This and That
I recently had my regularly scheduled scan and I am happy to report I am still NED (no evidence of disease). The results left my oncologist feeling confident enough to allow me to graduate from scans every six months and move on to yearly scans. If anything seems unusual I’m to report to him immediately for a scan. This will be my first whole year without a scan since 2011. I do have one test this year, a colonoscopy in September, but other than that I’m free from hospitals. The results have also allowed me to enter a place of comfort. I was once anxious between every scan, living with a fear that it was going to return at any moment, but now that I’m halfway through my third year of remission I’m starting to let go of the fear.
Thanks to intermittent fasting I’ve also seen an increase in my energy levels. I am still trying to work off the weight gain that was a result of being prescribed steroids. I hate steroids. I hate what they did to my body. Okay, I hate what all of it did to my body, but steroids stick out to me as the thing that, if I have to do this again, I’ll fight to avoid taking. My poor knees are too weak to carry around any extra weight. I can no longer stand up without assistance from a person or an object. Fatigue after chemo is no joke. If you haven’t been through chemo or any other process that wrecks your body, you absolutely cannot relate. I was once an athlete and I recall how challenging and rewarding it was to push myself to go a little farther each day. This is not what it’s like in remission. I was once out of shape and sedentary (at the time I didn’t know I had cancer). This is also not what it’s like in remission. I am confined to consistency rather than improvement. If I push myself to walk further or be more active I risk being so pained and tired that I’m stuck in bed healing for a week. At one point I felt a surge of energy and made use of it, walking over 5 miles 4 days in a row, and it put me out for month and took several months after that to build back up to my walking routine. People without cancer find this alarming and worry there is a problem, but I talk to my doctors about it and it is normal. if I keep to walking 2-3 miles a day, 6 days a week, everything is fine. On the 6th day I try to get as close to 5 miles as I can, and then I have a day off to recover. All is well if I stick to this schedule.
While I’ve been working toward health and recovery I took the time to teach myself watercolor painting. If you’re interested to see what I’ve been up to, I’ve added a portfolio to my website featuring the best paintings. kaminakapow.com/watercolor/
Healing is slow and the medical bills still suck. The out of pocket cost of a scan is 1/6 of what I make in an entire year. I pinch my pennies and pay for it so my husband can afford everything else. Despite the troubles, in general life is alright. It’s really nice to be able to say that. Life is alright. There’s a new normal to adjust to that others tend to be bummed out about, but I’m hopeful. I might not enjoy being physically restricted and feeling like everything is moving slower than I want it to, but I do love being a hermit. I love being at home, maintaining a garden, painting, doing housework, writing, and having the freedom to be lost in thought while I work with my hands. I enjoy the 20+ hours a week I spend volunteering my heart to cancer support groups. I enjoy navigating the tricky waters of using social media to spread knowledge about empathy.
It’s popular to word this in a way that annoys me, that it all happens for a reason. It’s not that cancer happened for a reason. People don’t get cancer because they need a wake up call. That’s absurd. It can be beautifully poetic if someone wasn’t living fully before cancer and used their second chance to turn their life around, but it’s still absurd to say cancer happened for that reason. I was living life to the fullest before cancer. I was on a path I was proud of. But the nature of having to contemplate your own mortality would easily cause anyone to change priorities. I care less about some things and more about others. I’ve changed. It wasn’t easy and it wasn’t something I wanted or even needed to do. I feel I had no choice, either change or be miserable trying to pretend nothing has changed. My body is different now, and so must my habits be. If my habits must change, so must my expectations and goals. I’d happily go back in time and not have cancer and keep going down the path I was on. It wasn’t perfect, but it was alright. I’ve mourned the loss of a life I can no longer live, and I’ve found new purpose, new interests, and new goals that are just grand and passion-filled as the goals I had before cancer. (Typing that gave me a giant cheesy grin). My new normal has lead me to return to one thing I never wanted to change about myself: I feel alright.