Clouds Lifting.

Posted on September 7, 2014


My graduation photo with my kick-ass radiation team (sans Dr.)

My graduation photo with my kick-ass radiation team (sans Dr.)

Dawn is breaking through the cracks between my bedroom shades. I’m officially one week out of my chemo/radiation treatments and the brightening transition away from the depths of midnight black to daylight blues echoes much of my recent experiences this past week.

Morning is one of my favorite times of day; the world is calm, seemingly innocent, and full of what possibilities the coming day can posses. Since treatments started, I’ve spend these moments I value either lost in sleep, grunting out another ‘one’ on the toilet seat, or in a trance of apathetic dissonance. Slowly and subtly, I’m feeling more clear-headed. Bit by bit, my ambition and energy is returning, though it’s tempered by the slightly lagging physical recovery of my bowels and radiated skin. Most importantly, I’m starting to want to have that morning time back again.

This week reminds me of when my friend Ray and I climbed Mt. Rainier. We experienced the full spectrum of mountain environs, starting with our initial bluebird climb to Camp Muir was under a bluebird sky. The greens of the forests gave way to rock, snow, and the blue hues of peeking glacial ice. It was incredible. That night, I woke up to witness to the most amazing show of stars. The thinness of air at elevation allowed layers of galaxies to emerge. It was simply beyond the human realm, the clearest I’ve seen

Cards against Humanity.... "kids with ass cancer"  ...nuff said.

Cards against Humanity…. “kids with ass cancer” …nuff said.

heaven. I’m thankful I had my wits enough to take a moment to immerse myself (before shuffling over to the pit toilet).

We all awoke the next morning to the bunkhouse door exploding open, crashing against the bunks. Snow blasted us, amplifying the morning light shining through the flailing door. As beautiful the previous night was, this was the complete inverse. We had to chip out our packs and equipment from under fresh layers of snow and ice, and gather the willpower to hike across glaciers and climb several hundred more feet to our next camp.

We spent six hours battling the clouds of blizzard and deteriorating conditions. Step after step you trudge on, concentrating only on matching the steps of the person in front of you, less you risk sliding off the mountain and pulling your rope-mates with you. Your axe, those around you, and each solid footstep were our only tools to ward off a very real possible tragedy that day. The monotony of being surrounded by a white ocean of nothingness robbed us of the grandeur and beauty we had a day earlier. It took away much of the enjoyment we sought. It became an experience that we hadn’t anticipated, it became different.  Our world narrowed from the gloriously yawning vistas of snowcapped volcanic peaks to the six feet in front us. Nothing more.

You simply can’t see beyond the clouds when you’re in them. As it is with cancer… it becomes your entire world.

But, my clouds are lifting.

I wake up in the morning-each morning- with enough energy to make Cass’ coffee for her. I’m

Final 'unhooking' of my pretreatment chemo

Final ‘unhooking’ of my pretreatment chemo

sleeping less like a toddler and I even feel hungry at times. I’m also starting to relearn the difference between farts and poop, meaning the swelling of my rectum is likely subsiding… and I don’t have to explain how happy I am about that! My skin is still sensitive, peeling even (which is weird in that area) revealing what I can only image is the second softest butt-crack I’ve had in my life.

I am still reminded, though, of how ravaged my body is and it’s difficult. They’re relatively trivial things, but details that have always been ‘me.’ For example, I can’t touch my toes anymore. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been able to bend over and put my entire palms flat on the floor. Now, I can barely get my hands halfway down my shins. I know how silly that sounds, but it’s one of those things that has been stole from me and makes me feel trapped within the illness.

I’ve always spent this time of year preparing for the start of a new school year. Basically, since I started preschool, I’ve been on the school calendar; I’ve always thought of the fall more as New Year’s than January 1st. It certainly feels strange, empty almost, not being in a classroom. I know I’ll be back teaching sometime soon and I’m starting to work on my flexibility, but that’s not the point. They’re reminders of what this cancer has done to me and the long road I still have ahead of me.

Fighting cancer, I’m finding, is having the sense that I am in the driver’s seat; I am dictating this cancer. It manifests in many different forms, from making decisions about treatment, to going to treatment, even deciding to mow the lawn (or not mowing it). It’s empowering to be in the position of power over the illness, dictating how much of my life I will allow it to take from me.

So, this week has been a series of Bob Wiley-style baby steps, slowly approaching myself. Most recently, I’ve begun to feel that wearing underwear has become an option again-and that, my friends, is real progress.


“Cancer Sucks. That’s All.” (Thanks Cat!)

I also feel like my world is getting larger again. I can think of more than the distance to the nearest bathroom, or what rectum-friendly food is within arm’s reach. I can think of other people again, I can think of work, and I can enjoy the mornings again. Though I still get winded putting away groceries, I’m on my way back.

For now.

Posted in: Cancer