It has been a while since I’ve posted, and I have been asked by friends and colleagues to update my progress. Over the course of my treatment, I have been reluctant to share the private and intimate details of my struggles. I have never felt so fragile and vulnerable in my life, and it takes a tremendous amount of energy and courage for me to share this painful, scary and revealing process.
I have been on a high does Interferon treatment and have successfully completed 32 rounds, with 8 more to go. The first three weeks of treatment were the most brutal. Five days a week, three hours a day I was at the oncology clinic getting the chemo pumped through an IV port surgical implanted in my chest. I would spend my mornings at clinic under the watchful eye of my most supportive and compassionate father, a team of amazing doctors and nurses, and a new community of brave cancer friends. The remainder of my day was spent tolerating extreme chills, fevers, vomit spells, chemo brain, vertigo, black outs, constant ringing in the ears, retching body pain, internal bleeding, weight loss, hair loss, liver toxicity…blah, blah, blah, the list could go on and on. In the evening, exhausted from the days struggle, I would get a small reprieve of sleep and then get up the next morning, put a smile on my face, make the kids pancakes, pack organic lunches, and head off to clinic to do it all over again.
It feels like getting your ass kicked with a sledge hammer, pounded to the ground, to be peeled off the floor and put in a snow globe, which is then erratically shaken by the hands of a toddler…day in and day out. Thank God for the week I had off treatment. My body started rejecting the medicine and my liver could not process anymore, so I got to rest, to detox. Though it was the hardest, longest walk I’ve had in months, I got to go trick-or- treating with my kids and I got to play with them, which up until that point was next to impossible. That break gave me the strength to keep going.
The second cycle has also been incredibly intense. I now self-administer shots three times a week. I am constantly exhausted and still experience the same side effects but to a slightly lessor degree. I am getting through it, because I have to, because I have to believe this medicine will give me many, many more years of living.
Despite the physical suffering, it is longing for normalcy I struggle with most. I haven’t the strength to do the things I love, the things I took for granted like daily hikes and downward dogs, tea with sisters, teaching, healing, counseling, being an active and available mom.
It is also the emotional, psychological and spiritual pain that I have learned to endure. I often feel isolated, scared, angry, and depressed. The sadness swallows me. I get lost in existential inquiry and ponder my place in the world, my beliefs, my purpose. I contemplate death and impermanence from a place of both fear and curiosity. I wonder how I am going to make my life more meaningful, how I am going to help more people, raise outstanding gentlemen, be the change….’what shall I do with this one wild, wonderful life’. Disease and sickness can break you down, and many days I am unsure of how to build myself back up. I am learning about myself in messy, difficult, and yet tender and promising ways.
I am also learning about people, people whom I have never even met that support me and send me beautiful cards of encouragement, people who share their success with cancer and shower me with inspiration and strength. I am learning about those who have been there all along, those who travel from across the world to lay in bed with me and hold my hand, those who haven’t even had the decency to reach out, and those who jumped ship half way through because it was too hard for them. I understand that my situation makes most people very uncomfortable, that my suffering can trigger unresolved suffering within others. Perhaps my journey through this fire will give others the strength to endure their own critical transformation, to know that they are not alone. Whether it is cancer, a broken heart, a betrayal, or a loss….suffering is suffering, may it not separate us, but rather may it offer us into a place of deeper humanity, connection, and love. May all beings be free of suffering.
You can see that the details of my journey aren’t rainbows and sunshine, but my intention for sharing is not for pity, but purpose. Cancer has been a guru, a leader into the light, and it has provided me with volumes of self-reflection. It has given me the most difficult opportunities to apply the teachings and practices and it is part of my journey to share my discoveries with you. Thank you for walking the path with me.
Blessings and love,