Monday, December 3, 2012

Keeping it up

I woke up this morning feeling like me again.

What a relief. I was dreading heading off to chemotherapy in the headspace I'd been inhabiting for the last few days. I was having trouble keeping it up- keeping up the dreary exercises, keeping up the positivity, keeping up the level of fight against all the nefarious methods the Freeloader has devised to get me down there on the mat, so he can go for the throat.

Everywhere I looked, there were cancer stories with sad, bad endings. I picked up an autobiography I knew I'd enjoyed before for a re-read, and found two fatal cases of breast cancer in it that had just wafted over my head last time.

This time, of course, they stabbed me in the heart. In the end, whispered the Freeloader, in the end I'll come back and get you. I ALWAYS do.

My Twitter feed had a link to a story about another breast cancer blogger. She'd been targeted by trolls who had severe cases of 'Munchausen's by internet'- women faking cancer for attention, blogging about it because it was easy to keep the lie going online without being sprung. In the end the genuine cancer sufferer shut down the blog, exhausted and disillusioned.

FFS. People do that?

OMG. Does anyone think I'm faking this?

I bet some of them wonder, whispered the Freeloader. The ones who don't know you personally. You seem too 'up'. You seem too positive. Be a bit more... pliable.

(Reaching for the piano wire.)

And the heat... the terrible heat. There's no such thing as climate change, squark the shock jocks and the politicians and the mining magnates, and here in the Bungy it's been between 38 and 41 degrees in the shade consistently for a week, before summer's even got a run-up.

And humid- deathly, drowning, claustrophobic humid.

You'll never make it through chemo, snickers the Freeloader. And wait till the radio starts. You'll already be par-cooked before you come home to this.

I could have dealt with that- with ALL of it- if it wasn't for the pain. I've had persistent nerve-end issues since the mastectomy, and my body's stopped responding to the narcotics; I took one of the heavy duty ones at midnight two nights ago, despite my resolve to kick all the narcotics before chemo, and I was still awake and desperate at half past three. (Awake, spaced off the wall and nauseated, to go with the fire ants pouring out of my armpit.)

My daughter-in-law did what she does best then- kicked me in the arse with her lay-down-misere logic. She knows what chronic pain is like. She takes no prisoners when she speaks her mind.

"Remember," she wrote, "pain killers aren't a sign of weakness, that you've given up, that you can't just harden the fuck up already... they're just a tool to improve function. Surely you've felt the frustration of not having the right tool for the job?... Don't skimp on the drugs because they're 'unnatural'- surely the advice you were given after your first surgery, that inadequate pain management = more likely chronic pain, still applies? I'd really rather you didn't join me at the metaphorical chronic pain table."

What a privilege, to have a DIL like that. Hats off to Laura. She's 100% right. I was told. And whose fault is it if I don't get the right tool, anyway? Squeaky wheel, Candy. Squeaky wheel.

Jools chipped in her expertise too, getting out her MIMS (or whatever the heck online tool doctors use to find the right drug for the job these days) and finding something specific to nerve pain. "You won't forget this name," she said. "Ask for Lyrica."

With people falling over themselves to help me again, I'd run out of excuses to lie around feeling sorry for myself. I rang Dr Rosie, had a good old yarn with her (what a woman!) and got myself on the Good Drugs.

O Lyrica, how I love thee.

(Though I hate thy horrendous price tag.)

My body's response to a drug that works on the neurotransmitters has been miraculous. Within half an hour of taking the first capsule, I started to feel some relief. By bedtime, I was able to- wait for it- get comfortable enough to sleep. I rate the ability to lie down and just go to sleep very high up on my list of 'vital assets stolen by the Freeloader'.

Higher than the missing breast, actually. As Joni Mitchell would say, "Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you've got till it's gone?" I knew I'd miss my breast, but most of us take sleep for granted.

But my sleep's not gone. I got it back. And I woke up this morning feeling like me again.

Sure, I'm a bit dopey now after taking a second capsule this morning; somehow I ended up fast asleep on the lounge in the middle of the day despite the crazy heat, and I'd have to be drugged off my brain to manage that. So I think I'll cut it back to once a day, at night.  But I'm not going to stop taking them till I'm completely free of pain.

I can keep it up. I can get through the chemo. Without sleep, I'm a goner- with it, I can take on the world.


