I continue to feel better and better, as if entering the land of the living after several years. Covid, isolation, grief and cancer have taken up much of my head space. This morning I had my port removed in what I call a drive thru procedure. In choosing not to have anesthesia, only numbing of the area, there was no waiting an hour afterwards. I was able to drive myself, run a few errands afterwards and was home by 10:00 AM. Next week I fly to Santa Monica, to warmth, the ocean and a dear friend to celebrate being cancer free. All that remains is a re-check for cancer every three months. My wish to care for babies has come to fruition, babysitting occasionally for a couple of different families. Pet sitting is busy with a couple of trips for myself planned. What’s in store for this blog? That remains to be seen. It’s purpose has evolved, starting as a way to keep friends informed of my drive to Baja. When isolation hit, it was a way to share and stay in community virtually. Then as a way to keep folks informed of cancer treatment and recovery. Stay tuned.
I only have to go every three months to get checked for awhile.
At the beginning of the year, the New York Times Well section created a 7-day happiness challenge. “For over 80 years researchers at Harvard have studied what makes for a good life. They found one surefire scientifically proven predictor of happiness: developing warmer relationships.” To sum it up, each day suggested an opportunity to nurture new and existing relationships: make the phone call, talk to strangers, share a living eulogy by writing to someone who has meant a lot to you, make friends at work, keep social engagements, identify areas in your life where you’d like to be more connected and keep going. Another source of inspiration has been the How to Build a Happy Life podcast from The Atlantic.
I’m convinced community is what got me through cancer treatment and recovery. Friends came out of the woodwork from as far back as elementary school, ex co-workers, and pet sitting clients who are now dear friends. Honestly, I’m missing the daily interactions of friends calling, bringing food and staying for a visit. I even miss the gang who administered radiation (not the radiation!) each day, hearing about their kids, telling jokes and what they did over the weekend. No doubt I am a people person. Although I do like my alone time the older I get. I need it to refuel. Partnership is not what I’m looking for, I love my autonomy. “That party’s over” as a friend once said. Community and purpose are what I’m looking for. A friend texted me the other day, “what is bringing you joy these days?” “Good question” I replied. That has been on my mind and now it’s time to get back to joy. It’s time to play with friends, help others. I’m actively looking into volunteer opportunities with children, really I want to hold babies. Someone has connected me with a new mother who would like me to come do just that. I’m lucky to have several pet sitting gigs on the calendar and a trip to Santa Monica in February to stay with a long time friend from high school. Today I feel lucky, thankful for my health and warm friendships.
True to form, I tried to pretend Christmas was just another day. After getting the dog I was caring for out for a walk, I streamed the newest season (all ten episodes) of Emily in Paris on Netflix. It’s mindless, actually kinda silly, the clothes are outrageous but it was perfect for the situation. I’m happy to be pet sitting regularly again, a sign of healing progress. A client has already booked me for December, 2023! I still don’t have an appetite and have to make myself eat something. In talking with a friend who went through chemo/radiation she had the same experience. She lost weight after treatment. She assured me it will get better. My energy has improved, maybe a result of acupuncture. Acupuncturist continues to work on digestive issues. We are on the heels of 2023. I’m not one to make resolutions. However, I am contemplating where I will place my attention in the coming year. This past year I was derailed by the legal process in an attempt to see my grandchildren again, then anal cancer. Certainly the two go hand in hand. 2021 I almost finished my memoir. 2022 I had no energy for it. My hope for 2023 is to complete the last few chapters. I’ve signed up for my first in person writing class since Covid, Big Truths in Small Spaces through the Missoula Writing Collaborative taught by Barry Maxwell. I’m mainly nervous that is a 6:00 in the evening class. I’ve been falling asleep at 7:30 most nights since treatment. So wish me luck. New Year’s Day I’ll be at the hotel (no pet sitting) cooking black-eyed peas for good luck and collard greens for prosperity. House mates will gather to share a meal and start the year off on a good note.
It’s official. I have a certificate to prove it. I’ve completed the required chemo/radiation to burn this butt of a tumor. My appointment with the surgeon is December 15th to confirm we beat it.
Meantime, I plan to rest. After they handed me my “diploma” on Friday. the radiation techs, who feel like family now, followed up with a warning, “the side effects will get worse before they get better.” This morning I woke up at 8:30, late for me. I feel exhausted. Today, I’m staying put in my pajamas and going no where. I’m getting used to sitting on my side (always been a side sleeper) since the radiation burn makes it hard to sit flat and upright.
It has been my urge to nap each time I had to get myself together and out the door for 2:00 radiation. Now I will be able to rest.
My first dog sit is scheduled the week after Thanksgiving for a couple of weeks. It will be welcomed. My clients, fully aware I’m just coming out of treatment have graciously offered alternatives for days I may not feeling like getting their sweet dog out for a walk. Their home offers opportunity to rest, complete with big screen TV, streaming channels, gas fireplace and a dog who is allowed on the couch for cuddling. I’m so lucky. I will miss our house kitty, Brenda. We’ve become quite attached to each other even more so the past six weeks.
That’s the latest. I am tired and won’t write anymore for now.
The brain-gut connection is real. I can attest to that. My 5th day of nausea took me to a sad, lonely place.
With a new nausea med, I can see the light again. Food still doesn’t sound good. It’s a fact that chemo/radiation changes your taste buds. Things I used to crave and eat regularly, my favorite chocolate/peanut butter bar, salads, popcorn do not appeal.
This article from the MD Anderson Cancer Center gives some suggestions on how to manage nausea. ie: eat small through out the day, ginger candies (thanks to a dear friend), and staying hydrated. I’ve always been a water drinker and have continued with that. The doctors have been impressed that my electrolytes have remained good throughout treatment.
With the nausea somewhat resolved, I can acknowledge what I am thankful for:
I am grateful to still be enjoying my morning coffee. That taste bud has remained intact. It’s a ritual for me, a cup of coffee while either reading or writing gets my day off to a better start.
Thankful for my high school friend who sent me taffy from the Mississippi state fair, the best taffy ever.
Thankful for the constant companionship of our house kitty, Brenda, even when she sneaks a bite of whatever I’m eating!
Grateful for the friend and his eight year daughter who brought me plants yesterday and stayed for most of the afternoon.
Thank you to the friend and ex co-worker who encouraged me to set up a Mealtrain during treatment.
Thank you to the friend who recommended Anderson Cooper’s podcast, All There Is. Cooper begins a series of emotional and moving conversations about the people we lose, the things they leave behind, and how to live on – with loss, with laughter, and with love.
And most thankful next Friday will be my last day of radiation. Chemo ended last week. Woohoo!
We had our first snowfall of the season in Missoula last night. It was beautiful and peaceful.