Baby Steps

by NotDownOrOut

I continue to suffer the side-effects of the efforts I have made to prevent the return of cancer.

I cry in bathrooms. It still hurts to eliminate anything. I have no idea if this is a temporary or long-term problem. One woman asked me if I needed toilet paper. I hope I never cry for lack of toilet paper. I have tried to lighten the dismal mood that I am in when in a bathroom by crying, “AyAyAyAy.” Sort of a tribute to jalapeno peppers everywhere.

I can barely walk up the four steps to my apartment–particularly when weighed down with a cart of books and papers to grade. Tonight it took me about four minutes to make the climb. Sixty seconds is a long wait to climb one step.

I have trouble sleeping. If I sleep 46 minutes to one hour without waking, I am happy. I have a few times slept two hours in a row. How refreshing!

Foods taste differently to me. Today I ate a bratwurst. I had cooked two. One ended up in the trash. Diet Dr. Pepper used to be an occasional treat–no more. It tastes terrible to me.

I don’t smell the same to me. My sweat smells differently than it did in the past. Other sources of body odors also have changed. I personally find the new odors distasteful.

After surgery I was numb around my incision. Before chemotherapy and radiation, sesnsation had returned. Now it is gone on my left side and restored only on the right side. I feel as if there is a gaping tear there–not painful, just disconnected.

My hair is neither here nor there. Some remains on my head. The rest is on my clothes, my pillow, my comb, the floor, caught in my necklace, and sometimes snagged on my lip. I fear it will all fall out before it grows in anywhere. I have eyelashes and eyebrows (update: by February 8th, they also were becoming scarce). There are two hairs on one calf. I have a few white hairs that have grown on my chin. The rest is gone.

My nose still bleeds every day.

My skin is so dry that I have calluses on my knuckles and the joints of my fingers. There are patches of very dry skin all over my ankles.

My gums bleed if I brush hard or floss.

I feel as if I am a much older person than I was two months ago.

Inside I am positive. I enjoy many things in life as much as I ever did. I believe I have beat cancer. I remain passionate about teaching and about writing and about people and about so many things that have always made me happy. Nevertheless, I sense that I will be viewed by some as damaged. That saddens me.

On the day I started chemotherapy and radiation I brought two fortune cookies to the session. Barb took one. Mine, which hangs over my desk reads: “You will pass a difficult test that will make you happier. Lucky # 10, 17, 25, 29, 32, 37.” I pray that the fortune is correct. For now, I take baby steps. I pray that I will pass this test and, indeed, be happier.