Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Relief Surprise

Since Saturday morning, I have felt a bit disconnected from the world, as if I'm drunk, but minus the slurred speech and diminished motor control. Minus, as well, and this is the surprising part, the goofy happiness I generally feel when I'm pretty well sauced. I imagine there are a lot of reasons why I'm feeling as if I'm not quite here. One is certainly drugs. Last week I had radioactive glucose, and radioactive iodine, and some other radioactive substance. I also had a couple blood draws, and a four-hour infusion of Navelbine, Herceptin, and Pamidronate (the long one), without any of the premeds designed (remarkably well-designed, it turns out) to make me feel like I hadn't been pumped full of poison. I got a migraine Friday night—after my long week, and my good news, and my infusion—which actually progressed all the way to the nausea and headache part (99% of the time I just get the visual distortions). I took a couple of Tylenol PMs and slept through the night relatively well.

Saturday, though, when I got up, I felt this weird disconnect. It actually felt pretty normal to be tipsy later in the afternoon at N&Ks, celebrating. But the haze faded back in as the Maker's faded out. I am going to be getting some premeds Thursday when I get my next Navelbine and Herceptin, so it'll be interesting to see how next week feels.

The other reason I'm feeling disconnected from the world is probably emotional, though, and I really have no idea how it might be affecting the way things physically appear. I just spent 15 minutes sobbing in the car of my friend MS, and actually felt a bit more present at the end of it. But that feeling of actually being here, now, in this reality, has faded again a bit.

Here's the thing. For the last ten months, I've had the same job: healing from cancer. I haven't been at war with cancer. I haven't felt particularly nervous about cancer. It was, really truly, funny to me how bad things were last spring. Of course, I've undeniably enjoyed feeling better, getting my strength back. I've enjoyed watching my normalizing blood oxygenation levels and heart rate on my little REI climber's oxymeter. I have even enjoyed my infusions, with the Benadryl nap and the nice nurses and the bed with the warm blankets and the relatively-good-for-an-institution free lunch, and not having to think about or do anything else on those days. There are definite benefits to being in treatment.

And now, suddenly, all of that has pretty much been taken away, long before anyone really expected it to. I know it sounds perverse, but I have, in a sense, lost an intimate companion, and I'm left bereft. Now what?

Do I go out and get a job immediately? Add a second day of riding to my schedule, now that I'll have more energy? Start rock climbing regularly again? Or, do my responsibilities to my household change suddenly, now that I am "well"? And, those pesky brain mets, that seem to be non-problematic as far as anyone can tell for sure, are they dead? Dormant? Gathering their artists for another installation? The weird disconnectedness that I'm feeling, is that a precursor to major internal brain trauma (which is, of course, what I've been irrationally fixating on for the last couple days)?

So. Yes, I am, of course, thrilled that my PET was normal, that my cancer didn't put in an appearance. But I know that this is not the end of the cancer road for me. If I've learned anything from the last decade, it's that cancer is in my life, whether it's active or merely remembered.

I don't know why I'm so lucky that I still get to be here, still living in this exquisite world, still loving my family and my friends, my dogs, Ian. Life. I don't know why cancer hasn't killed me outright, why it hasn't maimed me, why it hasn't even, really, inconvenienced me. I don't know if this remission (I'm not sure that we can call it that with the brain the way it is) will be permanent. I don't know if it will be short. Basically, regardless of all the tests and meetings, I still don't know anything at all.

It's just a brand new collection of things I don't know, and at the moment that's proving to be a difficult adjustment.


Jen Berg said...

Hug. Just really really big HUG. xox

Andrienne said...


What an amazing spiritual connection you are writing about. Not that you don't have a lot of reasons for crying (tired, drugs, confusion, brief psychic connection to the global financial meltdown), but that is the quickest and most efficient way for you to get back in your body!

Although there may be physiological reasons due to chemicals for you to feel "not quite in" your body, it is a great way to oversee all levels of healing - your own Cosmic Overlord status as it were. I am so proud of you - I think I'm hearing an almost Guru level of personal responsibility for wellness. Sounds like you're hooked in and out every way imaginable.

Only you Ms. Super-multitasker-take-everything-on-at-once would find all of this as something that does not really inconvenience you.