’ll have over the next year(s) as I grow out my hair. Enjoy!