I have had a serious case of the grouchies for the last week or so. I couldn’t figure out why. I know funds are tight (when aren’t they?) and the boys are perpetually tired (golf camp, July 4th, VBS and all the other summer fun), especially since they won’t sleep in, but that didn’t explain why I felt the need to dive into every box that remotely looked like it might contain chocolate and no soy. Then, it happened. Last night, I just dissolved into tears when I realized why I was grouchy. My brain is processing and it really doesn’t like to do that.
I’m convinced that having cancer is a bit like childbirth, although I’ve never had the pleasure of childbirth. My friends tell me that childbirth hurts, A LOT! But after they see that sweet little face and get home and bond with their little bundle, they forget how much it hurt (thus the explanation for having more than one child). With cancer, after you have a few months of remission under your belt, you forget just how miserable you really were. Oh, you know you were miserable, you just don’t remember the pain that went with it.
John told me that there were nights right after chemo that he would wake up and make sure I was still breathing (ironically, I did the same thing when he was diagnosed with his arrested hydrocephalus) since I looked so pale. Obviously I have no recollection of this, nor of much else from my time I spent bonding with chemotherapy. I realized yesterday that I have no recollection of Thanksgiving, except that it was the weekend John shaved my head. I also have no memory of Christmas, except that my oven broke on Christmas Eve and I had to make whatever it was I had to make in my Crock Pot. Other than that, it’s all a blur. It’s like I had one very long day that lasted from November 9 – March 15.
Now, I can attribute some of it to being seriously stupid (my term for chemo fog), but not all of it. I am convinced that my brain was so overloaded by the sheer enormity of the events slamming me in rapid succession that it just shut down – BOOM! I know people tend to forget parts of traumatic events in an effort to seal off the pain. It’s the brain’s defense mechanism. Maybe that’s why there’s a chemo fog, so patients forget about the crap that goes with the treatment.
While I certainly don’t want to relive those times, I would like to have some memory. I have a few recollections, mostly of the kindness people extended to myself and my family. I remember our friend Renie giving up her Mondays to spend a couple of hours at the Outpatient Cancer Care Center (OPCC) while I got fluids. My friend Cathy drove me to labs and went to my first post chemo CT scan. She also texted quite often or called. I know she was checking up and giving me pep talks, but I can’t remember them. My friend Kelley took the boys for an extended period on chemo days, did school with them, fed them, entertained them and still brought dinner for John and I. I can’t remember any of the meals, except her lentil soup, which sustained me for several days. I still need that recipe!
I do remember the care I received from every person at the OPCC. I do remember every nurses’ name. My incredible nurse, Sharon, had to take a leave of absence shortly after I started chemo, but when she was there she always took care of me. So did Kelly, Jacqueline, John, Barbara, Whitley and Paige. They were my lifeline. I recently returned to the OPCC after my first 3 month absence to have my CA-125 drawn. Whitley and Paige gave me a teddy bear because they missed me! Apparently, on my good days, I made cookies and brownies for the girls. I really don’t remember this, but I do know that when I felt good, I baked just because it made me feel normal. This was their way of saying thanks. I bawled like a baby then too. I’m not sure if it was because I was overwhelmed by their generosity or because I couldn’t remember doing anything. I think that may have been what started the grouchies.
Now that I realize I’m processing, it’s somewhat easier, although I’m still in a chocoholic frenzy. Unfortunately, I can no longer blame PMS, but I’m hoping menopause can be somewhat responsible. I realize I need to take care of myself (it’s kind of fallen to the wayside). On OVCA boards, I find myself telling people who are newly diagnosed to be kind to themselves, that life will take care of itself. I need to take my own advice. I need to try to let go of the past and realize it’s shaped who I am, but it doesn’t define me. I faced the Beast in the eye and stared him down and, hopefully, walked away a better person for it.
So I continue to process my past, grieve what I lost, and embrace what’s to come. It’s gonna’ be great!