I don’t feel well. I feel slow and off and nauseated and tired and flat and hazy. My brain is fuzzy and foggy and groggy and all those other -y words that say I can’t think today or yesterday or the day before, maybe tomorrow I’m no fortune teller, but definitely not right now. My feet feel funny because of the neuropathy, alternating between mild burning, frosty prickles, and slight numbness. I want to move, but I’m relatively sure that someone tied a medicine ball around my waist, so that when I finally begin to slog forward the pace is lethargic at best. There are other ailments I could complain about, but what’s the point?
Don’t worry about me, though, I’ve totally got this. The symptoms aren’t new, they’ve just become slightly more sustained. The upswing didn’t come before last weeks chemo, with it’s soul renewing rush of vitality and energy, and my doctors told me this would be the case. The effects of chemo are cumulative, and I only have one infusion left, so it’s time to be exactly where I am in this, and if that is the case this becomes a period of genuine introspection and experience, or more correctly stated, I will make this a time of introspection and experience. It’s better than lying around moaning for the next month. My prognosis is still fantastic, I’m still responding very well to treatments, and this haul is simply a progression in my experience with chemotherapy, but I was really hoping that I would coast through to the end. I know how it is, though, even if I don’t want it to be; right when I was getting comfortable, the learning keeps on.
So I adapt. If I’m becoming enlightened to nothing else during this, it’s that change is constant, unrelenting, and completely alright, as long as I can adapt. Otherwise, I’m just Sisyphus rolling a boulder uphill. How do I adapt? Frequently with a foot stomp, fist shake, confused look of acceptance, or complete brilliance. Depends on the day, but what is becoming more and more clear is I do best when I get out of my own way and let change come. It’s still a work in progress, but I’m liking the early results. Mostly, at present, what needs modification is my thought process and tendency to relentlessly push forward. I am embracing the virtues of convalescent leisure as a therapeutic technique to provide my body with a hospitable environment during this powerful stretch. I’m giving it all over to goodness.
By delving into leisure, I don’t mean simply lying on the couch watching multiple episodes of “House of Lies,” although I might, but also melting into the delicious feeling of doing what is best for myself in the moment and making that a priority. My number one, top priority, perform above all else, is movement. I’ve said over and over that it’s counterintuitive, and I’ll say over and over that it’s necessary. The sustained side effects began about two weeks ago, but I made myself walk, do some Pilates, and make a couple of plans with friends. The walking isn’t necessarily vigorous, and the Pilates I take at my own pace, but they both help me maintain endurance, strength, cardiopulmonary health, and dexterity, as well as releasing endorphins, lightening my mood, and bringing me joy. I can’t imagine how weak or de-conditioned I would feel if I had spent the last 2 weeks resting as much as I wanted, and I would have missed out on some spectacularly sunny, brilliant days. By maintaining momentum, the body maintains it’s desire to move. Simply and elegantly stated by Newton, bodies in motion tend to stay in motion, while a body at rest will stay at rest. When you don’t move, muscles become contracted, joints dry, nerves tense, and senses dulled, and did you ever realize that if you sit all day you start taking on the shape of a chair? Unacceptable! The movement doesn’t have to be focused exercise, but doing your dishes, laundry, bed making, water fetching, and laundry, as able, also keep the bodies systems active. Seriously, the continued activity makes everything easier right now, and if I continue to be active right now, I believe it will make everything easier in two weeks, and I will get through this on my feet. Staggering, but on my feet.
The flip side of motion is rest. While I am putting my body in motion and doing some stretching because I’m sitting more, I’m also sitting down to read a book, watch a movie, stare into space, or whatever else doesn’t require too much energy. I actually wrote a letter the other day, on paper. If I can manage to get a stamp on it I’ll really be getting somewhere (aunt Betty, this one’s for you). Giving myself space to rest is a new concept. Leisure time is one of life’s most fruitful and productive activities, and is positively rich in rewards when spent with friends and family, however, how often do we enjoy leisure by ourselves? It seems entirely too decadent, even to me, and releasing into the flow of this idea has been a challenge. A good challenge. A thoughtful challenge, and if I’ve ever had time to be thoughtful, it’s now. So, yes, rest is essential, and allowing yourself, as permitted, because I know a lot of people who work while going through this, and you have all of my respect, the opportunity to take a slow pace let’s your body have time to process and heal. It all circles back around to learning to sit in the moment and take full and honest stock of your needs, and not just the needs that are convenient, but the needs that will serve you. It’s actually harder than it should be, but like my daddy always says, if it were easy, everyone would do it.
And here it is, all I’ve got at present is finding the balance between momentum and rest, and letting these two simple task guide my days and nights, because up until now I’ve been sprinting like a madwoman trying to make this right. It’s time to get gentle and wrap myself in a tight, nurturing cocoon. There’s another storm coming, with my true rehab looming large in the distance, and I have a feeling it’s going to require further reserves of tenacity and determination. I believe I’ll be ready.