could it be over?

hey there, cupcake!
hey there, cupcake!
I’m finished with chemo! And now everyone is wondering- how excited am I?!? Well, to be honest, the enthusiasm and thrill hasn’t hit yet. I don’t think it will hit until the heartburn and urpy belly goes away…and even then, it may take a while for me to fully comprehend everything that my system has had to undergo this winter. I’m pretty stunned that the main part of this treatment is over, and that I only have six more months of Herceptin treatments. I want to be able to rely on my body without questioning what kind of crazy symptom will reveal itself. I also want to be able to trust my bowels and bladder again. So, as happy as I am to have Fridays free from chemotherapy infusions, I still have trepidation about what the future holds and about my body’s ability to create vitality. For my final infusion, I donned a blue wig and tiara. Irene brought 2 dozen Trophy cupcakes (delish) and Jenn smoothly asked the main nurse to put a couple bottles of sparkling wine in the fridge until we could properly toast to the end of my chemotherapy treatments. Katie, Suza, Gol, Lena and Connie all showed up to mark the occasion and we laughed and made small talk while the last of the carboplatin and taxotere entered my blood stream. It was a truly sweet and anticlimactic evening, considering the fact that I have had nearly five months of weekly chemotherapy treatments. I don’t know what I expected- but it was strange to thank and hug the nurses goodbye before walking through the abandoned waiting room with my crew of supporters. Odd to have such a quiet end to something I dreaded so much.
celebrating after NIA!!!
celebrating after NIA!!!

dance

Dance when you’re broken open.
Dance when you’ve torn the bandage off.
Dance in the middle of fighting.
Dance in your blood.
Dance when you’re perfectly free.
Struck, the dancer hears a tambourine inside her,
like a wave that crests into foam at the very top,
Begins.
Maybe you don’t hear the tambourine,
or the tree leaves clapping time.
Close the ears on your head,
that listen mostly to lies and cynical jokes.
There are other things to see, and hear.
Music. Dance.
A brilliant city inside your soul!

– Rumi

 In the past two weeks, my body has been reawakening and my spirit lifting. I’ve been integrating moments of spontaneously removing my head coverings, which seems like a small thing, I’m sure, but there’s vulnerability in baring a naked head to the world. Especially when that hairlessness isn’t by choice. And so the times when I take off my hat in the park to take advantage of the sun shining down on my crown, I try to quietly acknowledge this temporary place that I currently occupy- that space between treatment and healing, life and death, internal and external. The present moment, where I am able to recognize that vulnerability is a gift of this human experience, and that I am not alone in it.

This past week, I had my fourteenth infusion, and I celebrated the following day by dancing at NIA class with a community of joyful souls. Even though nobody but me and my friends knew about the countdown of infusions, it was a precious gift to feel secure enough to throw my hat and over shirt to the back of the room when I was too hot. Wearing just my camisole and yoga pants, I spun, leapt, and danced with a smile on my face and my bald head shining for the world to see. I couldn’t have felt more beautiful or healthy, and it was clear from the responses of some of my classmates that they appreciated my honest presence- scars and all.

The more I consider what is important in my world, the more it boils down to the people around me and my ability to be authentically me. I love that I’ve been encouraged to be open and honest in my experience and to continue to be my silly self. Cancer doesn’t always make one wise, but it absolutely encourages one to reflect on what really matters. To me, that includes dancing, even when I can’t keep the rhythm, and laughing, even when nobody else gets the joke. Isn’t that where joy begins? And it flows into the world, creating possibility.