I’m six weeks out from chemotherapy, and I cannot even begin to express in words what a difference it makes to be six weeks out from and not six weeks into chemotherapy. I don’t know how to explain it. It’s like I’d been living in a perpetual present, unable to look outside of my immediate physical self or beyond the precise moment. I’m in a different present now, one that reaches beyond the boundaries of my body and connects to the world again, just a little bit. And I’m starting to make plans for the future, and they aren’t about cancer. I feel so much better. It’s astounding.
I was set to start radiation this past week. People ask me if I’ll get really sick again, and honestly I just don’t know. There are a ton of horror stories on the breast cancer support sites, but the stats on side effects suggest I could get by with some slight pinkening of my skin or maybe a week or two of itching. I could get really fatigued, or I might not notice it. I’m miraculously managing not to borrow trouble, and have just been enjoying feeling good. I’ve started a beginning jogging program, and decided to ride my bike to my first radiation session on Friday. I’ve been so nervous about having the energy to bike, but decided to just try riding my bike to see what would happen.
Friday’s ride took me south and east and south again, opposite rush hour traffic heading downtown. It was already a little bit warm out, and the feel of the wind on my bare legs brought back a rush of memories. It felt like seeing Baltimore for the first time in a long time, and it was glorious. I locked up outside the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center, parking spot right in front, and headed in. I was early, so sat in the lobby and proudly let social media know that I managed to ride my bicycle. I heard someone call my name–hello! But then I realized where I was, where we both were, and my heart sank. We were both there for cancer. They headed upstairs for chemo, I headed down for radiation, swiped my card, changed into my gown, and waited my turn on the big machine.
This was my second trip inside, the first the day before for an hour of pictures and panic and prone positioning. I’m not ready to write about that. This day would be shorter, and we’d get started, which meant we’d get finished.
But they couldn’t start. They need more pictures, the doctor’s not happy with “the plan,” which is important because the plan is about radiating my breast without radiating my heart or lungs, and I need those things. It is for the best, but months of frustration exploded at this news, and I made a scene. I threw my gown around. I wept. I yelled, I called a room full of people who are trying to save my life “liars” because they said we’d start today, and we didn’t. I wept in the waiting room, wept on another CT table, cried in the lobby, at my bike, with a social worker. I walked my bike and cried on the phone to my sister, to R., to N. Tears fell as I rode my bike to a coffee shop for an expensive pastry, as I rode my bike all the way home when that pastry didn’t make me feel better. I cried so much on Friday. I didn’t even stop long enough to notice that I rode my bike like I used to ride my bike–I can still do it. And then I realized that cancer got in the way of enjoying this victorious bike ride, and there I was, crying all over again. I cried for hours and hours until my face hurt from it all.
I needed to cry, and I’m glad I did. And I’m glad today was another beautiful day, and that I got to ride my bike around–to acupuncture, to a literary festival, to this freeway overlook, and back up the hill to home, just like the old days. Today was a beautiful day to be alive, and so was yesterday. The full range of human emotions. Big range indeed.