Thursday, October 4, 2012

Standing on my knees


3AM makes me jump out of bed, my stomach in an awkward twist which sends me immediately to my spot on the bath mat in front of the toilet. I will myself not to be sick for a minute as I kneel, clutching a bottle of water in one hand and a bottle of Zofran in the other. If I could just get something in my stomach, I would feel better. But before I succeed I am retching fiery bile.

This is how I am feeling before the treatment side effects even begin, I am sure desperation will set in once the chemo starts.

Yesterday was not as bad as I imagined. I felt sad, yes, but there were long periods where I didn't even think of cancer. Life took over and I found myself pleading with a naked toddler to get off the big boy potty after practically camping out in the bathroom with him. We went shopping and picked out balloons for his birthday party this weekend, paid way too much for a mini helium tank with which to inflate them, ate breadsticks at the local Pizza Hut Express, drank decaf coffee and apple juice, respectively, at Starbucks. Yesterday was my first full day living with cancer and I found myself living.

I found myself worrying, too, mostly that the cancer is not just isolated to my thyroid. I can almost feel it throughout my body, at least I imagine I can. Instead of thinking positive, I'm white-knuckled and waiting for the bigger blow. This cancer has one of the best survival rates, most of the time in the 90th percentile, and yet I still have this fear nagging at me that I won't make it through.

I watched my dear friend Paul slowly die of brain cancer a few years ago.  He had something called a glioblastoma--brain tumor, basically--with a ten year survival rate of 1.7% yet his outlook was more optimistic.  He would joke to me that he has a dusting of cancer cells all over his brain and we should invent a brain Swiffer.  Yesterday would've been Paul's 66th birthday.  Today is the eight-year anniversary of his diagnosis.  I can't help but feel him with me.

I felt my grandmother yesterday, too, she showed up in the form of a dead leaf on my windshield.  On the night of her funeral, as I drove the hour commute back north to my tiny college apartment, a dead leaf found itself attached to my car antenna.  There was no reason for it to hold on through those highway speeds, this fragile leaf that would surely crumble in my hands had I touched it, and yet there it was blowing in the breeze as I tearfully navigated my way home.  I stopped at traffic lights and stop signs and that leaf never once wavered.  As I pulled into my driveway and put the car in park that leaf slowly floated from its spot on my antenna and danced to the ground.  Call me silly but as I mentioned I look for signs and that was hers.  I showed Dylan the beautiful orange and red leaf that attached itself to our windshield on yesterday's drive to the store and after I pointed it out to him the leaf flew over the roof and landed in the road behind us.

My third angel is my aunt Sandy.  I was pregnant with Dylan when she died and although we were kindred spirits, I didn't cry once over losing her.  I felt as if she wasn't letting me mourn her because she knew I had to protect the baby she was so looking forward to loving.  I feel that same calm now--although there have been moments of absolute heartbreak and aching--as if she is holding me in her arms once again.  Maybe she is protecting this baby inside of me.  I like to think so.

Today we will possibly find out the gender of this little baby.  I am hoping that in knowing more about this tiny person I will feel more connected and more bonded to him or her.  I've felt a terrible inkling that something wasn't right with this pregnancy from the moment I saw two lines.  My instincts told me that something was wrong with the baby and so I distanced myself and focused more on Dylan and less on his sibling.  My mothering instincts for this baby haven't kicked in yet--although they may today when I can see the baby and know that everything is going smoothly--I don't even have a guess on the baby's gender and yet I knew instantly with Dylan's pregnancy that I was having a baby boy.  I was wrong with my gut feeling this time though, there isn't something wrong with the baby there is something wrong with me.

I'm not going to dwell on cancer anymore for a while.  I've got Jackson Browne's Cocaine playing and these lyrics make me feel wild.  There's a sexy side of a man singing about being wired on cocaine.  And after an hour and a half of being awake, of getting sick and taking a bath and eating breakfast and writing, I feel better.  I may not be sleeping through the night with cancer as my alarm clock, but I sure feel like I've figuratively bawled out my negativity in these early morning hours and I am able to start my day fresh and feeling positive once I hear the patter of the dogs' feet and my groggy boys join me on the couch to watch Sportscenter and later Mickey Mouse.

This is healing.