Friday, July 25, 2008

Done with infusions

I had my last infusion today. I went in at 9, and was home a little after noon. Slept until about an hour and a half ago.

A blood test Sunday will tell us next steps; either I go in Monday for self-injection lessons, and follow that regimen three times a week for a year, or I’ll be done. It’s up to the toxicity of my liver. I know it could go either way.

I just finished a routine I kept with the daily regularity of a part-time summer job: get up, go to the infusion room, be treated, go home, sleep it off. Self-injections would continue that mindset, in a smaller way: make me sick to keep me strong; sacred challenge in the epi-pen. Go through my Monday as normal, poke, go to bed. Repeat every Wednesday and Friday.

(I never thought of the infusions as sacred. I kept my head down and forced myself through them. I didn’t have the energy for any other approach.)

I’m preparing myself for the idea of being done with cancer treatments. I don’t even know how I feel. In some ways, I’m fine; yay, the worst is over. I’m also still sort of shattered. Not in the sense of falling apart all the time, but shellshock. “WHAT was that all about, and what am I doing here?” (“Here” being bed, in my best friend’s house, resting from treatment, rather than working like all of my peers. And here, in this psychic space that few of my friends really know.)

Cancer interrupted my life with a howling wind. It taught me and it changed me, and it gave me some good gifts—it also devastated my basic sense of trust that each day will come, and go, and be followed by another. It seems so random—I’m young, healthy, strong—yet it came with the force of intent. Not to kill; as far as we know this didn’t invade my body. But to change.

Changes in habit: sunblock and hats, daily. Every time I get ready in the morning, I’m going to remember this spring and summer, and where I’ve been.

Changes in mindfulness: body and life are gifts. Do not forget that.

If I’m clean for five years, I can be done. That’s a long way from now. Oncology and dermatology visits will remind me.

(Pic from here.)

Sometimes I’m afraid, still, and sometimes I’m not. I don’t fear death, but the disease process of cancer, if it returns. Had a conversation with a friend last week, partly about mortality. Mine is in my face now like an African warrior mask, trembling, challenging me. “Be alive.” It has no intention yet of migrating to some subtle awareness in my back pocket.

I want that warrior mask right where it is, for as long as it has things to teach me. But sometimes I miss the ground I used to walk on, also. I didn’t know I was taking health for granted; it had never been taken from me.

I’m going to be working with this for a long time.


Lauralew said...

Kirstin, I want to comment on your profound post, but I'm tired and I have cancelled two posts that just aren't worthy of yours. You are so insightful and articulate. Thanks for sharing. Lots of hugs to you, and prayers for you.

susan s. said...

I will check in to see what happened on Monday. I hope you are through with chemo. I know I certainly was ready to be through. My five years was up in February, but I must wait until September next year to be really sure. I am still being affected by the wait. I dare not take myself off the prayer list at church. I guess superstition gets to me sometimes ;-).


Michael Barham said...

dear Kirsten, your blog (on the feast of St. James non-the-less!) was brilliant. I'm en-route to Kenya. Should I find a mask appropriate of your writing, I will bring it to you when I return in August.

You are in my prayers.


Kirstin said...

Laura, thank you. (((((Hugs))))) back at you.

Susan, I'm staying on the prayer lists, too.

Michael, I'd love that! Thank you. Prayers for safe travels for you, as well.

Suzer said...

What a relief -- and yet, it's not over. And won't be for a long time, really. It sounds like the fear and worry will persist for a long time, and that will not be easy to live with. Having not been through this myself (but only through a scary biopsy which then turned out to be nothing), I don't know if I have any wise words to offer. I do have prayers, and good thoughts and wishes, all of which I send your way.

Mimi said...

Hugs and prayers.

Padre Mickey said...

You're on the prayer list at San Cristóbal, también. Don't worry; you're strong and God is with you.

it's margaret said...

Now --instead of trying to look the mask in the face, get behind it, girl, and dance! You are on sacred ground..... (yes, you can --that's what masks are for)

You continue in my prayers --glad to see you out and cruising the blogs.

Kirstin said...

Margaret, I love that!

Thank you all. ((((Hugs)))) all around.