This past week or so has been brutal. It’s sucked. It’s kicked me in the shins, stomach, kneecaps, vagina, and fake boobs repeatedly.
I was fine the first 4 days after chemo. Walking on my treadmill, feelin’ fine. I even had an outing which is a big deal for me since I’ve recently become mildly agoraphobic. And then I got hit at 1:00 am on Tuesday. I was awakened by nausea. I took a compazine. 20 minutes later I took an Ativan (aside from its use as an anxiety Med, it also can work to alleviate nausea). And then precisely one minute after swallowing the Ativan, I was hovered over the toilet bowl, throwing up the applesauce and ginger juice I had before bed. It burned. (you’re welcome).
After I was done heaving, I went back to bed. I was able to sleep shortly after and slept for about 5 hours. I woke up the next morning feeling vomit creeping it’s way up my esophagus. Wednesday was miserable. I spent the day rolling around with my knees up to my chest, crying my eyes out, praying for the pukey feeling to pass. We (my mom and I) called my oncologist because I felt so terrible, even though I hadn’t thrown up since the night before, I was still completely miserable. Prolonged nausea is just the best. They told me to eat bland foods and take compazine every 6 hours with an Ativan in between. I have a feeling I’m going to finish chemo with a benzodiazepine problem with the amount I’m taking… if that palliative care doctor would hurry up on my medical marijuana certification!!!
I spent the entire day feeling like I was on the verge of throwing up, including the car ride to acupuncture. I also started to develop my first mouth sore almost immediately after vomiting most likely due to the acid. For those of you who have not been introduced to the fun of chemo-induced mouth sores, let me tell you, they’re a gas. I currently have one along my left back molar, so my right side has been delegated the chewing side. The pain is awful. Anyway, so acupuncture: My integrative doctor recommended an MD who also does acupuncture to support my body through chemotherapy. I went to the appointment with my eyes swollen and bloodshot from crying all day, in a beanie sans wig, in boy baggy sweatpants and a crummy hoody, in other words, I looked really presentable and beautiful, just like Heidi Klum. This appointment was an initial consult so I’m pretty sure the acupuncturist thinks I’m a homeless male child (so, you know, I made it clear to answer his questions about my menstrual cycle extra thoroughly, so he’d believe there was actually a female body underneath all the Hanes garb). In all seriousness, he spent nearly 2 hours with me, asking me about both my medical and emotional history, and explaining to me how Chinese medicine regards certain physical presentations in the body (like tumors), as well as the balance of heat and cool, yin and yang. All of this is fascinating to me. It’s something that really resonates with my spirit. Yes, I just said that queer ass sentence. But I mean it. It’s a more personalized approach to medicine which is comforting to me on a lot of levels. Chinese medicine sees the human over the ailment. He asked me an interesting question before I got on the table: “What do you think this is about for you?”. Startled by the question, “You mean the cancer… like spiritually or whatever?” I asked. “Yes. Some people have a sense, others don’t until they spend some time with it…” “Self loathing”, I said, with a confidence unparalleled. It was like some deep and almost primal voice from the depths of me answered for the version of me that normally speaks and exists.
Since my acupuncture treatment my nausea has been at bay but I’m extremely emotional. I’ve been crying and yelling a lot. As I’m typing this, I’m remembering the acupuncturist mentioning that it can free up stagnation, and I’m wondering if I’ve been emotionally stagnant and the treatment triggered some kind of release, and that’s why I’ve been one effusive bitch lately….
At the end of my session, he gave me a homework assignment. I’m sharing it with you because I found it helpful on a number of levels. I know the holidays are tough for a lot of people emotionally. If this helps anyone else to facilitate in their own emotional healing, then I’m happy. I’ll share the exercises because I’m finding them to be helpful in that I’m cultivating a bit of objectivity through them by stepping aside and observing my thought patterns and where my mind tends to wander.
1. Make a list of your perceived obstacles, barriers or limitations. These can be physical, emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or literal life things. Sit with this for a day or so, spend a little time doing this. Monitor your thoughts for a day or two.
2. Now, make a list of your positive affirmations to counteract each of the perceived limitations in your list. Write them down. Keep them short, to the point, and in the present tense. No “should, could, or would” words. Make sure they don’t contain negatives. You may want to carry this list with you until you know it by heart.
3. Look at your list and repeat the affirmations every morning and just before you go to sleep. It’s also a good idea to focus on these when you are stressed, worried, or when your mind is busy with non-productive thoughts. You can look at these throughout the day if you wish.
Alright. So. This first part of the exercise was ugly for me. My inner mean girl is vile and vicious and cruel and so incredibly cutting, and this first part of the exercise basically asked that I invite her to tea. To hear her bitch. About me. Dealing with mental illness alongside cancer is certainly challenging. The two antagonize one another and I’m supposed to be the calm collected mediating parent who sends them both to time out and then gets them to play nice together again. Only in this situation, I’ve got jack shit in the realm of control over either of these things it seems. This parent is at her wits end. And she’s got two wildly complicated assholes for children.
Writing out the first list made me realize how fucking mean I am to myself at all times. I realized within the first few minutes of the exercise that I put so much pressure on myself to be a certain way, and convince myself that I’m responding to some external demands of me. Maybe other people do have expectations of me. Maybe they don’t. But who the fuck cares?! ESPECIALLY in my present situation. Shits REAL right now. If people have expectations of me that I’m failing to live up to, too damn bad. But it seems majority of the pressure I feel is from myself. Like giving myself shit for not being able to really run like I used to while undergoing some of the most aggressive chemotherapy known to breast cancer. Or beating myself up over eating food that isn’t low on the glycemic index because MAYBE I AM JUST CRAVING A PIECE OR 3 OF WEGMANS TUSCAN GARLIC BREAD DAMMIT. I am also extremely critical of my imperfections and perceived shortcomings. My sense of self worth is not super high, that was also apparent in creating this list.
The second exercise was pretty challenging because I had to phrase things in ways that were acceptable to me and also authentic, while also meeting the criteria of the list like “present tense, no shoulds, etc”. But I did it, and I’m going to continue expanding on my affirmations. I could use some positivity at this point in my life, and since I don’t have much of my own naturally, I have to start planting the seeds for some to grow.
I hope some of you try these exercises. They’ve been helpful to me so far, if only in the aspect of perspective and beginning to experience the act of observing my “monkey mind”, as opposed to latching onto every anxiety ridden thought I have.
I’m off to go eat my third muffin of the day, because Christmas. Happy holidays everyone.