See what’s happening in this photo? I am simultaneously freezing and wearing a blanket around my face, but also boiling and have an ice pack on my head. Oh chemo, you’re so silly.
Let’s discuss ‘Cancer Normal.’
‘Normal’ is hard to define under any circumstances. When you are talking about statistics, normal becomes a pretty hard and fast range, but when you are talking about feelings, sensations, emotions? Normal becomes a giant blur.
Now, my normal before cancer was pretty straightforward ‘suburban mom of three’ stuff. I was busy, I was stressed, I was wasting a lot of time caring about the wrong things.
In comes the new cancer normal. In most ways it is much worse than before, but I have to admit, in some ways it’s better.
I have a perspective now that can only be earned from the experience of walking too close to mortality. I am often asked by health professionals how my mental state is and, shockingly, it’s pretty dang steady in comparison to life before cancer.
Now that my physical body is fighting the good fight, I don’t have much energy left over to allow my mind to go postal. It is eerie how quiet my mind has become. It’s gone way into the back seat, allowing my physical body to drive us, hopefully, straight out of this mess.
As my physical body heals, I worry about my anxious mind regaining the pilot position. It has been rather freeing to let the body lead and the mind boogie board behind me.
I hope very much that cancer has caused a permanent paradigm shift that grants me this perspective for the rest of my life. I hear from people on the other side of this disease that the change is permanent. But who really knows until it happens to you?
Some things I do know are the statistics of my feeble body at this crucial post-chemo moment.
I had hydration therapy at the Cancer Center this morning. Side note: it is shocking how dehydrated one can become even when drinking water around the clock after chemo. Brings new meaning to the term, ‘retaining water.’
Receiving IV fluids through my port gives me a little boost that drinking can’t produce, apparently. My cyborg port is a handy little sucker.
While I was there, my blood was drawn to see where my numbers are post-treatment. Here comes the new ‘Chemo Normal’:
My red blood cells dropped a little, but nothing dangerous. Still well under a ‘normal’ person’s count, but fine within a ‘chemo’ person’s count.
My white blood cells were at 6 on Tuesday when I got chemo and today, they are almost 21. That shift comes from the Neulasta shot that rockets your bone marrow into mass producing WBCs and causes the terrible leg and bone pain I have.
The last major player are my platelets. The normal range is 150,000- 400,000. Today mine were at 80,000. Not good at all for a ‘normal’ person, but for a ‘chemo’ person, fine.
It’s amazing to me how we can so quickly shift our perspectives on what is normal depending on what is happening around us. Cancer is happening to me, so feeling like garbage (and having the blood tests to prove it), is considered totally kosher.
We chose to make me this sick. Being this sick will ultimately make me better, but if you got these results? You’d be in some trouble. Try and wrap your head around that. It’s mystifying.
So right now my body is ‘chemo normal.’ By the end of next week I should be back to ‘cancer normal’ and, maybe within a month, I’ll be just like the rest of you ‘normal’ people when it comes to my internal makeup.
My mind, however, will never be as it was before. Its new normal will be something I haven’t experienced yet. I hope to be a stronger, more well-rounded woman, but perhaps that won’t be my path. I’ll have to take it as it comes.
In the meantime, I’m going to continue to lay here with ice on my head, blankets on my body and chemo and cannabis in my bloodstream.
This is normal.