So? Now what!?

I’m not gonna lie. I’m ridiculously behind on semester grading. My whole family is home sick with norovirus. I still haven’t gotten/wrapped stocking-stuffers for big R. And, we’re supposed to travel to L.A. in less than a week. In no reasonable world should I be spending time writing this post.

Buuuuuuuut, Sunday night I took my last dose of chemo! It was pretty unceremonious, especially considering little R had his head in the toilet bowl an hour later. I am SO relieved to be finished actively poisoning my body, but the effects of the drug will continue to linger for weeks. (A little fact that definitely didn’t make the norovirus any easier to handle.)

“Watch and Wait Mode”

So, now we enter what the terminal cancer community has affectionately named “watch and wait mode.” It’s pretty much like it sounds – scans every two months, same old drug cocktail and ketogenic diet, plenty of sleep and exercise, and the constant nagging suspicion that the cancer is back. Maybe if I’m lucky I’ll find the time and appetite to gain back 30 of the 40 pounds I’ve lost since my post-surgery peak weight.

Post-Active Treatment Blues

There’s this phenomenon among terminal cancer survivors that post-active treatment is the hardest (emotional) phase of the disease. You’re not actively doing anything to fight your cancer. People in your life think you’re cured (ha!). And yet, every 2 months your anxiety peaks because you have to climb into that infernal racket-making, claustrophobia-inducing machine to get images from inside your body. I’m not quite there yet, but it’s easy enough to see coming.

“No emotion can last forever.”

I don’t know how I’ll handle this part of the journey. I do know this – an experience the fam and I had this weekend certainly helped me strategize. The R’s and I went to a Zen monastery in upstate New York to help serve a holiday dinner and give gifts to members of the surrounding community who might not otherwise have such an opportunity.

As part of the weekend, we also had the opportunity to practice zazen (sitting meditation). The point of zazen is to quiet one’s mind. However, that process also entails feeling one’s emotions and acknowledging one’s thoughts before releasing them. As you might imagine, that’s a pretty vulnerable thing to do these days, especially in a silent meditation hall surrounded by strangers.

The emotions and thoughts come fast and furious. But, the amazing thing is that they DO eventually go. If you can get over the embarrassment of crying during zazen, you can let those thoughts and emotions “wash” over you – advance and recede. And after that, it’s a lot easier to realize that no emotion can last forever.

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