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When I first found out that I had cancer, my first reaction was why me? I eat right, exercise, and in general take care of myself. And there is little history of cancer in my family; my maternal grandmother did die of colon cancer at age eighty-five; she seldom ate any fiber. But there it was, the reality soon hit me and I did what I always do when faced with a problem, I took action. Then when I first started my chemo therapy, I felt so sick for the first few days and wondered if I would get through this.  I worried every day that my body was being attacked by not only the cancer but, also the chemicals being put into my body to kill the cancer.  And so again I took action to make sure that I kept my body as healthy as possible by taking my supplements, eating good healthy food and getting my daily exercise. Even on the days that I had chemo, as shaky as I was, I would go for my two mile walk and when I returned, I felt so much better.

Then, when I looked at healthy people, I was jealous. I wanted to be that healthy person. I wanted to feel normal and not be sick. And then I decided that I would do that. I would try to lead as normal a life as I could while enduring the chemo therapy and then when this was all over I would be that healthy person again. I was also envious of people who carried a little weight. I lost ten pounds in the the first two months of chemo therapy, and not because of being sick, but due to my radical diet change, no sugar, low fat diet. I vowed that I would not have that gaunt look that some cancer patients get. So I started packing in the food, six meals a day and so far I’ve been able to maintain a reasonable weight. And needless to say, I am envious of women with hair, although my hair will grow back in time.

The idea here is to live as normal a life as you can while treating your cancer. And you have to work at it. The side effects are always present, the nausea at first, the dry mouth, hair loss, and now the tingling in my hands and toes, bleeding from the nasal passages. But these side effects have not been as severe as they could have been and I am always finding ways to overcome them. Biotene mouth wash for dry mouth, saline nasal spray for the nasal passages. And I do have my wig that I wear when I go out. There is always a way.

Then there is the social impact on your life. I decided that I should no longer attend group meetings, due to the risk of getting sick with my immune system being compromised.  This is a major problem if you are taking chemo. If you become ill, you cannot continue the therapy until you are well again and this gives the cancer a head start again with your immune system weakened, to wreak havoc and set you back in your treatment. Fortunately I’m not totally isolated. I have many friends who are always looking in on me, calling and there for me to take me to my treatments. The highlight of my week is grocery shopping, whoopee, going to Costco and even visiting the mall occasionally on a week day morning when the crowds are light.  Getting out to walk, climbing my mountain and working out, help me to feel refreshed and relieve the stress. Just feeling the sun and the wind on my face makes me know that I am alive and spurs me on to fight this battle with all that I have.

And then there are the dogs, my constant companions. I don’t know what I’d do without them. They make me laugh with their cute little antics and they are always by my side. They are always upbeat and wanting to play and they try to get me to play with them even on my worst days. When I was sick at first, I had to tell them that I was not feeling well, but they knew. My weimaranar jumped on the bed and looked down at me, her ears hanging in a sad way as if to say, “What’s wrong with you mom. This is not like you”. I take them on walks and to the dog park where they can run and have fun like they’ve always done and I can meet with the people that I know there and we talk, mostly about our dogs.

What I am trying to say is that I try to lead as normal a life a possible with a very serious, potentially life threatening disease. Once you are diagnosed with cancer, it is a part of your life forever. You will have to be ever vigilant the rest of your life, even if and when it goes into remission. But it is possible to maintain normalcy in your life even when faced with this disease. I maintain my friendships and try not to talk about cancer all of the time. I keep my daily and weekly routine. I clean my house and work in the garden just as did before I knew about my cancer. And I think that is healing in itself.


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