There is a golden moment when you leave Chemotherapy knowing that it is your last treatment. Friends suggest celebration and champagne, but I went to bed. The battle with the cancer villain felt like it was on ‘pause’ rather than finished. It would be a month before tests would show if I still had cancer or not and even then I’ll always be on hold.
What has followed is a month of trying desperately to get back to normal. Looking back it does seem absurd, but desperate people do desperate things.
I guess I had imagined that when chemo stopped I would feel elated and therefore, the cancer fairy would smile down on me and take me where I wanted to go.
Hoping to get my voice back to normal after almost a year of whispering I made an appointment - two weeks after chemo ended – to see a specialist across the Atlantic. It was a good idea … which I didn’t begin to have the strength to put into practice. Never mind running before you can walk, first I needed to walk rather than hobble.
Then I thought, why not try acupuncture? Hopefully, the magic needles would give me my energy back. But I kept thinking that lying for hours with needles stuck in me was not unlike chemotherapy: what was the matter with me? Did I miss it? The morning of the appointment, one week after the final chemo, I was too sick to go, so that took care of itself.
Maybe it’s best to begin with basics, I thought. So I booked myself in to see my hairdresser. Of course I only had a few hairs left, but vanity spoke and I was convinced I would feel better if the hairs were brunette rather then grey. Also I was sure that if my hair was cut it would grow back better. This, too, was a semi failure. After three hours and three tries the color finally worked on my damaged hair. I still had to wear a wig or scarf when I went out, but somehow I felt better. Is it vanity or an intense desire to look ‘normal’ again? I did leave the salon feeling much better; I imagine that if women were bald they might still go to the hairdresser, just to get their skulls shined, and would leave feeling beautiful.
I just found the energy (as one does) to get make up done. After six months mostly spent in bed, I thought I was looking ghostly. I walked out having bought more make up than I would ever have the energy to put on. I did get an amazing lipstick that doesn’t come off once it sets; I managed to get a big smear on my neck and couldn’t get it off. Oil was supposed to work and I ran to the kitchen to get olive oil. No luck. Oh well. My neck was red for a few days. No one mentioned it. It is not noticed among the other changes.
Losing weight always helps, or so I thought, because it is the one thing you can control. I tried no carbs, but after a week felt stranger than ever. On to the low fat diets, and that didn’t even last a week … so much for control.
Then I got desperate and did something dangerous. On the internet I found the idea that anti depressants might cure the symptom of hand and foot tingling and burning. So I found a psychiatrist who was willing to prescribe it for me. I ended up with nausea and exhaustion. I went to bed for three days, lost my appetite and felt sicker then I had after the chemo, so that is the end of that experiment. The positive aspect was that I lost a few pounds and my appetite still hasn’t come back.
I’m not out of ideas yet and if you follow my blog at http://cancercurmudgen.com/ you will see what happened when I went to the health resort. I can still try a host of alternative therapies, but my health insurance won’t cover them, which is a sobering thought. For now, I return happily to my bed thinking that rest is the best cure – and it’s free.