Check-In

It has been around three months since my last chemo infusion. Today was one of my first follow-up appointments. For the next two years, I will be checked vaginally every three months. I will alternate between a radiation oncologist and my gynecological oncologist.

No woman likes to have her legs pulled into stir-ups and lay with her bare crotch (with a thin, rough cotton blanket draped over her lap) exposed to the world. Of course, there is the drama of the speculum as well. For many years, they were metal. If your doctor was kind enough, they might lay it on a heating pad to warm up before insertion. Otherwise, it was a freaky cold surprise. I have had issues with physician assistants who selected the wrong sized implement. One even told me I had a rather large vagina instead of admit her incompetence.

Fortunately, my doctors at the cancer center are quick and adept. They tend to use plastic speculums that warm up in their hands and apply enough lube to make it as painless as possible. I noticed that they always have a nurse in with them, even though they are women. As for my vagina, I am sure it was never really large given how little I have had sex. Whatever it was, it is definitely smaller now.

Today, I was looked after by a physician’s assistant in the radiation department. Tricia is a bubbly, young Asian woman. She was wearing a bright yellow dress under her white examination coat. She went through a host of possible side effects from treatment. Did I experience any of them? No. She remarked that my vagina has healed well and doesn’t show any signs of scarring from the radiation. She asked about my energy levels and was surprised at how active I have been since treatment. I was even called a “model patient.”

Leaving the cancer center with a clean bill of health is great. I sort of feel like it is the end of this cancer story and the beginning of a new one. I celebrated by having lunch at one of my favorite spots. I followed it up with a slice of homemade strawberry cake. I also decided to indulge in an early birthday gift for myself.

As you can tell, I love to write. I have tons of journals. My last one has been full for several months. So, I went to the local Barnes and Noble and picked up a leather-covered journal with a tree on the cover amidst a sunset. Sometimes just the smell of the leather of a journal can get me.

All in all, a great day.

Now what?

It has been a few weeks since I have completed my treatments. I am past the boney aches. I am even not really that fatigued. Still, I don’t feel a hundred percent right. How am I really different? Why do I still feel stuck?

I feel like I should have a new lease on life. I went through something pretty big. My life was at stake. You would think I am a total health nut right now. I am not. Although I have been told by more than one person to drink more water, take detoxifying baths, cut out sugar and grains, and eat more vegetables….my diet hasn’t really changed.

I should be working on getting stronger. Yet, I am still pretty stationary. I found a bike I would love to own, and it would help me become more fit, but I won’t allow myself to buy it. I have a new cpap, and wake up more energized than ever…yet, I still stay in bed napping. It is a complete failure to launch.

I feel fear. I am fearful of dying. I am fearful of being alone. I am fearful of getting caught up in a life that held me bondage before. I am fearful that things may never work out.

In reality, a lot of these fears are baseless, but I still let them control my life. It isn’t working. Still, I look around and see so much that needs to be done that I am just overwhelmed to the point of sitting there and staring at it for several hours a day. At least I use to put effort in distracting myself from it.

I thought I was making some progress last week when I went on not one but two dates. The women were nice. They were semi-normal, but there just wasn’t anything there. I am beginning to wonder if I was ever meant to be in a relationship with anyone.

I keep wondering why I am not worthy of that kind of loving relationship. I want to have someone to lean on, to love, to be there for me in the middle of the night. I don’t know what it is like to have someone to sleep next to. I don’t know what it feels like to desire someone and feel like they desire you in return. There is so much that I feel I haven’t been privy to, and it hurts.

I have to remember that I am not alone. I am so lucky to have two guys that love me and are there for me. I have someone to listen to me, to play with, to share my life with. I sometimes wonder if I am just being selfish because I want more.

Dating is such a mine field though. First, there is usually such anxiety over just meeting someone new and fearing rejection. That is normal. For me, there is this added baggage. Am I attracted to you? Do I even know what that really feels like? Is it even possible for me to please you? Is it possible for anyone to ever please me? I don’t know what I am doing here.

Sometimes I wonder if I am going to die and never know what it is like to love someone and have them love me in return. I may never know what it is like to have a true valentine or get married. I have had glimpses. In some ways, I feel like I have experienced more love and intimacy that some people who are in defined relationships. Is it wrong for me to want more?

I don’t know what path to take. I am afraid that anyone I choose will just lead me off a cliff. I don’t trust myself. I sometimes wish I just had a map, but even if I was given one…I would probably be too afraid to follow it.

I don’t know what any of the answers are. I am starting to get super impatient with myself and everything else. I want everything solved yesterday, and I am super unrealistic with my expectations.

I am treading water here. I hope I see some sort of boat or at least a lighthouse so I can at least point myself in a direction that has some capability of producing fruit for my labor. I know that you sometimes only need the faith of a mustard seed to sustain you in your journey. There are days were my faith struggles to mustard just that.

For this reason, I keep asking myself, “now what?”

That Next Big Thing

Today the sun is shining and I have felt the warmth of the glow on my face for the first time in eons. My bones are a little achy, but the pop of spring makes it a little easier to digest. I had chemo again last week. It was my second to the last one. I had a couple of extra weeks off because of the show, which made it hard to get excited about hooking up to IV bag again.

During the show run, I felt so good. I didn’t hurt. I had energy, and was doing challenging things physically for myself. I felt pretty in my make-up and wig. I even had an influx of new friends on Facebook. More in a couple of weeks than I have had in the last few years.

After any show, there is an eventual let down. You don’t have to go to practice. Your new friends start to go their separate ways. I had to face my reality. I am almost done with treatment. Almost.

I am super excited to be done. I don’t love the 8 hours hooked up to an IV. It is really suppose to be 6 hours, but when the nurse forgets to tell the pharmacy that you are ready for an hour and you add up the extra holes punched in your arm until they get a good vein…the time adds up.

I was a little more nervous than usual. Mostly because I had tasted normalcy and didn’t want to feel sick again. In reality, chemo doesn’t make me that sick. I take so many pills to prevent things, that I have never really been nauseous. The one thing that always comes is the boney pain. According to the nurses, adults make new blood cells in the pelvis and the sternum. My femur bones feel it, but so do my joints.

When I went in for my Neulasta shot, a new nurse told me that a doctor was trying Claritin to help treat his patient’s boney pain. Take one a day for the next 4 to five days. I have and although my sinuses are great, I still have the pain.

As I ponder my next chapter…I look towards new job opportunities. I might have one in my pocket. The job is a 9-5, paper-pushing, government type. It pays well, has great benefits. As a broke teacher, the stability sounds great. Pay increases. Minimal contact with outside clientele. But do I want to go back to that life? I have worked so hard over the years. I plowed over my own health and happiness for “da man” on more than one occasion. Where is the opening for pursuing my passions? When do I stop trying to be that straight laced, all-American gal? Is it worth trading your freedom for stability?

I have no answers. I am still pondering it all myself.

Deep down, I just want to be a professor at some community college. I just want to be a little crazy, help adults learn how to write, and have a little stage to inspire others to be their greatest. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I would love for it to just pay the bills….