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Archive for April, 2012

a new me

Where do I begin…again. A year this week I wrote my first blog entry and was very faithful to it until I realized I didn’t really need it anymore. It made me smile on numerous occasions when people asked about it, when was I going to blog again…why did I stop? I figured when it became more of a pain than a pleasure, I’d stop….and strangely enough, I once again feel the need to write. So dear readers, please bear with me…I’m rather rusty…but I’m BACK!

To summarize last year, if it’s at all possible, I finished chemotherapy last September then within a few weeks, began radiotherapy with included 28 trips to the university medical center in Groningen…EVERY SINGLE DAY, in what i christened the “cancermobile”…an insured taxi service from Emmen which picked you up and brought you home (25kms) the entire 28 times. If you think radiation’s a piece of cake after the hell which is chemo, you are sadly mistaken…it was, for me, in many ways, much worse. It was this daily trip with other cancer patients…it was waiting your turn under the scary monster of an Xray machine in a huge waiting room with other cancer patients…it was 28 times being reminded that you, yourself are VERY much a cancer patient. It made me realize that not every cancer patient wants to hide the fact that they ARE indeed a cancer patient. (like I tried to do). I took pride (and still do) in looking the best I can possibly look even though I felt like crap lots of times (and still sometimes do). I found many young women of my own age also getting treated for breast cancer seemed to wallow in it, wearing scarves on their heads and almost repelling makeup. I had a hard time with these women, the very face of cancer…I wondered why, why would you desire to look like you’re being consumed by this horrible disease? I suppose to each his own, right?  I found cheating illness helped me feel better!

I also found it strange while the majority of people have a pretty good idea what chemo’s all about, no one, including myself, knew what horrors awaited with radiation. No one clearly defines it…no one talks about it…but I suffered…and I will talk about it. Try an lie completely still for about 10 minutes…i mean not moving a hair (if i had hair)…it sounds easy but it became my daily torture…you are placed into some contortion and told not to move…and at that moment, OF COURSE my nose would itch…and then my cheek…and my ear…the placement was in itself one of the worse days of last year…I was require to lie in a CT scanner, naked from the waist up in a room with airco blowing on my for an hour…they apologized for the arctic air but told me this had to be done and they put in a complaint for me to the airco people….back to placement….this is when it’s determined where you’ll get radiation…this long drawn out procedure ends with the placement of multiple tattoes around your body. And yes, I have new-found respect for those souls who get REAL tattoes..i just have a series of black-blue dots on my torso to remind me of my battle. I had imagined getting a cute tattoo after it was over, saying “survivor” or something like that…but ok, NOOOOOO! tatooes HURT!

Back to hell called radiation…I got burnt…not just a little red flush…but I mean open, weeping second degree burns ALL over the right side of my body. OWWWWWW!!!!!! this meant daily showers and dressing changes…god help me I suffered through hell, though insisted on sucking it up and barreling full force right through it…who had time to complain and cry? I was too damned busy figuring out when the taxi was coming..when my radiologist appointments were, when the end of the line was.

Even though I was still all bound up in burn dressings, Wilfried and I treated ourselves to a little holiday in Zeeland and Brugge just before Christmas…what a wonderful way to truly “get away” from it all…to pretend I wasn’t sick…to go light a few candles in some huge cathedral in Brugge…it was simply fabulous.

The formal treatment was finally behind me and I was able to get on with life…be the old Suz once again…get back to work. I went to see the work-doc (bedrijfsarts) in the beginning of January and he explained about how you build up your working hours, etc…a few weeks like this…then adding hours on like that, etc…easy-peasy…RIGHT? I felt a sudden all-consuming panic inside me…ok he thinks I can go back…work thinks I’m ready to go back…Wilfried’s happy I’m well and says, maybe it’s time to go back….but I felt tired…so tired. My body had been through so much, also losing an incredible amount of weight in a year. I felt I had to get the flab kick started into some sort of shape so I started speed walking and then running…I felt I could convince myself somehow I was fit and healthy. So started eating better, just healthy things, no meat…no sugar….and daily runs. Man if I could kick cancer’s butt, I could kick my own! So I did…(and still am)….have lost over 50kgs (about 115lbs) …and still speed walk for an hour…every-single-day!

That’s the physical side of things…I guess looking at me you’d never guess how tough it all is, how difficult I’ve been having it….I’ve been trying to figure out what exactly is going on inside of me so I thought try writing it down, maybe it’ll help! You know last year how sick I was…I fought like a trooper…I never came home after chemo and cried…I never felt sorry for myself…never once felt beaten. I guess I expected things to be different now. I expected to flow into 2012 with the ease of an independent, healthy woman. Wrong…totally the opposite, my dears. I’m overwhelmed with my situation. I attempted work as I always knew it…my domain…Suzie-nurse! What a flop that was! I sat in my familiar, but somehow completely different office…I felt like a child behind this huge desk…what happened this past year? Where did the know-it-all nursey go? It was like a movie…like a time-warp or something. Everything looks vaguely the same but all impossibly, weirdly different. I felt a choking hand around my neck each time I attempted to work…tears just flooding my eyes…overwhelming, overwhelming feelings…so…difficult…so difficult to explain. The work doc explained it as some sort of abyss the cancer patient falls into after their therapy year is over…and what an abyss this is! Last year I was a star…I was surrounded by people’s warmth and kindness…I was held up by so many….and now as people assume you’re fine and well and getting on with life…you’re let fall. Normally…you can just get up on your own two feet and continue running on your own…like a child learning to bike….but I’m flailing around out here…I’m trying…but finding life after cancer-treatment  much more difficult than being the star “cancer-girl” that I was. No, I’m not nor will I ever be completely free from cancer…it’s still in the wings…I certainly hope it stays there, severely wounded by the onslaught of chemo and radiation…it’s left me exhausted ..but I’m ready for anything.  Work will have to wait…I’m on a mission to re-discover myself. I’ve physically changed so much that sometimes I don’t even recognize my own reflection. I think maybe who “Suzie” was inside has also dramatically changed…also a stranger to me sometimes…who is that girl who cries at the drop of a hat? That person choked with emotion? Life has changed in oh so many ways…but it’s not all darkness! How wonderful it is that I’m marrying my best friend next month? The angel who carried me on his back during my battle…how many marriages begin with the good times and bad…and the sickness and health all at once? He has seen me burnt and bald…but also lovely and blond! He’ll hold my hand and walk with me through anything that this life offers…I feel so incredibly blessed to have him, to have each other.

Thank you dear readers for listening….I shall attempt to share my continuing saga of getting well post breast cancer…I need you all…and need to know people still care.

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