How am I doing?
How are we doing?
That's what people keep asking when I run into them. And I realized that I kinda left everyone hanging as I felt better. So most people don't know how we've been.
In general, pretty well. Of course, it's me, so I can't just leave it at that. There is always a story. My memory is pretty foggy from March of 2017 until July of this year. There are some things that I remember without trouble and some things I remember if I see a picture. But there is much more that I have no recollection of. For most of the time, after treatment ended, I kept thinking, I'm doing so much better, I'm doing great! My brain is coming back, my energy is coming back, it's all great! In May 2018 my mind started to clear up, and that bit of perspective was disheartening. I saw that things were not great. Not even close. I remember crying to Kenzie during our family vacation,
"What if this is as good as it gets?" I was terrified that I would never get back to that strong, smart, capable woman I used to be(Or I saw myself as- I may have romanticized myself to...myself). Kenzie's response was perfect,
"I understand your fear, but I'm much more optimistic than you." I didn't believe her. I felt more hopeless then than I did during treatment. I could see who I had been, where I was and didn't know if there was any way to get back to her.
Then, in July, my brain came back.
Not gradually.Oh no, I just woke up one day and my brain worked again. It was about 3 days before I figured out what was going on. It was most obvious with the kids. Apparently, for a LONG time, when I would tell them to go do something, they would walk away, get 5-10 feet from me, then walk back to me, as though I hadn't given them anything to do. And I wouldn't remember either. I know this because for three days, every time I told them to go clean their room or the bathroom or take a shower, they would walk 5-10 feet from me, turn around and walk back. Then they would be shocked that I knew they hadn't done as I'd instructed them. I think after 5 days, maybe a week, they wanted to sit down and have a discussion about how this was not how our relationship worked. I wasn't supposed to be keeping them accountable, perish the thought! If I really loved them, I would have asked you to pray for them during this difficult time of learning that they once again had an aware and present mom in their lives.
At that point, I saw just how far behind I was in everything. What all I had missed out on. Lizzie wasn't a tween anymore, I had missed that transition, she was a teenager. Xander wasn't such a little boy anymore. My children had grown and changed and I had missed it. I can't dwell on that.
Also, the house. Oh. My. Word. The house. Talk about overwhelming.
I also saw that even though my brain had taken a huge leap, there was much still to regain. I had no executive function. That ability to see all that needed to be done, order it in my head, then execute it, was-is gone. Even the ability to get up and do the same thing every morning is gone. The temptation is to try to master everything at once, but I know enough to know that isn't feasible. So I've been trying to take on a little bit at a time. I try hard not to get discouraged, because the only way I'm going to make progress, is with time. So frustrating. There is no magic pill, no weekend seminar. Just time, and perseverance. And that's where we are now; just one day at a time, moving forward and doing our best to figure out what normal should be for us. Trying not to dwell on what cancer took from us, but to be grateful that it is over now.
I have made the statement that I am not one of those cancer survivors that is grateful for my journey, for all that I learned about myself. I knew myself pretty well before cancer. I didn't need cancer to help me see who I was, I already knew, thankyouverymuch.
I did learn some things. Mostly that gratitude is more about the person being grateful, not the person/people receiving the gratitude. If someone wants to thank you, and whatever you did strikes you as no big deal, don't say that. Let whoever it is come up with a way to thank you that satisfies their need. I say that knowing that I can never fully show my gratitude to so many people. People's prayers made a massive difference in all of this. While I did feel the side effects of chemo and radiation, recovering from surgery, my bloodwork always came back healthy. Dr. Smellgood would tell me that my numbers were great, or normal, and I always asked him to clarify, did he mean normal or great for someone going through chemo? Or did he mean that my numbers looked normal or great for someone not going through chemo? He would tell me they looked like a person not going through chemo. I don't think I need to explain how miraculous that is. There is only one explanation for it - your prayers. I wouldn't say that I'm a prayer warrior now; more like, a prayer believer? Having experienced the power of prayer in my life, I see it as the end all, be all. It's where I start now, and I don't stop. Recently someone was going through a harrowing experience, and I said I'd be praying. Then I felt the need to expand on that. People often feel like prayer isn't that much- that it isn't that active, or powerful. Prayer is active, it is a verb. It is powerful, it the most powerful thing someone can do. Don't demean it by thinking that it's 'just prayer'.