Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Ashen from the Inside

I wake up in the morning with a face that resembles the Laughing Buddha, except that I'm not laughing, just swollen and red from the steroids that have wrecked my sleep and made me edgy. I remember Mom looking like this too so I welcome the day with the sarcastic smile she used to give to say "this shit sucks" when we'd comment on the chemo.

Chemo fucking sucks.

Four days in and I can tell the difference already. The skin on my face has grown rough, I can feel the little hairs on my head starting to revolt. My breathing feels off and my scars hurt. I feel burnt from the inside out. I am in no way myself.

It's really hard not to despair right now, so newly on the edge of this phase, looking out 16 weeks and wondering how I am going to make it through this time. Maybe it will get easier (ha), maybe I am just going deep in this feeling right now, exploring it and making it my own before I put it aside and live through it. But I will say that I have never felt anything like this before in my life. And it's frightening.

But, as my friend Liz said tonight when I noted "chemo sucks ass" on my Facebook page: "Yes, it does. But then you are here. Healthy."

That's what I am trying to grasp on to tonight, the reality that I will come out of this healthy or somewhat like I was before this began. I hate my vanity, but I hate looking the way I look, feeling the changes in my body, feeling so hollow, ashen and carved out on the inside. I can't quite figure out how to pass the time, to mark the passage of this time, to check off the days and weeks coming up so that I can cling to it being over. I need something to physically manifest this experience to let me know where I am in the process. It just seems so long.

I guess there are things to look forward to...a wonderful sister in law getting married, a conference in San Francisco in October...little things that will mark the end time after this has come and gone. I need to set these markers up. I need to find the rock cairns along the way from women who have already traversed this path and can help me see the other side. I need to find the reason for the movement forward, every day.

Right now, I just feel like curling up and escaping for a few months.

Tonight I am off of the steroids for the first night, so here is to better sleep, a less puffy face in the morning, maybe a real Laughing Buddha to greet me as I walk out tomorrow. Here's to making it through. Here's to moving it forward.

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