Some things about cancer are terrible. For example, yesterday after a long day of work and doctor’s appointments, I laid in bed rotating heating pads on my chest and arms in a feeble attempt to dial back my pain. The port that was surgically implanted under my skin the day before was hurting my chest and neck. Worse, the exaggerated superman position I had to hold for an hour during the MRI biopsy on Wednesday resulted in intense radiating pain in my left arm, elbow and shoulder. I was miserable.
This pain is the kind of pain that makes you retreat inside yourself. I couldn’t do much more than lay very still in my bed. I’m not supposed to take ibuprofen or really anything I would normally rely on to help me through it so I just had to be present with the discomfort.
This all brings to mind two things: 1. I’m going to have to explore new ways to take care of myself, and 2. I’m going to have to learn to cope with the big and small losses around my disease.
Before cancer, I would simply take some over-the-counter pain reliever to quiet the symptom and ignore the problem. It was fast and easy. If I still hurt, I would just take more. I didn’t have to think about taking care of myself or slowing down enough to honor what my body needed. Short term gain, long term pain. I was always grabbing at what was easy rather than what was necessary.
Now, I have the opportunity to do better. The voice in my head that has been begging for more balance and for me to be kinder to myself has just stepped up to the microphone. No more hacks for me. Now I get to do the hard work of being present and digging into the bedrock of my issues. Fortunately, the Cancer Center works hand-in-hand with naturopaths and physical therapists who will play an active role in my life transformation. I’m anxious to get started to see how their input improves my quality of life.
The pain I dealt with yesterday also forces me to confront the issue of loss. I cannot lift my children right now because of the biopsy sites and the recent port placement. I have 5 healing incisions on my body and 15 internal lacerations (that I know of). I could not make a movie with a friend last night, I was short with Elle because of my pain, and I can feel the foreign body of the port shift underneath my skin. I was isolated (by choice) in my room to work through the pain which is a sad, boring, lonely place after awhile. I fear this will be what my life will look increasingly look like as I battle cancer.
I wonder sometimes if I’m strong enough to develop the patience and self-love cancer is going to demand of me.
However, I am getting better at pausing and realizing that this too shall pass. It’s hard for me to not immediately snowball things and convince myself that it’s all too much and it will never get better and everything right now is just the worst! Then I get overwhelmed and fall apart. Then I search for answers and solutions and begin digging myself out of the hole I just created. It’s a cycle I’ve been perfecting for 30 years. Perhaps if I slowed things down just a touch the hole wouldn’t be so big and would require less damage control on the other side.
So slowing down and taking a beat is one way I can handle the changes and losses cancer brings.
The other way to handle it is to embrace it.
Hence, why I now have a fancy new haircut.
My hair is going to start falling out in a few short weeks. I like my hair. It’s probably my favorite physical feature. I finally got it to the perfect length.
The idea of clumps of long hair falling out of my head, however, feels like something out of a horror movie to me. No thank you. So I decided to get out ahead of it and have some fun. Besides, I’ve always wanted to try a bold, short haircut and this kind of forces the issue.
So today my awesome stylist Sierra at Omni Salon came in early to squeeze me in for a hair cut. With Elle in tow we met up with my good friend, Siobhan, for the big chop.
Sierra was kind enough to indulge me in letting Elle help cut my hair. I wanted to bring her into the process so she would remember this as something fun she got to do with mom- rather than rapidly watching mom go bald. Elle really enjoyed it and I did, too. Check out the pictures below to see how excited Elle was to use real scissors on my hair. Sierra did an amazing job as always and we will go back for a short pixie cut before we go all GI Jane and buzz it off.
So tonight I am rocking my new look and getting used to the lightness on my head. It’s strange, but also very liberating. It’s just another opportunity to shed what is old and superficial and step into what is lighter and more authentic.
This I know for sure, cancer takes away our ability to hide. It exposes us.
From my head to my heart, I am stepping into a truer me. I can’t hide behind great hair (which it really was, guys) or pain medication, alcohol or physical slothness. I have to be here, right now, sitting with myself and honoring whoever it is that is revealed to me. So yes, let’s go. I’m as ready as I’ll ever be.
Give em’ hell.
Sierra works at Omni Hair Studio and is a lovely, wickedly talented stylist. She really understands how hair behaves and has always left me feeling great. She’s also a bright, bubbly person who makes me smile and enjoy my time in her chair. Check her out!