Tuesday, February 8, 2011

On Middle Ground

This is the part of the journey that is "Middle Ground".  For many people, they think I am done with chemo since it has been a while.  I don't look "sick", so they assume I am feeling as good as I look.  (Hey, ladies, we all know make-up does wonders as long as you know what you are doing.)  I also wear either of two wigs during work or church or some social events...one an everday one and another that is a little different if I feel like being someone else. (Once home I go bald; elsewhere, I wear my "newsboy hat".)  I am sure some people are now thinking it is my hair since they have seen it often enough.

I have nothing to complain about right now.  I am so thankful for these last treatments to be going well.  I have some tiredness; especially after dinner, but I am OK during the day.  Some things like stairs can still give me pause, and though I love to walk, I was never an avid exercise person.  My "chemo brain" comes and goes, but I have been able to function fine (or at least I think I have?).  About the third/fourth day after the chemo, I do get the "pins and needles" in my fingers and toes and that chemical chill that just penetrates right though your body.  But other than those things, I am coasting along.  

I had my 8th treatment today and have still 4 more of these to go.  It feels like it has been a long time but now I am on the "other side of that mountain" with the end of chemo in sight.  I have an appointment this Thursday with the plastic surgeon and I guess I will get to see all those pictures and hear all the facts for different future decisions I need to make for my body.  Important decisions that will impact the rest of my life.

In the chemo ballroom today, there were four people who were told they could not get their chemo because of low counts.  I am beginning to see just how common this is for all of us.  In fact, one patient said, "What did I do wrong?"  The nurse answered, "Not a thing...it is just the chemo doing its job and your body's response to the chemo at this time.  There is nothing you did or can do to change it...your body just needs to "catch up" with a week's rest."  But I could see the disappointment on their faces and knew just how they felt.  I was lucky that my counts were still OK this week.  I am still anemic, but not yet at the "danger zone".  One of the patients who could not get chemo this week had needed two blood transfusions during this past week.  Believe it or not, she comes with her mother, who is also receiving chemo at the same time.  Life can be full of surprises!

There was also a conversation between two other chemo buddies.  One was a "guest" for a chemo patient and the other a patient.  The "guest" was telling the patient that he needed to be there for his wife, even though he misses a day's pay (and wouldn't you like to have a few words with that employer?).  The other patient said to him, "But what a gift that you want to be here.  That is your strength and your blessing for your wife."  WOW...kinda puts it all in perspective.  I feel that way about my husband, also...and even more after hearing that conversation.

People are starting to talk about plans for the spring.  I find I am also looking forward to this, but it is becoming such a "grey area" for me right now.  I don't know when exactly I will be having the surgery and how I will be afterward and how long I will need to recuperate.  It is my "middle ground" time between just trying to function week to week through chemo and now seeing more clearly that there is indeed so much more to come.

Many think when I am done with chemo, I am done.  Then I have to tell the story of the next part of the journey again.  They always look confused since I had surgery at the beginning of this journey.  So I have to explain again the reason for all this and why each cancer treatment plan for each patient can be so different.

I also hear a lot of people talking about "God's WIll" in regard to my cancer and this always gets me going.  Again, I have to reiterate that it was not "God's Will" for me to get cancer.  But He is right in the midst of it with me and will be there to the end....and beyond.  A friend sent a quote this week from Henri Nouwen, an internationally known Dutch-born Catholic priest and author of 40 books about spirituality that says it very well:

We are often tempted to "explain" suffering in terms of "the will of God."  Not only can this evoke anger and frustration, but also it is false.  "God's will" is not a label that can be put on unhappy situations.  God wants to bring joy not pain, peace not war, healing not suffering.  Therefore, instead of declaring anything and everything to be the will of God, we must be willing to ask ourselves where in the midst of our pains and sufferings we can discern the loving presence of God."  You go, Henri!

This "Middle Ground" feels like a time to just "coast" for a while.  I find there are not as many phone calls or cards or people asking "how are you doing?"...but God is doing all that for me, so it's OK.  Please know, also, that there are still those who understand and know it is still a journey and will ask the questions and give the support and I am grateful to them for remembering just as I am grateful to you for continuing to check in and read this blog.   Thank you for meeting with me on "Middle Ground" and hanging in for the next chapter in this journey.  

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