3 months ago. On our way to visit the well-loved local apple cider mill today, we drove past the radiologist that first ultrasounded the lump in my breast. That was about 90 days ago. I recognized the driveway and gripped Nick’s hand for support while I relived that day.
So much has changed since then. And so much has not changed at all.
The determination and fearlessness that motivated every action has been present every day, every week, every month that has passed. I’ve paused to be scared a couple times, but that fear has lasted less than an evening. The fast pace cycle of treatment, work, exhaustion, and repeat has prevented me from dwelling on any thought for too long. I am just now approaching a desire to explore these deep feelings and fears.
Another constant has been my family support. Friends, extended family, coworkers, everyone is part of an extraordinary village. Taking care of me, of George, helping Nick balance this new life. Thank you.
New things include my appearance. I’m bald, with patchy little fuzz starting to accumulate on my head. A slight breeze tingles. I’m very pregnant; although my weight has barely fluctuated. I’ve literally stayed within the same 4 pounds since June. My daughter is one pound and a few ounces by now, but her body is only a little bit of added weight; placenta, amniotic fluid, bigger uterus all have added weight to the scale while I’ve used up fat stores (although it doesn’t look it).
There have been other changes inside which are hard to name and impossible to quantify. I find myself wanting to describe how chemo feels, and some of the answer arrived yesterday. I’ll walk you through it.
Do you know the little voice that makes you realize when you forget something important? A little nagging feeling won’t leave you alone, and sometimes you kind of feel irritated because you can’t figure out what you’ve forgotten? It’s your intuition. For me, it feels like that sense has gone numb. It’s been absent lately. Silent. I get the sense that I should feel pain or discomfort or something. But I honestly do not feel in touch with my intuition. It goes further than that.
I don’t have any sense of what is past or present, now or future, pain or painless, I can’t seem to feel my body or experience it in real time. It makes homeostasis management very difficult. I used to be good at identifying what was off or making me slightly uncomfortable, but now it just feels numb.
Have you ever had the realization that your leg has fallen asleep before the sharp pins and needles take over? You’d be stuck in a position where you were comfortable, but suddenly you know this is going to be painful the moment you move? I’m feeling that numbness purgatory inside all of my cells. I am afraid of my sense of feeling returning all at once.
There’s memories of what I need to do to take care of my body, so I do those things. Eat every few hours, drink water, stretch, take pills before bed. But then there’s all these new sensations that I haven’t had before so I don’t know how to resolve them, and I don’t seem to identify them as things that need solutions. I don’t notice them, and then they sometimes turn into pain, like lower back soreness turning into crippling pain. The anemia is the other sensation I’m having the most trouble recognizing.
When the doctors and nurses ask me if I’m in pain, I answer, “no.” But if I were asked to describe my pain, my response would be “I can’t really feel if my body is in pain.”
I have the sense that I should be in pain, right? I should feel something, right? Chemo comes in a little plastic baggie with bright orange biohazard warnings stuck on them. I am asked weekly about bone pain, digestive distress, shortness of breath, neuropathy and anything else that might discomfort me. But I just can’t honestly describe or identify what my body is feeling.
As a result, my experience of side effects have been rather tolerable. And most remarkable are the side effects of drugs used to mitigate the chemo side effects. Ie., I’m really groggy from Benadryl; I’m super amped by the steroids, and then I crash on Thursday. I suppose the drop in hemoglobin has been the most noticable effect of chemo. But anemia is hard for me to sense; if you didn’t know, I’m pregnant, and that makes one very tired. The symptoms really overlap.
So there you have it. My intuition is off. If I were a computer, the diagnostics program would be crashed. I keep functioning, I process stuff and finish tasks, but I can’t tell if I’m ruining my hard drive. I can’t tell if there’s any corrupted files making things difficult now, or worse for future Brianna. We’re just going with it as best we can.
Anyway. That’s the biggest change on the inside. I have no idea of there was any coherent message for anyone reading this. I did my best. The rest of the afternoon drive was a mixed bag.
My baby seems to have rotated head down. It was very painful as she flipped since I was cramped in a car. Now her head feels to be pressing on my pelvis, and her feet are close to my stomach. Hello heartburn. Goodbye tap dancing on my bladder. It’s funny. It is much easier, and more pleasant, to understand what’s going on with baby than it is my own body. An I just vicariously living through my daughter? Oh no!
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