I was excited to write about our amazing trip to Canada until chemo funk hit me. I must admit, I slipped into a rut after we came back from vacation. I was home for less than 10 hours before I was back in the chemo chair, it was brutal! For 2 weeks (I had an extra week off chemo), I forgot for the most part that I had cancer. I did “normal” things, the things that most everyone do and take for granted. Go on hikes, kayaking, visit the touristy sites, eat out, drink wine, sit by a fire and roast marshmallows. There were no questions asked, no cancer talk. I met new people who didn’t know I had cancer and I didn’t tell them. I am sure that they had no idea of what I had been through this past year. It felt good, it felt like it should feel like, just plain old normal. This is where the idea of living a double life really hits you, when you come back from these 2 weeks, feeling great and elated and having to slip back into “patient” mode.
I certainly don’t take the beautiful life moments for granted anymore. Now, I truly feel lucky when I experience them because I was told that my time and my experience of those moments could be counted. Walking into my doctor’s office after my vacation wasn’t so bad because I was feeling refreshed… until I sat down with my doctor. Something didn’t sit right with me in that meeting, I feel like she popped my balloon and crushed my optimism and positive attitude by reminding me that even if the cancer was gone, that I would need to continue with chemo for a “very very long time”. Truly, her comment pissed me off, threw me off course, and put me in a funk I had a hard time getting out of. I need her to believe with me that there is a chance, I don’t care how slim it is, but to believe that there is a chance that I will be cancer free and for a long time. Her comment made me feel like she didn’t believe it. I know she always is “realistic” and I understand the stats and the reality, she already explained it to me loud and clear before, I am not dumb. But what if I believe that some people can successfully rid themselves of such a disease? This is what gets me going, not the idea that I will be battling tumors for the rest of my life but the idea that I will be free of tumors. I just need and want her to have hope that this could happen to me. I don’t need or want her to “promise” this to me because of course I know and understand that she can’t. We both know what I am facing but can we keep a window open for the possibility? Fred was with me during that session and probably didn’t take her comments the way I took them and tried to explain that this is just how she approaches her patients so that they don’t get false hopes. I feel like my goal is to always prove her wrong, this has been my goal since the first time I met her. I never believed her prognosis to be true and I am on a mission to show her. Sometimes I think about her job and its got to be really hard. She must lose patients on a weekly basis and yes you need to have tough skin to be able to deal with this. She is also about my age and has kids about the age of my kids. When I first met with her she did tell me that she knew our first meeting was going to be difficult. I know she is invested in my beating the beast but I guess I would also like her to be invested in my healing if that makes any sense. In any case, I am back on the horse and out of the rut, ready to continue to focus on my healing.
My trip up North felt healing. The beginning part of the trip was at times emotionally hard as I reconnected with family and friends I had not seen since before my diagnosis. The days were filled with tender, happy and emotional moments. I know everyone cares a lot about me and they all have been worried. I think it was reassuring for them to see that I am truly doing really well and am looking “healthy”. We sent the boys on a camp bus and they were off to a 10 hour drive to Gaspesie where they were going to their first sleepover camp for 12 days (in French!). My dear nieces were counselors at the camp and I knew they would keep an eye out for them. They both had a great time after a few days of “adaptation”. They both said they would like to go back next year so I was relieved! I did miss them a lot and it was so nice to pick them up at the end of camp. I know that we all grew from that experience and I love to hear them sing some of the French songs they learned. We even now have a French day at home and it is really neat to hear them speak French.
One of my most memorable moment from my trip, was a deep, inspiring and uplifting discussion I had with my aunt Suzanne. I have been very lucky to have her guide me through all my treatments with supplements that I truly believe really helped through the intense chemo. She is a physician and is very interested in the health of the colon, nutrition, and integrative therapies. We had exchanged a few emails but had not really had the chance to talk. My aunt has had her own set of challenges and was quite ill for many years until she started a gluten and dairy free diet that completely changed her life and restored her health. I get many compliments from people around me, telling me how strong I am and how inspiring my positive attitude has been. It has never been a choice for me, it’s a no brainer – in my mind there is no other option, so people telling me this doesn’t mean that much to me. I think anyone in my situation would do the same. Who would want to leave 2 precious boys and a loving husband behind? Anyone in my shoes would fight for their life and want to do everything that was in their power to heal. Somehow, my aunt telling me these same words felt so true. I can’t explain why but as she was talking, I almost felt hypnotized and uplifted by her words. Maybe it’s the fact that she has worked with very ill people as a doctor, maybe it’s because of her own healing, I don’t know, but I was soaking in every word she was telling me. She is confident about my healing and my ridding myself of this cancer. I had tears in my eyes and felt it at a gut level. We talked about the future and my ideas about developing resources for others battling cancer, especially Stage 4 cancers and her face illuminated. She shared that she had faithfully followed my blog and had picked up something I had said – in fact she her daughter, my cousin had discussed it. I always said that I was exactly where I wanted to be in my life before I was diagnosed although professionally I was not 100% fulfilled (although it never gnawed at me). I have been happy living here in Florida, I love the pace of living, the warmth, the sun and being able to work part time to be able to be home with the kids after school. I did miss my job at Mass General Hospital doing clinical research, going to conferences, learning from the best at Harvard and all that but again, it wasn’t anything I was miserable about. She and my cousin had picked up that I needed to pursue my passion connected to clinical research. I am now feeling this passion to develop a bag of tools for patients to cope with the emotional aftermath of cancer and also to work with oncologists to teach them about the importance of the emotional state of their patients, to travel and present my findings at conferences. I saw my aunt’s eyes lit up with excitement when she told me “that’s it! You’ve got it! You are going to heal!” I know other people could have said that to me but I am not sure I would have believed them, somehow coming from her, it felt real, I sensed the excitement too. Whatever this feeling is, I am holding on to it tight because there is nothing in the world that I want more.
So back on the board paddleboardgirl!