As one chapter closes another begins. This Friday (tomorrow) will mark my sixth of six chemotherapy treatments. That's right. My last one. I can't believe it. I'm thrilled by it and concurrently I'm more anxious and filled with mixed feelings than I have been thus far. You see, I handled chemotherapy like a champ. Truly. Minus some side effects, which I'll leave for another post, I did so much better than I thought I would. I kept teaching yoga. I kept taking yoga. I kept shooting though I wasn't actively marketing my services. I actually gained weight (whether this is a positive or not depends on the day). I lost my hair but did pretty well with my beanies, scarves, and most often with my bare head. I felt mostly optimistic and though I didn't have my normal energy, frankly, I felt pretty good... most of the time. Honestly. My kids fared well through it all and the concerns my son had about me wearing a wig (he wanted me to wear one when he first discovered I'd be losing my hair) receded (for lack of a better word) until when I actually tried to wear a wig, he told me it looked weird. I must admit it felt weird, too. For me, wig-less with a smile was a much more comfortable, natural and freeing way to be.
More recently, I have been feeling the expected cumulative fatigue from treatment in my muscles. I certainly don't feel 100% but instead feel tight and as if I had run a 5k the day before everyday (trust me that I haven't run a 5k in quite some time). ;) In yoga this week, I felt more physically tired and weaker than my normal self. One of the hardest parts of this awareness comes when the storyteller in my head begins to create the narrative: "You won't feel better than this... so, enjoy it. This next round will make you weaker and then you will have surgery. Then you will not be the same body practicing in this way. The way you felt while practicing when strong in your body, your whole body, is gone. You will never quite feel that feeling again." I listen for a moment and acknowledge the truth in the narrative. Then though, I consider how our bodies are transforming, how we are transforming in every moment. Through aging, practicing, injury, strengthening, surgery, resting, etc. we are always changing and really we can never be where or who we were before. Nothing new here. We cannot spend each day grieving for our past state of being or we will have no time to be fully present in our current state of being. So, I just have to be patient with myself, wait for stillness and see what's possible, see what reveals itself, and what light will be shed in the moment. I quiet the voices in my head though they keep raising their hand asking for my attention.
I'm reminded of looking in the mirror while practicing yoga a day or two before I started chemotherapy and before the first chapter really commenced. I consciously made an effort to thoroughly enjoy my "pre-chemotherapy, pre-treatment" body in its wholeness and vitality. I drank it in. I remembered back to my high school years when I danced all the time... when it was my life and my love. I remembered back to when it was taken away from me by circumstances beyond my control. I remember that by the time I got back to dancing again many months later it just didn't feel quite the same. I remember how much I LOVED performing on stage and how I don't remember which performance was my last one. I grieve for not being fully present and drinking that performance in so many years ago-- the lights, the excitement, the audience, the exhilaration, and the getting lost in myself, in the music and in the dance. This time around, blessed with this little wisdom, I made a conscious effort to sip enthusiastically in the knowing, in the moment before the storm, in the feeling I felt at that time. I am at peace and feel blessed by this realization and the subsequent purposeful awareness that followed.
The end of this early chapter, of course, also marks the onset of the next one. The next chapter is more invasive. More body altering. More life altering. The next chapter will begin with a bilateral (double) mastectomy with immediate reconstruction. I don't think I will quite be able to wrap my head around this until it is done and I look down. Until I can't lift my arms up for a while. Until the breasts that I nursed my children with are no longer with me, are no longer willing recipients of my mom humor about the "life being sucked out of them" long ago, having to tuck them into my bra and bathing suit. All gone. Replaced with expanders initially and later, after a still unknown time and unknown treatments, replaced with breast implants. I do find it it somewhat amusing that I, the person who on more than one occasion said that I never imagined I would want breast implants, would be getting them. I never imagined that I, again after being very self assured that I would likely never have one, might also possibly end up getting not one but possibly two tattoos (depending on how the nipple portion of the surgery goes)... another "to be determined" note in the chapter.
The unknowns are incredibly challenging. I like to know. I like to have a plan. The reality is that I can know only as much as I can for now and then I must let it go. Little to no control. But, such is life. We really have so little control of the outer transitory world. I can really only control the way in which I shift my perspective and pay attention.
I have so much gratitude for so many people that have supported me and have shown up in various ways thus far and who I know will show up in similar and new ways as this chapter reads on. I have full faith that their loving kindness will continue to shine upon me. I am alive... in so many ways. I am so grateful.
When I look in the mirror I'm reminded of this most recent chapter. I see a woman with no hair but with so much heart. I see a human being who is vulnerable to the world... its challenges and joys. I see a person who fears, hurts, aspires, feels immense joy and gratitude and who will attempt to dance forward into this next page, settle in for some time, have my chest and heart opened (literally and figuratively), and become externally altered and internally changed, as well. Still, at my core I am shining. With my medical team, my family and friends... I am strong. I still see the opportunity in the challenge and the transformation. It is hard to let go of one's expectations, of one's vision of how things should be, but that letting go makes room for new potential, new lessons learned, and more knowing. I am open and (just about) ready.
In light and pranabundance (an abundance of energy and life force),
PS: Here are just a few memories over the last fewmonths. :)