Lots of little things are helping me to keep it up, now that I've broken through the pain barrier. Finding the 'up' side of having cancer sounds idiotic, but there is an up side.

I'm surprised- amazed- how many people genuinely care about me. Enough to go out of their way to help me. I never would have guessed that. I don't think I'll ever be quite so much of a cynic again.

Damn, there goes another finger.
And that's a shoddy patch-up job
on the right.
It can show in quite little things. Like, my nail polish- so carefully applied and happily flaunted- is all flaking away. I am No Good at keeping my hands beautiful; those hands are far too busy fixing things, making things, playing the piano, dealing with fiddly little farm problems because I'm the one with small, dextrous fingers. I've never taken care of my nails. Seriously, I was madly cooking dinner the other night and nearly had a fit because I thought my own fingernails were a flock of Christmas beetles that had silently landed in the vegies I was cutting up. THAT is how unused to wearing nail polish I am.

Stop laughing.

So I say a few words to a FB friend who happens to be a beautician, and all of a sudden she's finding time in her busy work day for my needs, researching nails and cancer, and coming up with a flurry of cancer-friendly answers. (Yay, Megan.)

That's just one example of many.

Thanks, Freeloader, for showing me how many good people there are out there who care about me.

I've been indulging myself a little, too. I've always been very careful with my money; it's probably a hangover from my childhood, when money was always tight and we had to make do with what we had. Hey, I only recently realised that the 'treat' jaffles we had some nights were probably the only food left in the house.

Things that I always said 'no' to myself about- well, blow it; now I'm saying 'yes'. The locally-grown, perfectly ripe, horribly expensive apricots in the local supermarket- yes, I'm having those. (And they were wonderful. I love apricots- she said, scoffing the second-last one.) The stupidly-priced blueberries, the grapes slightly out of season and way out of my usual purchasing league- yes, I can put some of those in the freezer and eat them in lieu of my usual ice cream and sweet ices when it's this hot. (I may not be willing to give up dairy and sugar completely, but hey, I can cut down.)

Thanks for the treats, Freeloader.

How cute is that? It reminds me
of my grandfather's gold watch
on a chain... only much cheaper.
And a bit of online retail therapy is fun; no guilt attached to buying things that I just have to have, because I Have Cancer.

A watch on a chain round my neck, because I can't have anything tight around my left wrist. A pretty medical alert bracelet, because the writing's rubbing off the one they gave me in hospital- it's just a band of plastic, and it's dying of old age now. A new book to read while I'm being poisoned; some up-market, elbow-high gardening gloves to protect my lymphoedema-prone arm; a foam head for my wig.

Thanks, Freeloader. We'll discuss the bill later. Hell, what's a credit card limit for?

And then there are the big things the Freeloader has done for me. My relationship with my Bear has taken on a depth I never really knew was there. Seriously, I knew he loved me, but I didn't really know how much till he thought he might lose me. We've both had our near-death experiences- me while waiting to find the boundaries of the Freeloader's invasion front, him in dodging a falling tree by seconds- and we're clutching our second chances to our hearts and hanging on like crazy. We tumble into strangely deep and meaningful conversations at the drop of a hat, my man's man and I, just because we're both so aware of how lucky we are to be together right now.

That's unusual. That's comforting. Thanks for bringing us closer, Freeloader.

So with a wave of a magic prescription, I have escaped the doom and gloom. (Whoops, there goes the last apricot. Sorry, Bear. The Freeloader made me do it.) Somehow I'm finding a way to count my blessings again instead of wailing about my woes. I'm unnerving the Freeloader by staring at him with gratitude now and then, instead of fear.

He just stands there waiting. He knows the chemo's coming closer. He thinks he'll get on top of me then.

No way, mate. I'm keeping my chin up and my fists clenched. You nearly had me for a moment there, but I'm stronger than you think.

I'm going to thank that damned poison as it goes into my veins. I'm going to encourage it to go in hard and clean me right out. If I accept it and welcome it, instead of fearing it and fighting it, that's more energy left to fight the Freeloader, isn't it?

Look out. You're about to be flogged, Freeloader. Dr Goodguy and Dr Mumbles reckon you've probably still got a few outposts floating around in there, but your days are numbered.

How about I give you a kiss on your way out?

No comments:

Post a Comment