FIVE!!!!! Today is my fifth last chemo infusion!!!!! I can finally – finally – see the light at the end of this terrifying tunnel. I was absolutely giddy with excitement as I waltzed into the Chemo Lounge … in a long black dress with a side slit all the way up my thigh and my favourite 5 inch stiletto sandals. And of course the new signature aviator sunglasses.
I absolutely love to get all dressed up to go to the Durham Regional Cancer Centre. But you knew that about me. I love dressing up at Hallowe’en as The Fox! I love dressing up in a business suit for work. I love dressing for clubbing downtown with my squad. I love dressing up in the bedroom. For the Chemo Lounge, the nurses love it. It makes me feel like I am going out somewhere special. I am! It can be brutally tough to remain in that mindset when you run into more and more meetup friends at the Cancer Centre. I guess we are entering that age … but it is younger than the generation before us. The generation after us has already started their journey … isn’t that sad and scary for our children?
I can’t think about it.
When I arrive at the Chemo Lounge all the nurses say hello, run over to check out what I am wearing and ask who I am today.
“Oooooo! Storm is my favourite! Bring Storm back!”
But they remember my real name – Lisa – and get down to the serious business of cancer to triple check my name, birthdate and prescribed medicines. A second nurse signs off on the chemo to be doubly sure I am getting the correct medication and dosage.
My second chemo protocol – Taxol – pushes four IV bags of fluids through me plus I drink several litres of water to flush the toxic waste out of my body. I get Benadryl, Pepcid, Dexamethason (steroids) and Taxol. Sleepy. ‘Roid rage. Pee. Tummy. Pee. Chemo. Pee. Pee. Pee.
A complete stranger took my photo in the Chemo Lounge today – from her chemo chair – as I passed her on my way back from the bathroom. I’d give a penny for her thoughts!
“My Gawd … she wore THAT to chemo?”
“Wow! She looked amazing!” She was female so I doubt that was her intention …
“Who is she?”
“You walked into the party
Like you were walking on a yacht..”
Guilty. As I have said from the beginning … No one does cancer like I do cancer! My way or the highway. It’s my illusion of control … because control is an illusion.
Or is it?
I may not have control of my cancer. But I have much better control of me. I know … I know. That is almost a laughable oximoron because I am out of control.
Or am I?
I am doing what I want.
Not one drop of my self-acceptance depends on your opinion of me.
I’m not responsible for your happiness. You are. I’m looking out for mine. Lisa found her groove.
But this isn’t a /rant. This is me. And it took a cancer diagnosis to set my spirit free.
Pre-cancer diagnosis: I might have worn the same dress and shoes. I’ve had those shoes for years. The dress covered everything right down to my ankles. Having some strange female photograph me would make me wildly uncomfortable … because I know women. They rarely send a photograph of another woman to rave and gush over her. I would have second guessed myself, and it would have driven me nuts with self-doubt. When ever someone ditched me … a guy, a friend, a stranger … I would turn that inward and wonder what I did wrong. I ripped myself apart. Still, she might have loved my wig and wanted one. I decided to go with that theory.
But it’s really about them, isn’t it? It’s not about me. And that brings us back to the 2nd of the Four Agreements:
Post-cancer diagnosis: Zero fucks were given.
Yes, I do care about my reputation and image, my brand, and how I look. But I also have the strength to be different. Cut out of the herd mentality and do something uniquely me.
Because that is where we shine and make a difference. It takes strength to stop transmitting on the same frequency as the crowd. Once you stand apart, you are a target … and I have been. I’m not just Lisa, the crowdpleaser of the clique. The Voice of Reason. Although I have always had a voice and used it (not always with reason), I kept in stride with the others and the popular vote. No longer. You either love me or hate me. And I am totally fine with that.
I am an extrovert and loved to fit in. I have collections of people from dozens and dozens of groups I’ve moved in and out of throughout my life. I cherish most of the friendships I have collected along the way. But I won’t sacrifice myself for that friendship. I’d rather smile and wave from a distance than fit in.
However, I am blessed with so many strong, supportive people. And I cry when a woman I respect says “Hey Lisa! That courage sign is meant for you! Go over and get a photo!”
I have courage?
I might actually miss chemo. It’s given me a TREMENDOUS life experience that I wouldn’t trade for anything. I was meant to do this journey. As I said right at the beginning in Pink Dot Detour, I would walk right through this fire. I’ve crawled, I’ve grabbed burning sticks to throw and hurt myself in the process, I’ve sat down and wept ugly tears while the flames scorched my soul. But I got back up and kept walking. When I look back and read my own words, I tear up and bawl, I remember (because I have chemobrain and I forget so this blog is a cherished chronicle of my journey), I laugh, I cringe. I am proud.
“And then there will be the days where I will lift my head, and walk through that fire with grace, grit and a wicked sense of humour.”
I don’t ever want to go through another round of chemo, but I am thankful I’ve had this opportunity to live, grow and change. I’m at peace with my life and my cancer … so far. I am still terrified that I will have to walk down this path again. I don’t even want to expend one moment or thought on having to do this again. I can’t. That is the nightmare that wakes me in a cold sweat … because I am not in control. I know many who have had much worse journeys than mine. I don’t get to choose all the factors that decide my success or failure.
And as I progressed, I had to let go of little pieces of me. Invisible, dangerous cells. Invisible, choking ideals. I’ve had to learn acceptance. And by God, I don’t want to have to give that lesson a second chapter. But what if I do? When I reread my own words, I realize that I do have courage!
I am thankful that I have blogged this journey. I am proud of every word that spilled onto these pages.
This week I will be doing my geek thing and splitting up the blogs. While it was important for me to introduce you to Heather and Andrew*, it is time to send them in different directions.
http://www.pinkdotdetour.com needs to be the kind of link I can send to corporations. Something I will be proud to wear on the back of my pink survivor Run for the Cure tshirt.
http://www.foxdiaries.com needs to be bolder because I have held back. Really. But I will always stick to my authentic voice. I can’t and won’t write something I can’t see myself experiencing … even if it remains a fantasy. There may be kinky stories where I will curate guest writers. And there are genres my blog will never touch.
I am proud of my sexuality and sensuality, but it has a place and a time. I have 10,000 distinct readers who have wildly different tastes. Some just want cancer writing … some want more erotica.
Sex is entirely a personal choice and I just wanted to let you know that good girls do it quite well. That was old news to some, new and shocking news to others. We still don’t talk openly about sex.
I can’t tell you how satisfying it is to get mail from women like Olivia* who tell me “We bought the book BDSM for Nice People because of your blog. It has 60 scenarios we can try.”
I am honoured that you let me lead you into fresh thinking.
Thanks for all the well wishes. I was quite sick today due to poor food choices and the smell of rotting chicken … not the chemo. I’ve really rocked through the Taxol with – knock on a woodie – very little side effects. And I was TERRIFIED in Taxol on my Nerves! Ya ya … I did have a fever of 39.6C/103 a few weeks ago but again … self inflicted. I scare Dr. F … she admitted that to me yesterday. I dive deep then recover quickly.
I am going to bed with a wink and smile … only four more chemo infusions for me. I can see the finish line.
Thank you for sticking by my side, especially when my voice changed. You loved me when I was most unlovable. And that is the true friendship I deeply value. I’ve got your back.
I am so grateful that you are still reading,
P.S. The video sucks because I was trying not to be a diva and disturb the other chemo patients so I whispered but I was SO EXCITED!
*Name(s) changed to protect the innocent and the guilty!