Thursday, March 28, 2013

Inevitabilities

Denial is not just that river in Egypt.  Denial is one of the steps in grieving a loss and as much as I wanted to deny life as I knew it came to an abrupt end, it wasn’t. It’s not a permanent change, of course, but for the foreseeable future, my ‘routine’ is anything but. And to be sure, there are some things I will just have to be mindful of for the rest of my life, many of which I don’t know about yet. Considering my rather heretofore happy-go-lucky approach to my health might have landed me in the morgue instead of the hospital, I’ll have to be more attentive to the little things and actually see a doctor more frequently rather than shrugging things off.

I think I’ve been in a bit of denial about this whole leukemia thing even though I’ve certainly been in some serious discomfort thanks to the chemo. On the one hand, the only thing that has been an indicator of my condition has been a series of lab reports; on the other, not believing them and continuing on as if nothing were wrong would be to literally put my life in peril. It’s hard to reconcile the two, but at the end of the day, I can be grateful that some pathologist was insistent and that she made her case to an attentive hematologist, who in turn, laid out the facts before me in such a way that cut past the bravado and got me into treatment right away. There’s really no way to know just how much time I had before things got really ugly and I don’t even want to conjecture as much, yet…I really would rather be doing the routine things that we all take for granted without a surgical mask and with a full head of hair and all those things you just don’t give a second thought to.

I finally gave in to the hair loss.  It had been coming out in clumps and then it just stopped.  I had patchy areas that made me really look awful, so I figured I’d clip it all down to about ¼”, but when I put on knit caps, it was really uncomfortable. It pushed those stubbly hairs back and it bordered on painful, so yesterday morning, I took my razor into the shower with me and started shaving it all down clean.  I didn’t realize just how much hair I still had, but once I finished up, it was so much more comfortable to put on a cap, especially at night. I can’t say my appearance is that much better, but I’m not uncomfortable any longer. While my hair was falling out, I could rub my face and see clumps of whiskers fall away, so I did the same thing and shaved my face for the last time and I suspect I won’t need to buy a razor blade for some months to come. The rest of my body hair is just kind of doing its own thing.  I suspect that it may or may not fall out at this point, but since I’m getting repeat rounds of chemo, I think it’s fair to say that we’ll see another round of hair loss.  It’s not as uncomfortable, but just plain weird.  It’s not as obvious as head hair though, so I don’t really care as long as it’s not uncomfortable.  I’ve only shaved my legs down as a cyclist a couple of times and I there’s obviously no competitive edge – real or imagined – to shaving down here, so I don’t care to invest the time.

I’ve said many times how overwhelmed I have been by the outpouring of support and love, but I was totally surprised by my brother’s solidarity in shaving his head yesterday as well. It’s not something I would have suggested and he actually asked if it would be OK prior to his putting his own head on the chopping block, so to speak. He and my sister in-law, Tara, brought me a t-shirt and a coffee mug from their cruise (and yes, I am going to go back to sea with them after this is all said and done!). But what surprised me was the stirring tribute on his facebook page (note: I am not dying or going anywhere, but I’m nonetheless justifiably touched!).

There are a lot of inevitabilities in this life, most of which we think we know, but take us by surprise. We will all face crises at some point, whether it’s with someone else or ourselves. This crisis in my own life has taught me so much already and while I’m not keen on some of the lessons, I can certainly expect that I will come across many more before my time in the hospital is over. I can only hope that I continue to meet these lessons with the optimism and grace that I’ve been able to thus far. I honestly don’t feel like I have it together some days and my patience, as you may have picked up on, grows rather short some days. In the meantime, I’m trying to smile and continue to keep everyone, most importantly myself, smiling. On the flip side, we’ll all face successes, which try our character as strongly as crises do. While a personal disaster will test our personal courage and have the unique capability of bringing out the best in us, successes have the unwitting effect of testing our integrity. Failing that test is far more painful than falling down from an injury as those unseen wounds will continue to fester.

My hope is that you realize enough success to make you happy and when your successes multiply, that your character meets the challenge…and when you find yourself battling your own crisis that you find the courage to beat the hell out of it!

Music du jour: U2’s Beautiful Day.

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all! J