After the nurse asks how the IV-Ativan is working for me:
I was looking through my cancer buddies’ blogs for the Mashable article and stumbled upon THIS oldie but goodie. That Ativan IV, man. Good stuff.
The Spoon Theory
Can there be anything more frustrating for an overachiever than for her brain and body be completely out of sync? To feel so worn down that a weekend isn’t enough to recover from a full week’s worth of work? To no longer have the luxury of a “fake it til you make it” attitude while out in public then collapsing on the couch when nobody’s looking?
This “new normal” is really cramping my style (Literally. I haven’t worn anything other than yoga pants ALL WEEK). I am currently sitting on my front porch, Day Four of a week of sick leave laid out before me (this is where I insert a little gratitude prayer for being able to sit on my front porch in beautiful weather). I didn’t want to take it, but JLP insisted and my work family agreed. I don’t like it, but I’ll take it. In fact, I needed it. My body’s stoked. My brain’s always the last one to figure it out.
I find myself online a bit more when I’m home, though I promise JLP I’ll lay off so he doesn’t come home to an Internet Zombie. But in my Tumblr perusing I found a link to The Spoon Theory, an eloquent characterization of what patients with chronic illness face each day before they even decide to get out of bed.
By no means do I want to take away from those who suffer this every day, who don’t have the point on the horizon to look forward to when their body might have fully recovered from whatever trauma was needed to beat cancer in its bitch face. But today, as I recover from my five-block walk to the cafe and back because I’ve let myself run out of coffee at home, I find that this theory very much describes my new normal, even five months out from my last treatment. I don’t like it (I’d much prefer to be saving the world or conquering something, even if it’s just my taxes), but I’ll take it. For now.
Ladies Who Radiate
There’s been a few times that I’ve felt this cancer thing makes me a part of a special club that only those of us “in the know” can appreciate because we’re all in the same place for the same reason. Once was at the fertility specialist, another was at the skin care clinic a local dermatologist puts on for cancer patients, and the other… well, the other is pretty special. It’s every morning in the radiation waiting room.
Most patients receive radiation in blocks of time. Mine, for example, is a total of 25 treatments, all at 8:30 AM every weekday. So, since Aug. 1, my weekday routine has been to wake up at 6 AM, manage to get 32 ounces of liquid in me to have a full bladder for my treatment, then head down to the cancer center with JLP. Once there, I just wave to the receptionists who check me in, then head to the women’s dressing room, where a few ladies might already be waiting, finishing up, or just chatting.
I grab a gown, undress behind a curtain, toss my clothes in Locker #4 and affix its key around my wrist, then sit with my Ladies Who Radiate while I wait my turn for the machine. There are two radiation machines, so our comings and goings are kind of staggered. At one point, there might be up to six of us at a time chillin’ in our gowns, talking shop.
Sometimes we talk cancer, but mostly we just gab. It’s a safe place to ask how one’s treatment is going, to offer advice on side effects like rashes and fatigue; but it’s also a place to get to know a few women who are all experiencing this crazy detour in our lives. There’s no room for shyness, really. This shared experience automatically sheds any “getting to know you” precepts and we are automatically sisters, for lack of a better word.
Now that I’m down to just six more treatments, I’ve become the Old Guard in the dressing room. I’ve hugged quite a few LWR goodbye on their last days, hoping C’s grandbaby arrives any time, wishing D good luck on her celebratory trip to Alaska. Now I’m the one to change the date on the tearaway inspirational calendar, bring in magazines, help S tie her gown when her fingers won’t cooperate.
It’s weird to think that in just a week I’ll be saying my goodbyes, that I’ll be saying “see you around!” Because the acknowledged hope is that we don’t run into each other again in this space. We hope instead to see each other at the farmers market, or while dining out, or maybe even at the gym. When that time comes, we’ll pick up right where we left off: knowing we Ladies Who Radiate(d), we members of this elite club who paid pretty steep dues to gain lifetime membership, don’t have to talk about cancer, but we could if we wanted to.