That Girl's Gone Crazy

I like to consider myself a pretty even keeled kind of girl. A choleric by day and a phelgmatic by night. A type A girl with type B tendencies. My boat rarely rocks, and even with cancer, I can adjust my sails with ease when the wind changes directions.

I've never been one for highs and lows. And until I started dry heaving in the parking lot of the oncology building every time I pulled up, had never experienced hardcore anxiety in my life.

Sure, I've been through those highly stressful moments that kept me awake at night, gave me an endless pit in my stomach or had me dragging my feet like a guilty dog. But never had stress or anxiety turned into a psychosomatic experience for me. I had never been physically paralyzed by mental anguish!

I quickly learned that what I was experiencing was a very real event for cancer patients, and my infusion nurse told me to use my nausea meds to calm myself down. They apparently only moonlight as nausea meds in the cancer world, and spend most of their free time parading around as anxiety meds. I had no clue that I had been downing anxiety meds all this time! Fabulous.

I knew I wasn't alone in this. A float nurse once told me that she had crossed paths with a former patient at the mall, and at the mere sight of that nurse, the former patient turned green and had to walk away with minimal conversation. I think back to those early days of chemo, where driving past the oncology building on my way to Target was enough to trigger a physical response.

Those nausea/anxiety meds are either next to the bed or in my purse at all times. I never know when something as minor as too much time spent thinking about treatment will trigger the domino effect and I'm suddenly looking like a cat trying to hack up a hairball.

So I use anxiety, but only in very specific situations. And I take medication to help me deal with it, but within very limited perimeters. As someone who sails on mentally calm seas, I feel like I have to write a disclaimer for my chemo-related anxiety. But having this very specific anxiety has given me empathy for those people who have general anxiety creeping into multiple facets of their life.

I recently read a memoir (because I am a complete sucker for a humorous memoir) where the author spent at least one chapter writing about her social anxieties and panic attacks. A few years ago, my mind would have wandered while I skimmed over that chapter. But I get it now. I just replace her personal triggers with little old me sitting in the parking lot of the oncology building and it's like I'm a hot mess sitting on the floor of the bathroom with her at that party where she just said the most inappropriate thing to her husband's boss.

Lately, the whole idea of maintenance chemo has been really settling in with me. Some weeks I'm cool with it, and other weeks I sit on the couch all day and stare at my pump and thinking I'm going to go crazy if I have to do this one more freakin' time. I'm still up and at 'em like a normal coffee-drinking American, but I've notice my performance threshold has been ticking down, long naps are now required and I walk around in a general malaise for those 3 or 4 days after my infusion.

It's simply 2 steps forward and 1 step back for me.

And as much as it's always been a physical drag, it's starting to become a hardcore mental drag.

I feel slightly unappreciative to say that I'm sick of doing the one thing that's possibly prolonging my life or possibly killing the cancer for good. And I feel slightly wimpy to say I don't want to do it and that I'm tired of it and that I don't know how much more of it I can do without going batty.

I'm not going to walk into my next appointment and throw around some 4-letter words before storming out with my regrowth blowing in the wind. I'm in this fight. But just because I'm in it, doesn't mean I'm in it with the passion I assume I should have - the passion I think everyone expects cancer patients to have.

All those cliché cancer sayings about being "strong" and "tough" and a "fighter" make me feel like a total fraud. That's what it really comes down to. I feel like I'm having to muster up more mental strength than physical strength when it rolls around every other week - kissing my healthy and happy self good-bye for another week until it can return to normal.

So pass me a bucket and know that my blood pressure is only that low at my next appointment because I'm pharmaceutically artificially relaxed.


Carrie S. said...

Zack got his 4 year shots, and cried afterwards, of course, but dried up pretty quickly. I told him how brave he was, and he said "I wasn't brave, I was scared, and I CRIED!". I had to explain him being brave wasn't about not being scared and not crying after - the fact that he KNEW that may be the outcome, and he still DID it makes him brave. So, Sarah, you are definitely BRAVE! No matter if you are scared, tired, upset, frustrated, mad, etc. going into it and no matter if you cry, sleep, puke, etc. afterwards. Those things don't make you any less brave. You went through with it knowing that would be the outcome, and you still go through with it. That makes you a freaking knight in shining armor in my book!

Sarah DeBord said...

Ahhhh, thanks Carrie. I still feel like a wimp though. But I will add BRAVE to the list.

Kensley said...

Amen, Carrie! And embrace your wimpiness, Sarah! Some days you’re a cancer-fighting bad-ass running your booty off at a fundraiser race. Other days, if you had the strength you'd drop-kick chemo in the balls, even though it’s helping you. Evens out.

Niki C. said...

My mom and I had this conversation about fighting cancer many times, and you've expressed it perfectly. You are fighting it, you are rocking it, but it doesn't mean it's easy to keep that up all the time. Thank you so much for your honesty and strength!

katielookingforward said...

Did you read agorafabulous? You may like that!

Sarah DeBord said...

Thanks Niki C. If there's one thing I've learn from having a very unsexy cancer, it's that there's no point in hiding any dirty details...no matter what they are.

Sarah DeBord said...

Agorafablous is on it's way to my Kindle right now! Yet another funny female memoir that I will probably stay up all night reading. Thanks for the recommendation, Katie.