After chemo, my body and I are in the dating stage.
Chemo is hard on a body and afterwards it’s like you’re a new you; things just aren’t the same.
There’s a bit of uncertainty and awkwardness that happens, so I like to think of getting to know the new me as dating myself.
I could go into all the relationship stages, but let’s start here: my body and I are not in the honeymoon stage of dating.
Nope. Not even close.
My body and I, well, we’ve known each other for years.
Every ache, every innard squiggle, every swoosh through my veins, and every brainy neuron twitch has been noted, catalogued and understood by me.
Truly, I was the gal who could tell you, almost to the second: Oh, hey! I just ovulated (stop cringing Boy; nature is astonishing!) – or as I liked to yell to Garry, should he be within hearing distance, “I just spit out an egg!”
After cancer treatments of chemo, biologics and radiation, my body and I are back to dating.
Four years later and I still haven’t figured it all out yet.
Man, I’m gonna need a ring soon, bub.
SIDENOTE: I’m hitting my 4-year anniversary this month and there are times I don’t want to mention, don’t want to think about it, because there is still so much pain attached to the memories, but mostly I’m thrilled to tell you exactly how thankful I am to still be here, laughing, loving and living. For those of you who shared my journey with me in those uncertain days, I still carry your prayers with me. Always.
Back to the dating thang…
I like my body.
It’s strong enough to move through this world and not get trampled.
It’s tall enough to get stuff of the top shelves in a grocery store without having to precariously climb up a level.
It’s silly, or maybe that’s just my funny-looking face and all the weirdo shapes I can contort it into – just ask Sweet E.
It’s regal, when cleaned up and dressed properly.
It’s a keeper.
It’s just that after chemo, the body I once knew so well, the kind of knowing where it only had to faintly gurgle and I knew people should hide their young, lest they wanted to see a grown woman blow, is now somewhat foreign to me.
I still like my body for all the reasons I stated, but now…
After chemo, it has scars that remind me of my cancer fight.
Although, let me take a beat and applaud my surgeon.
My scars are small and almost imperceptible, with the exception of where my port resided.
It seems that women who don’t carry lots of chest fat (HELLO, SMALL BOOBAGE!), tend to have less fat to hide that scar.
My port scar reminds me daily that I. Survived. Period. Full. Stop.
(as I write these very words, I have burst into tears. the trauma never leaves; it only grows weaker, as it’s replaced with living moments.)
After chemo, it is lightening quick to cry.
And why not?
It has been through it’s own war – one where the outcome, much like war, was uncertain of survival.
Wars leave scars. I have them.
After chemo, it has pains and aches that are entirely unfamiliar.
~sudden stabby pain in back~
WTH is that? Was that in my bones? Is it back gas? Is it age related?
Which, of course, causes me to wonder if the cancer is back and ready to kill me.
This kinda freak-out is normal; I know.
Doesn’t make it any easier.
After chemo, it has physical reminders of treatment in the form of intermittent weakness.
I like to think of myself as a fucking badass.
I like to think that my long distance running, my regular weight-lifting, and my mental toughness is enough to keep me strong.
The reality is…
I’m prone to the laws of nature just like everyone else.
Out on a run, I will be mindlessly putting one leg in front of the other, when suddenly one leg will decide it wants to buckle a little.
I will encourage it to HANG IN, BUDDY!; You’re tough. You’re part of me – YOU CAN DO EEEET!
It’s discouraging. It’s maddening. It’s frustrating.
It’s not at all what my old body, pre-treatment would do.
After chemo, one of my hands has a lingering nephropathy.
Makes opening jars a complete pain. I feel like a character in a bad commercial for the elderly.
Help Granny open her menthol rub!
Honestly, it’s nothing horrible. Nothing that anyone but me notices (unless I’ve dropped another glass!), but it’s there and it wasn’t before.
My eyesight has diminished.
Before cancer, years before, I had SANIMY surgery.
SANIMY = Stick A Needle In My Eye
It took both my ailing eyes from legally blind without corrective lenses, to being able to see perfectly (20/15 in one eye!).
After treatment, I am in need of glasses again.
Don’t get me wrong – I am grateful it’s simply a corrective lenses issue and nothing more, yet it is another by-product of treatment.
After chemo, my body is a mystery.
It’s like going out on a date and thinking, “You’re great, but you know that weirdo thing you keep doing? Can you just please STOP IT?”
My body is all, “YOU stop it!”
Dating is the worst.
Problem is I can’t break up with my body; it’s all I got.
It’s not nearly all bad.
I’d say it’s 85% bitchin’ these days.
So, each day I try and give myself the grace to learn everything I can about the issues I have post-treatment, so that I might improve what I can.
I give myself the grace to be upset that I can’t do some things the way I used to. Kinda like when us olds say “youth is wasted on the young!” when we want to climb trees or something equally fun.
I give myself the grace to accept what I can’t control. (I keep trying to blame THE CANCER on making me eat cake all the danged time, but no one is buying it)
I give myself the grace to understand none of this newness changes the me that has always been and will continue to be. It’s just that my container is dinged a bit from its travels.
Most folks who know me will be surprised to learn that I have struggled, post-treatment.
I’m glad for that, yet this is the truth of those who go through treatment: we are scarred forever afterwards.
I try like hell to live my life the best I can in each moment, as I try to improve upon my lack.
Cancer treatments are no joke.
There’s a reason why patients say treatment is worse than the cancer itself; it’s brutal and barbaric (which IS a chief complaint of mine. WTF, medical community?! This is 2019. We should be better than this).
After chemo, people ask all the time: is chemotherapy painful?
Yes. Yes, it is. Thankfully though, the pain is temporary.
Kinda like the baldness. First, there’s your hair. Then, there’s none. Then, there’s hair growth after chemo.
But, the regrowth is weird and curly and unruly. Then, that hair is replaced with your final crown of glory.
My point is this: going through treatment leaves us with bodies that are unfamiliar and sometimes completely weird and offensive.
NO! You can’t come up for “coffee”!
^ That’s what you’d say if you were actually dating yer body.
But you’re not dating.
You’re stuck with it. Hope you like that t-shirt it chose today! Ha!
No one tells you that there’s a process after treatment of getting to know your body again.
No one tells you that you’ll feel like you’re living in a body that’s not the one you were issued at birth.
No one tells you that you’ll have to figure this craziness out on your own.
It’s truly like dating.
There is a dance to the courtship.
Little by little you get to know your new body, the new quirks and burbles and feels.
Little by little you come to understand that you are stronger than you thought (a prevailing theme through treatment), and you’ll get through this stage just like you conquered treatment.
Little by little you come to not only appreciate your new body for its strength throughout its weakness, but you realize the grace you gave yourself in the beginning is what allows the shift to love and acceptance.
After chemo, my body is different.
Yet, maybe more importantly after the change, my mindset is the same: let’s kick some ass today, fellas.
If you are going through cancer treatment, I’m here to offer you some encouragement: You’re gonna have some challenges, but…You. Will. Prevail.
Accept that your life is now changed; that your body has changed.
Accept that things will be dating-odd and sometimes too weird to talk about.
The dating stage sucks, but this body of yours is gonna wear you down till you can’t believe how much you love it for keeping you strong of mind and soul, even in the midst of weirdo bodily functions that make you cringe.
You’ve got this.
Swipe right, mah babies.