In a Vein of Honesty

Well, I’ve been reading through old posts, and in the continued vein of honesty – shocking myself on occasion – today I’ll tell you that most days parts of my body hurt like heck. Throughout the night my arms fall asleep. This morning I had ten fat, swollen, aching, tingling sausages connected to the palms of my hands. Two months ago, I twisted and turned my wedding ring and college ring off, seriously wondering if I would have to have my wedding band cut off because my knuckles were so big.

Every morning, I feel like I’m lugging the body of an old woman out of bed. And it’s been like this since the end of February. Now, most noticeably, it’s just my hands and feet. The first ten steps of every day are hobbles. It’s best if I start moving in the morning and keep moving until bed time. At 6 a.m. I still enjoy a cup of coffee first thing, but I can’t hold a pen, especially a nice heavy pen. The curl of my fingers hurts and my fingers immediately fall asleep. Later in the day when I loosen up, it’s better. When I write then, my forearm and hand fall asleep within a couple minutes, but I don’t have as much joint pain. Typing is easier. They still numb up, but it doesn’t hurt like holding a pen.

Last week I ran into a friend who went through chemo a few years ago. After the “you look great”s, I asked, “Do you ever hurt?” “Oh my God, every day.” We have the same thing going on with tingling and joint ache. It feels like a combination of carpal tunnel and arthritis. And we are both happy to be alive. And we just pretty much get on with it. But this afternoon, I’m confessing to my oncologist in Boston. After a brief chat a few weeks ago, my radiation doctor thinks this is a result of chemo. Probably neuropathy: nerve damage. I’ll see what my oncologist thinks.

To regain some strength in mind and body, I started yoga on Friday which feels great, and I hope to do it a couple times a week. I’ve stretched muscles that have been sleeping for many months. I can hold the weight of my body with my arms – down-dog for you yogis. And I can pretend I’m a pigeon – putting one leg out straight behind me, folding the other own cross-legged in front of me, and putting my head on the ground, or as the instructor says, “moving your head towards the floor,” not truly thinking it will reach the floor for most of us. It’s an ugly pigeon, but it’s a pigeon.

My hair is growing but it’s hard to tell how long it is because it is growing back in curls! From the back my hair is just like Mom’s. If you’ve ever tried to grow out bangs, that in-between stage is a cake walk compared to trying to tame hair all over your head. Yesterday I cleaned the garage and the porch. Working up a sweat, the curls turned straight up. This wouldn’t be a haircut of my choice. I’ve thought about creating a little broche to wear on my shirt every day: a little piece of write on/wipe off ceramic with sea glass dangling from it, just to make it look a little bit more like jewelry. Today I would write: Curls in Process – Chemo Ended in February – Cancer’s Gone. While it shouldn’t and doesn’t matter, I kind of want people here at the tire store and yesterday at the grocery store and tonight at T-Ball to know. To know this look isn’t what I consider normal. To know my identity is somewhere floating elusively just out of my grasp. To know that when I walk by a mirror I still don’t see me, but a person recovering from chemo, trying to hurry it up a bit, but having to go with the natural speed.

Enough of that.

The breeze-through Iowa was wonderful. I saw all my immediate family, except my sister’s husband. Coincidentally, I had chats with four cancer survivors, friends and family. I approximated how many survivor years there are in total between the four of them: over 100 years. Now that is exhilarating!

Staying strong,