taking a breather

even though this was a week off, i’m not counting it as such. a true week off will be in mexico, on a beach, with the inklings of a real tan. that will come in 2013. we all knew there would be weeks like this. where sweet and caring words and visits and calls and food and prayer intentions and parties and cupcakes and a very special glass of wine don’t really help (and we had all of the above, save for the wine, in spades. and it was all quality and full of love and laughter, don’t get me wrong.). the bay area winter storms and whiz-induced mangled christmas tree (see attached photo, which, fittingly, i can’t get to turn right side up) are more parallel to how i feel, and how i feel.

i’m deeply sad, tired, bone-sore, and have this annoying anxiety symptom where for stretches i can’t get a deep breath. then there’s the patchy hair making a brief appearance before i embark on the AC bus this thursday (see also: chia pet).

after powering through 12 weeks of chemo, the breathing issues just started last sunday. maybe it was something like a finals flu? or the fact that a week off of chemo, even if planned to let my body recover a bit, means i’m not actively doing something to eliminate the cancer? the trouble breathing was familiar from 5-6 years ago when i was letting work stress add up. while i can mostly control it through counting and mind exercises, shortness of breath has been thisclose all week. my monday appointments with the integrative oncologist, echo, and MRI finished as planned (i’ll save the ongoing contradictory medical advice i, and most cancer patients, have to sift through from the UCSF care team for another post). in the MRI tube, i tried to be a hero and not take ativan, thinking the hour would go by quickly because of all the good things in life rolling around in my mind to distract me. not so much. longest hour ever, made more long by the juxtaposed christmas music the tech was playing. in between trying to breath normally, squeeze a ball if i had shortness of breath (um, define shortness of breath, please), and stay still, and atop the noisiness of the MRI magnet, the ‘fa la la la la las’ were killing me. this coming from a big fan of holiday music. i’ve never been so thankful to get out of a confined space, but not after the nurse left me with a huge bruise on my port when she removed the needle.

wamp waaaaaaa.

our fertility doctor told us we probably had underlying fertility issues because frankly he’d expect more from our embryos. this after him telling me i’d regain ovarian function but then doing a take-back because he forgot i still had to have AC (he gets a pass this time because i love him so much, but still, ouch. and our totsicles are just fine, so we still have that for the future. so maybe it was some complex of being an A student and hearing that some of your embryos are Bs. kind of like hearing that your baby is ugly. i can’t quite find the right parallel but you get my drift.).

i spent a few long stretches on the phone with insurance because i’m getting double-billed for the august MRI. resolution still pending.

when i move too quickly (aka normally), i’m reminded of what i just went through. turning off the nightstand lamp at night even seems to be a chore.

so i keep trying to breathe. early and often. and i go on, mostly pretending to be fine with everyone. because it’s easier, or likely more polite, to pretend. when someone asks, “how are you?”, s/he really doesn’t deserve to hear “i have f*cking cancer, how would you be?”

this stuff is really hard. even if some of it is temporary, it’s really f*cking hard. please don’t apologize to me for feeling this way. and please don’t tell me to stay positive. it’s all part of the package and to feel the highs i have to live through the lows.

in what might seem like a non sequitor, mary and eric welcomed beautiful baby ann monroe to the world this week. mary sent this poem by clarissa pinkola estés to mike a few months ago. it’s very relevant this week and will serve as my pep talk because i will come back around…when i’m ready.

refuse to fall down
refuse to fall down.
if you cannot refuse to fall down,
refuse to stay down.
if you cannot refuse to stay down
lift your heart toward heaven
and like a hungry beggar,
ask that it be filled,
and it will be filled.
you may be pushed down.
you may be kept from rising.
but no one can keep you
from lifting your heart
toward heaven —
only you.
it is in the midst of misery
that so much becomes clear.
the one who says nothing good
came of this,
is not yet listening.


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