I’ve got rock climbing on the brain today. “Really Elly?” I hear you asking. “I don’t really think of you as the rock climbing type.” Yeah well, just because I’ve never actually attempted rock climbing doesn’t mean I can’t still use it as the basis for an analogy. I’ve never been to space, but still I learned how to say,”I can drive a space shuttle,” in Spanish — just in case. I’m a wild woman after all.
I also may or may not be a little fragile today. I’ve got my quarterly appointment with Dr. Doom tomorrow and I’m just as nervous as ever. You’d think this would be getting easier, right? Me too, but so far…
Each time Aloysius pats my hand and tells me I’m clean and healthy, the odds of me receiving the same results at the next appointment improve exponentially. Each visit should be less frightening because at each visit there’s less chance I’ll hear bad news. I’ve come so far *jumps up and runs around the room, arms raised, singing the chorus from Eye of the Tiger* and yet…I think my dread of these appointments is increasing as more time passes because I have so much more to lose.
I’m pretty sure I’m as physically recovered as I’m going to get. My hair is back, my muscles are strong, my skin is thick, my brain synapses fire (mostly, as long as house keys aren’t involved), my heart plods along dependably, and I’m not in pain. Most importantly, I recognize that gal that looks back at me in the mirror. (Though, someone should really encourage her to groom those eyebrows.)
So back to the rock wall analogy: if you fall in those first few feet, no big whoop. You’re not that invested yet. It’s not that daunting to dust yourself off and climb those first three feet again, no big hardship, no huge deterrent. Say you make it to six feet and have to start all over again. Not so bad, right? Sure it’s annoying, but you’re still a little detached from it all and resigned in the knowledge that the odds of you falling again are pretty damn high.
Then somehow you reach nine feet, then twelve feet, and your perspective starts to change. Suddenly the view below you is more overwhelming than the view above you. If you crash and fall now, will you even have the strength to make it back to this point, not to mention the rest of the journey to the top? That’s assuming, of course, that the tumble back to the base of the wall doesn’t break something in you irrevocably, preventing you from even trying the climb again.
So here I hover, looking for the hand hold that I’ll use to pull myself up to fifteen months feet, and I’m just trying not to look down.
Oh hell, I can’t leave you guys on such a depressing note on a frickin’ MONDAY in the middle of the snowiest coldest ickiest February ever. I want you kids to come back and that’s not going to happen if you off yourself after reading this bout of wallowing. So, I’m going to share a couple snippets from the journal I kept during the experience.
Here’s an excerpt from the entry I wrote right before my first treatment. I think I’ve shared before that my cousin Sarah is also a survivor. She gave me tremendous support and coaching through the fun journey that is cancer. She’s a total rock star, by the by.
Sarah also mentioned the power of visualization. Her doctor had explained to her how the drugs were like Pacmen chomping through the cancer. So while she sat in the chair with the IV, she visualized him chomping through her body devouring all those bad cells. Now I don’t like the idea of some strange man traveling through my chest, so I’m going with Mrs. Pacman. She’s a little more fabulous with that big pink bow – and she was working that bald thing! Christ – here we go.
And here’s a chunk of the entry I wrote immediately following my last treatment. Rituxan is a monoclonal antibody that basically works like orange spray paint to flag which cells are cancerous (that is not, by the way, the official medical description for the drug). I had made the mistake of asking what would happen if I still had cancer cells after the last round of chemo. The answer had been radiation and a bone marrow transplant.
After Aloysius laid that radiation shit out on the table at the last exam, I had to take my visualization technique up a notch. As I was getting my Rituxan, my little Mrs Pacmans were getting down and dirty. They were chasing down rogue lympho cells with no mercy — wild gangs of Mrs Pacmans angry on the gritty streets of my veins – 3 of ‘em at a time, faces all smudged with grime, red hair bows tattered and askew, broken red heels, knees caked with glass and dirt — holding down those lympho cells, knees to throats and groins and screaming “yeah bitches, you’re going down! We’re holding you here till back up comes and we’ve rounded up all your little lympho friends, you mother fuckers.” And then I flooded those trapped, beat up cells with 3 days of chemo. No fucking way they survived that shit. The day is mine, Trebek. Thanks but no thanks on the radiation, kids. I think we already took care of it.
I’d have the strength to do it all again. But if it’s all the same to you, I’ll just keep moving forwards.