February has been such a messy month. I have been using any “free” time to be at the cinema (my job) and spend time either resting by myself or with my friends. I have also been writing but it has become a bit too personal so I needed to think about what I’m willing to expose and where the boundaries lie. Also, I have only two chemo sessions left. 2 sessions!! I can’t believe I have already done 16, it’s wild. The past few weeks I have done a lot of reminiscing and it made me think of what I wrote after my first session, which I wanted to share with you:
Yesterday I sat for my first session of chemotherapy. The day started with a small surgery to implant the – very aptly called – life port. A catheter that is connected to one of the main veins in your heart where all the chemo drugs will flow through. The drugs are too toxic to go through our regular veins as it can basically ‘fry’ them and cause all sorts if issues. I sat through 7 hours of drugs pumping through my veins. Flushing, anti-histamines, flushing, stereoids, flushing, paracetamol, flushing, Herceptin, flushing, Taxol, flushing, Carboplatin, flushing, end.
It’s hard to describe what I felt. The moment I came back from the port surgery, I was already sensitive. I cried with no warning, I felt vulnerable and weak. I had shortness of breath, I was experiencing things that I had never experienced before. I felt my body in its most human form. Unprepared, afraid and defensive. Since my unilateral mastectomy, I’ve had very little time to absorb everything that’s been happening with me.
It was a short journal entry. I spent the next two days after my first chemo in severe discomfort with palpitations and shortness of breath. After a visit with my oncologist 3 days after my port surgery and first chemo, he sent me to a pulmonologist who ordered an x-ray. The results revealed that I had a pneumothorax, or a collapsed lung. I had been walking around breathing through only one lung the entire weekend and I had no idea. It turns out this is, in fact, a very rare complication of the port insertion, but I had not been warned it could even happen. I was hospitalized for 14 days after that and had my army with me 🙂 – the girls took turns to stay with me every single of those 13 nights. During those 14 days, I had 10 x-rays and had 12 canulas (the hand/arm IV) inserted into the veins of my left arm. At some point, I had two canulas on my arm at the same time because my veins collapse very easily and the nurses would have to find a new vein every couple of days. Fun fact: after the removal of 2 of my lymph nodes during my mastectomy, my right arm cannot be “touched” meaning I cannot have blood drawn from my right arm, I cannot have IV canulas inserted or my blood pressure taken from it either as it can cause “lymphedema.” Those days were perhaps the most painful of this entire journey for me and in spite of that, I felt blessed for those around me.
Here are some photos I took of them and their smiles that would brighten up my every day:
I keep dreaming and thinking about all the things I’m going to do once chemo is over. All the places I want to visit, all the concerts I want to go to, all the music I want to dance to. The past few months have been unreal. I have not been able to travel and, at the moment, I am too tired to socialize or attempt to have a “normal” weekend. I don’t really recognize myself in the mirror either so self-confidence is low. There’s just so much effort I put into my looks lately so I can feel a little like myself. I was watching Ru Paul’s Drag Race and I actually related – from drawing my eyebrows, to putting all the makeup, to considering wearing false stick-on lashes to wearing my wig – it’s a similar life. Funny, I know, but also kind of true. When I take it all off at the end of the day and look in the mirror, I see someone I don’t recognize… in both, a good and bad way. I see someone I love so much more than before, yet at the same time, I have lost so much, that it’s hard to feel like myself. It’s very difficult to explain. All the things that used to make me feel feminine, and attractive even, I feel I’ve lost. And this is not to trigger any type of compliments, is the reality. Imagine waking up one day with no hair, no eyebrows, no eyelashes, scars on your face, hyperpigmentation and dryness in your hands and feet… And also, with an implanted breast and a scar right through it, another scar on your chest, another scar under your arm and another scar right below it. To top it all off, you feel tired, bloated, sometimes nauseated… betrayed by your own body… It hasn’t been easy.
In the past couple of weeks I have taken my time to reflect on a lot of this. It has been a painful journey but one of growth and learning. I know I have to come to terms with it. I know I have to forgive myself for putting up with so much I did not deserve. I wanted to value myself, yet I did not. I allowed some people in my life to walk all over me. I allowed people to take advantage of me. I felt betrayed, abandoned and hurt. I want to forgive though. I want to move past every single person who hurt me. I want to forgive myself for not feeling like I was enough. I want to put it all behind me. I want to be able to trust myself too, my body, my destiny. I want to believe I will never be in this situation again. I want to protect myself, to value who I am and what I have to offer. I want to stop putting myself down or taking responsibility for other people’s emotional journeys. I want to forgive those who did not love me the same way I did. I want to forgive those who did not respect me the same way I did. I want to move past all the pain of not feeling like I was enough. I am enough. I am worthy of love and I deserve all the goodness.
On March 14th will be my last chemo session ever. I am grateful that is almost over – on that day, please do think of me and send me joy and love 🙂 I can’t wait.