Column: Longing for normal life

Last weekend, as I drove the winding roads home to Charleston, I had a moment or two when I felt almost normal. My energy was still up from the steroid they’d given to me during chemotherapy treatment the day before. I turned up the car speakers and sang along to my favorite Josh Ritter song. A slight breeze tousled the hair on my dark brown, curly wig as I walked from my car to my apartment building.
But just like always, reality crashed in when I got inside and took off my wig for the night, remembering that chemotherapy took my hair.
In the past few days, it’s really hit me how much I miss my normal life, the pre-cancer treatment me.
I miss being able to have a glass of beer with dinner. I miss being able to pull my thick brown hair back into a ponytail. I miss running on Kanawha Boulevard early on summer mornings. I miss being able to stand up without getting light headed. I miss my chemotherapy-free Friday mornings. I miss going to work.
Maybe you’re not going through breast cancer treatment (I really hope you’re not), but I’d venture to guess you miss your normal life, too. This pandemic has me wishing for a different type of normalcy than just pre-cancer days.
I miss the inside of a crowded restaurant with no masks and no anxiety. I miss visits with my family members with no thought or concern about whether they wore their face covering. I miss waking up and not wondering what number the COVID-19 death toll has reached, or what scary new pandemic story the New York Times has just published. I miss not having to worry if the next person I talk to will give me a potentially deadly disease.
But for all the ways that cancer treatment has upended my life, it is for the greater good of rooting out the disease that would have killed me otherwise. The same is true for all the precautions we’re taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Ultimately, I have to believe that I’ll make it through cancer treatment to the other side just like the world will make it through to the end of COVID-19.
I’m guessing that I’ll be through with cancer treatment long before the world COVID-19 is done with the world. By the time this column is published on Sunday, I’ll have three more rounds of chemotherapy treatment to go. Then comes radiation therapy.
During my last treatment, I gave up wearing the cold therapy gloves and slippers that could help prevent neuropathy. I had some work I needed to do while I was there. It’s impossible to write a press release with your hands stuck in big, icy mittens. Most of the time when I use the gloves, my hands can’t stand the cold for very long anyway.
Maybe it’s all in my head but in the days since that last treatment, I’ve felt the occasional stabbing pain in my hands. It seems to hit and then go away quickly. Could that have been the start of neuropathy? Maybe.
But overall so far I seem to be tolerating the Taxol chemotherapy a lot better than I did Adriamycin and Cytoxan. The best part is that Taxol hasn’t made me nauseated.
During my last treatment, my hemoglobin was up to 8, so again, I didn’t need a blood transfusion. My nurse remarked that 8 was low, but I told him it’s an improvement for me.
It’s even getting easier to exercise without getting winded.

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