“How are you?”

Considering that October 16, 2009 I started chemo, today… I am great. My life is back into full swing with volunteering at two schools, play dates, fall travel plans – most things that I wasn’t doing last year at this time, I am back to doing. However… my inner self has surpassed the exterior boundaries of my body.

In other words: I’m still carrying 30 pounds of extra weight, gained over three long winter months of chemo. I get bruises walking through the house and bumping into things, forgetting my body extends out farther now. That, together with my tight curls… I don’t feel like the old me. My hair is as long as my middle finger but lies in tight boingy curls close to my scalp in the morning. It gradually expands to ¾ the length of my middle finger by the end of the day. Recently, the weight of longer curls has made it noticeably looser every week.

The identity of “Linda” is still lost somewhere in the strange image reflected in mirrors. Some days, stranger than being bald. Bald was temporary, to be expected given the situation. When my hair grew back and when treatment was complete, I expected to see me. Immediately. To walk away from the year unscathed. Completely me. A couple days ago, I was laughing alone in our bedroom as I got dressed when Bill walked in. “I so don’t look like me. I feel like me, but I definitely don’t look like me.” And his reply was something like, “You have had cancer and chemo, you know.” Ah, yes. And I do look spectacular considering that little hiccup of last year. And I am thankful.

Most days I’m operationally myself. I still have a strange sensation at the back of my upper arm and some tenderness to the touch, especially after seeing my doctors and having them perform their dutiful pokes and prods. Which coincidentally, I’ve had my year checks: clear mammogram and passing grades from my breast surgeon and my chemo doctor. :) I’ll have an MRI in November as my standard preventative care is alternating mammograms and MRI’s every six months.

Generally, I can lift, turn, spin, pirouette… I have much less tingling in my arms, especially at night, thanks to Gabapentin/Neurontin (sp?). Things that are achy – hips, knees, and feet – I imagine will be better without the weight.

The retelling of a story about two farmers and a dog: One day, George visited his neighbor Fred. Standing in the barnyard, George couldn’t help but notice Fred’s dog howling. “What’s wrong with him?” George asked. Fred explained, “He’s sitting on a nail.” George was perplexed, “Well, why doesn’t he move?” Fred shrugged, “I guess it doesn’t hurt enough yet.”

In hindsight – in case you are reading this for foresight – I would do two things differently throughout treatment – chemo and radiation: Exercise, even taking short walks daily, and not treat myself with Oreos and milk at 9 p.m. to congratulate myself on being alive. After a candid conversation with my breast surgeon, I picked up the book Women Food and God. She said if she could, she would give every woman that came into her office a copy of it. My curiosity is piqued…

Staying strong, having recently buttoned my capris – which meant removing the hair band that had been bridging the gap between my button and button-hole all summer,