I look in the mirror and I don’t recognize myself anymore. No hair on my head or my face. Deep black pockets around my eyes. Tubes hanging from my arms. Scars on my side. What happened?
It is frightening sometimes. Looking at the rows of pill bottles. Getting myself psyched for my blood thinner shot every day. Even the cheeriness and smiles of the nurses and doctors have a macabre feeling about them. As if there is a big secret that no one is talking about.
And then on other days I rise to the challenge. I stare at myself in the mirror and think I look pretty good. The little pimples don’t bother me (see Pizza Face blog post from a year ago). I see a little glimmer in my eyes somewhere inside the dark holes. The fact that I can even get up and stare myself down gives me a little thrill.
Lately, I haven’t been sleeping well. A lot of insomnia. As if I spend my days distracting myself and at night my mind opens up to all the possibilities. Its not like I lay awake at night thinking dark thoughts…I just think all my thoughts that I put out of my head all day.
This is another reason why it is sometimes difficult for me to write updates. I don’t want to be full of complaining – and trust me, if I listed all of my complaints in every post you would stop reading. But I also can’t pretend that I’m cheery and full of jokes, as I was for a few months last year.
Mostly, it is just taking advantage of the good days and not lingering on the bad ones. And, unfortunately, I don’t usually know which kind of day it is going to be until I’m already in the middle of it. I’ve had to postpone getting together with friends and turn down dinner requests. And even on my good days, I don’t always want to sit over a cup of coffee and ‘catch up’ about my situation. Sometimes I just want to go out and live a little.
It is confusing. I’m trying to keep focused on the big picture, the main mission, rather than dwell on each little difficulty, each shot, each pill. Keeping in mind the ultimate goal is a good way for me to push through the pain, irritation and suckiness of cancer treatment. Chew it up in small bites which will add up over time. And when every meal becomes an endurance test to overcome my sore throat and take in a meal, it does help to take small bites.
I’ve gotten a lot of great pick-me-ups over the past couple of weeks. Thanks for all the cards, gift certificates (which go to excellent use), dinner options, treats, books and music. Everyone is being very kind. I especially appreciate the things which help make both Jen and mine lives a little easier. I say a thank you for each smoothie that someone paid for.
Speaking of giving…Jen is working on an amazing project to get DVD players and movies available for every oncology hospital room at UCLA Santa Monica and Ronald Reagan in Westwood. I’ll let her do the talking…she expresses the loneliness and frustration of being stuck in a hospital room in a more eloquent way than I can put into words. Please, visit her blog and consider making some kind of donation. It will brighten up the lives of a lot of lonely, frustrated and sick people.
I’ve also been touched that other cancer patients have written me some comments on how my blog is full of information and they appreciate me sharing my experience. I find my greatest comfort in talking to other patients…I hope some people can find some comfort in my words.
So…yes, last week sucked. My red blood counts are low, so I’m tired. My throat hurts. I’m waiting for my white blood cells count to come up so I can shake some of the pain, swelling and discomfort that I’m feeling. I have a couple weeks of until my next treatment. But I’m anxious about my upcoming PET scan – hopefully, the end of this week. I’m in a holding pattern.
Instead of sitting around watching the clock, I’m trying to take advantage of every good day. See friends. Enjoy fresh air. Walk hand in hand with my beautiful wife.
I’m less than a week out of the hospital and today was a good day. I’m looking forward to more of the same.