Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Wall

Nineteen treatments down; I guess I should update you guys as to how I'm doing.

Going in to radiation, I was frustrated. Being in "active" treatment again - and treatment every day, at that - brought cancer back to the forefront of my brain (and it hadn't even really had time to get to the recesses). Radiation dusted cancer off and revved it up, when I was ready to let it collect rust and have weeds grow up through its broken parts. Simply put, I was done with cancer. (Still am, actually.) So I went in to radiation reluctantly, even though I know it's not the enemy, even though I know it's good for me.

As survivor/doctor/author Kim Allison put it: 

Can't I just go on with life? I did it. The cancer is gone. I feel like a sick little kid asking her mom, "Come on can't I PLEASE go out to play?"

And logistically? Radiation is a pain in the butt. You have to block off every day between 9:45 and 10:45 plus travel time. At least once a week the machine has issues or the computers that talk to the machine need rebooting, and you sit around in the waiting room wearing an oversized salmon-colored smock reading brochures about coping with a breast cancer diagnosis. You can't even check Facebook because there's not a smidge of cell phone service in the building. On top of the daily grind it entails, radiation reminds you that cancer, in a very real sense, is still controlling things - or at least your schedule.

Physically, my skin is holding up pretty well. Just a little pinkness and itchiness, as if I'm allergic. I slather on aloe four or five times a day, hoping sores won't erupt on my chest in my final week of treatment.

Final week! I am elated that this is so close to behind me.

When I was diagnosed last August, the nurses at the imaging center warned me that this year was going to be a marathon. That was 8 months ago today. Runners talk about hitting a "wall," usually around mile 20 in a marathon. It's that point when your shoes feel like cement blocks and your legs might as well be made of lead. No amount of Goo or Gatorade is going to help, but somehow a cheering crowd does wonders to get you to take one more step, and then one more after that, and again until the finish line is in sight. It hurts. It's exhausting. You just want a hot shower and a beer. But you also want the glory of finishing strong. 

I hit my wall this month, and my body is screaming at me to take a break. I have six more treatments. The exhaustion is catching up with me - from radiation, yes, but also from eight months of shoveling this shit they call cancer. I am spent. But I also have the best cheer section out there. I am supported by this community of mine, and I will finish strong.

Plus, we booked a trip to Mexico. Not soon enough, but it's within sight.


  1. mexico! woo! PS - i'm sure you have thought of this but would a really engrossing book help during the waiting room / salmon gown bits at least? the best book I have read in years is called In The Woods. it'll make your palms sweat and your heart race -- for like 400 pages -- it's crazy good. the subject matter is a little tough (murder) but the characters jump off the page.

  2. Or a less agressive, more mindless time-suck, US Weekly!