The other night, I got babysitters so I could go to bingo with my bffs. (Obviously, we are suuuuper cool and also probably mentally approaching elderly.) My babysitters are also our friends so they spent the night. As we drug a mattress upstairs for the girls to sleep on in the living room, all of sudden, I felt like Superwoman. I mean, this thing used to be HEAVY. Really heavy. Now, I was practically throwing javelin with it.
“This is a lot easier going upstairs than it was taking it downstairs last time, isn’t it Brooke?”
::Blank stare from 13 year old babysitter::
“I mean, it feels a lot lighter, doesn’t it?”
“Oh, uh yeah, I guess so.”
And we plopped the thing in front of the TV. Me, LIKE A BOSS.
“Unless,” I say contemplating how a mattress could lose weight (and if it could teach me its ways because Tamoxifen is not having the slimming Giuliana Rancic effect on me, bless her), “it really wasn’t lighter to you. Was it just me? It felt a lot heavier last time, but I was also pretty chemo’d last time we carried this thing.”
“Yeah,” she concedes, “you were.”
So I’m not Superwoman afterall. I’m just, like, not half dead from chemo anymore.
Six months ago, moving that mattress took everything I had in me. Thursday night, I pretty much dougied up the stairs with it.
I have not had a dose of chemo (save Herceptin which isn’t technically chemotherapy anyway) for just over six months and laying in bed that night, I started taking inventory.
My eyelashes and eyebrows have been back for quite some time, but my hair is taking waaaaay longer than I realized it would. And I’m getting more impatient by the day. Hair envy is real. I spent a solid half of Easter Sunday admiring my teenage nieces’ golden hair.
While my nails never fell off, they did go to crap. And by crap, I mean that they were slightly discolored, got super brittle, and were constantly peeling. They, too, are getting stronger, and I only have slight peeling issues. My skin is still dry but not chemo dry. I’m no longer short of breath, but my blood counts aren’t quite back to my normal yet. Hot flashes still happen but not with the same frequency and, more importantly, not with the same intensity. My taste buds have long been back to normal, and while some of the “fog” has lifted, chemobrain persists.
What I am really left with and what I notice the most is the tiredness. It’s not the same crippling exhaustion that I once felt, but I am not back to my former regular sleep-deprived glory. It’s a tiredness that sometimes makes me wonder if it’s a lingering effect of the chemo or if it’s because I have two small children (and I think it’s a child’s greatest joy to rob their parents of sleep and sanity), but I know it’s from the chemo. It feels chemo-y, you know?
I used to be a morning person. Now my children practically have to drag me out of bed. (“Mommy, can we have breakfast?” “Mommy, Alice is playing in the toilet!” Blah, blah, blah.) Eight hours just doesn’t cut it. For a while after treatment, I took naps. Lots of naps. Almost everyday, I would take a nap with the girls. The need for naps lessened as the need to vacuum rose so I’ve almost all but given them up. Hopefully, in time, I won’t feel like I need so much sleep.
I’ve also been able to get off of my anti-anxiety medication. I was mainly using it to help me sleep as that’s often when panic sets in, and while I still have some, I have much less anxiety at the moment. To keep it real, though, I am still on an anti-depressant, and I think I will be for a while. I can still feel the depression trying to creep in, and while the anxiety is less of a problem these days, straight-up depression is probably more of a problem now than it was six months ago.
In the thick of cancer and its treatment, I had this really beautiful sense of clarity. I knew exactly what did and didn’t matter. I knew how I was going to live my life after cancer. I knew where my time and my heart were going to go. The problem is that the clarity fades. It has to. You just cannot live life in such a heightened, raw state.
And truthfully, it’s really hard to reconcile flawless living with real life.
This has been hard for me. There are so many things that I want to do, but there are also so many things that I HAVE to do — like the laundry and the dishes and paying the bills. You know. But I am trying to find that balance, and I am trying to remind myself that I have time (fingers crossed).
So that’s what six months out from chemo looks like. A little bit of a mess still, but hey, I can carry a mattress, my nails look better, and I can taste stuff again!
Also, if you were wondering, this is probably a more accurate rendering of my dance moves. Josh’s too.