Today was a good day.
Today was a chemo day.
Today was a good day because it was a chemo day.
Now, those are words I never thought I’d say, but after feeling good for the last week and feeling more like me than I have since before The Mammogram, I was excited to go to the cancer center and get my chemo on.
Hunh? What did they give me, you’re probably wondering.
Dexamethasone, a.k.a. STEROIDS. Not that kind of steroids. This is a corticosteroid, and its purpose is to alleviate any allergic reactions to paclitaxel (taxol). For the first three treatments, I take two pills the day before and two after. It’s also injected with my other pre-meds – Benadryl, Pepcid, and Ondansetron – at the cancer center before the chemo.
Corticosteroids have their own side effects. They can cause aggression. They increase the appetite, so users can experience weight gain. I’ve experienced neither of those and in fact lost a couple more pounds in the last week (only thirty-six more to go!). They can also cause euphoria. They can cause joy. Oh, yeah. Give me some of that.
I joked with my med team today that I was going to drive them crazy because I was so high-energy and was as chatty as a wind-up auctioneer. They loved it, they said, and I believed them. They chatted right back. Jim said to tell them that if they needed someone to talk to, he’s there for them.
“I joked” is important. While I have no doubt that the “Dex” is providing some of this euphoria, I’ll be glad when I don’t have to take it anymore. I had a hard time getting myself to smoke pot, for goodness’ sake, even when it was the only thing that would ease my nausea. There’s no way I want to take a pill like this for any length of time. For one, I’ve been up since three in the morning, and drug-induced insomnia is not going to be joining my party.
But the real reason I don’t attribute this joy to a drug is because I felt it before I took it. For the past week, I have felt more like the me I remember. Happy. Productive. Energetic. I had one night when we left the fire going for too long and I got overheated. Plus when I have to go, I have to GO. But other than that – I’m excited about everything I’m working on. My interest in cooking has returned. My diet’s gotten better as I can eat more than cottage cheese. I’m writing chapters and very soon I can say I’ve written a third book. I have a road trip to plan, and while it’s going to be different from my normal random journeys because I’ll need to map out multiple bathrooms every couple of hours so I can choose the one that’s least busy, and drive no more than five hours a day, and know exactly where I’m going to camp for the night and will keep strangers, strangers, I’m still going on a road trip. And then I get to teach my passion!
So, yes, I’m euphoric. I’m joyful.
It’s not the drug. I’m just high on life. (Yes, I actually did say that in high school when some friends were disappointed I didn’t have booze at my sweet 16. Oh, if they could see me now.)
Today was a good chemo day because now I only have ten more treatments and I will be done with this. My hair will grow back. My cancer won’t.
Today was a good chemo day because I love my med team. Because I can finally, after months, get 5,000 steps a day again. By the end of the month, I’ll be walking 7,500 steps a day.
Today was a good chemo day because I see myself again. I see the person I’d worked on for fifty years, who had grown through trauma and abuse and bad choices and disappointment – intermixed with some good stuff, too – to be someone who chooses to be happy, kind, ethical, and loving. I’m not perfect, but I like me. I was losing sight of the woman I’d created, from fear, pain, sadness, and sometimes anger. I’ve been watching friends who have to take so much chemo that it goes home with them in a pump, and yet they retain their optimism, and then I would feel ashamed and ungrateful, and that it wasn’t OK to be scared hurt sad angry. What I’ve got is nothing, I’d think. Mine’s a breeze.
But we can’t compare our lives with anyone else’s. I missed me, and that was that. I was tired from surgeries and poison, and wanting the holidays to still be The Holidays, yet feeling worse and worse. Struggling to do anything normal. Struggling to feel joy.
Then my brilliant doc gave me three weeks to recuperate. And at the end of those three weeks, I felt great. Best I’d felt in months. When I went in last week, my brilliant team held my hand (metaphorically) and let me know what each medicine would do, and what I can do to minimize the side effects. Eat well. Drink water. Sleep. Walk. Walk some more. Rest. Keep walking. Today we knew it worked.
Today was a good day.
(Pictured above: Jim and I being euphoric – no steroids involved – in sunny California.)