CHEMO #4: Brutal

I so badly want to face this battle with strength and grace and humor. I want to wake each day thankful for the rising sun and the opportunities in the day ahead. I want to live in the present and make the most of every day I am given, but I tell you what, this week has been brutal.

Yes, chemo is physically brutal. Being connected to IV’s for hours as chemicals run through my veins, killing the cancer but obliterating my insides in the process. Everything hurts! I am constantly nauseated and even the rotation of four of the strongest anti-nausea medicines can’t keep it at bay. Everything I put into my stomach causes it to intensely burn. My bones ache, my muscles twitch, my mouth feels like sandpaper. My taste buds are completely shot, taking away one of life’s most simple pleasures, food. Nothing tastes good and eating is a chore to simply sustain a decent level of energy. And I won’t continue on because the physical part of chemo is devastating and the side effects to long to list.

But this week, it hasn’t been only the physical. Something changed this week and my spirits crashed and the depth of loss and grief began to kick in and it has been brutal. This week has been one of isolation and sadness and weakness, and even defeat. Maybe it’s the stark contrast of the Holiday season next to the reality of my daily life. Because last weekend, when all seemed right in the world, before the chemicals entered my body once again, I celebrated a Thanksgiving feast, and I picked out a Christmas Tree with my family, and we walked down memory lane as we hung our sweet ornaments on our beautifully lit tree. We played Christmas music and laughed and it was lovely and perfect in every way.

And because of those beautiful moments in time, it makes these weeks so much harder as the loss seems so much greater. And I see it on my kid’s faces every time they look at me. It’s a mixture of sadness and fear and disappointment, because they too, in a matter of days went from the beautiful to the dark. And this dark and terrorizing cloud called cancer hampers all the traditions and expectations of this glorious season. And I lie in bed alone, hour after hour, as the sun rises and sets and I pray for the strength to get through this journey. And all I want to do is get out of bed and join my kids to make our annual gingerbread house and to give them back their safe and their happy and their normal.

I have shed quite a few tears this week. My husband has literally had to hold me as my entire body shook and I fought to catch my breath. And he tells me I can do it and he takes in all my despair and caresses my baldhead and tells me he loves me. And I can even see in his eyes how hard this is because he knows he can only walk this road with me, not for me.

And last night was another break down, and I literally felt like I was being pulled apart from the inside out. Every inch of me hurt and the tears would not stop. My daughter crawled in bed next to me as raw emotion manifested into sobs and screams, yet she remained. She held me close and told me that everything was going to be ok. In a moment of realizing what I had allowed my daughter to witness, shame and disbelief set in. I told her that she should go, that I just wanted to sleep. She refused. She held my hand even tighter and told me there was nowhere else she wanted to be. And I wept tears of joy for the first time that week. I had been struggling so hard all week to find a silver lining that I hadn’t realized I had my eyes closed the whole time. I had allowed the darkness to fool me into believing it was easier. Opening my eyes was far too painful because it allowed me to see what I was missing. The tragedy of the darkness though, is no longer being able to see the reasons you are fighting so hard to live. Finally, my daughter, in her tenderness and love, pried my eyes wide open and what I saw was the most beautiful, brilliant silver lining. My sweet, strong, compassionate daughter, loving me so authentically and unconditionally, through all of her own fear and sadness, as she held back her tears to wipe mine.

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