I finished chemotherapy on July 8, 2014. My hair started to coming back in September. I remember how excited I felt when I saw these little hairs on the top of my head. Today when I look at my hair, I see curls, lots of curls. Shiny, black and silver curls.
I don’t see the “me” I used to know. Every day I expect to wake up and see the me I used to be. That girl is gone. She’s not coming back. In my head, I still see the “Judy” I was before I was diagnosed with cancer in December 2013. That version of me had silky long hair, a voracious appetite for walking, aerobics, dancing, and moving through life with a sense of purpose and speed. I still think I can do everything I used to do, until I try to do it. The chemotherapy I had was successful in destroying my cancer. It also destroyed my belief that I was young and healthy.
Chemotherapy left me with neuropathy in my hands and feet. My neuropathy has lessened over time, yet here I am with feet that feel like I have clown shoes. The dullness in my hands is tolerable. It’s not ideal. The difficulty with my feet is something else altogether and they don’t let me forget what I went through.
To get a glimpse of what I am experiencing, imagine how it feels when you get sand in your shoes. Now, imagine that the sand doesn’t go away, it is always there. That’s what it feels like every time I put on shoes or socks. If I have shoes on for more than a few minutes, my pain intensifies and I can’t wait to remove my shoes. Sometimes the pain is severe for several hours after I have released my toes from their leather prison.
I’ve had to adjust my schedule because it takes me longer to make decisions, to prepare myself before I leave my home or office, and to travel from here to there. I am slower in my pace when I walk. I have to be mindful and careful when I am walking across a room or on a sidewalk. Climbing stairs is when I feel the residual effects of my chemotherapy as it slows me down. I never used to give going up a staircase a second thought., These days I recognize how deliberate and conscious I must be with each step. Forget about dashing up the stairs. For now, I’m in the slow lane of life.
Much of my discomfort has dissipated over time. In my head, I feel like a teenager. Then, reality hits and my body feels like an old person, someone I am not familiar with and who I want to replace with the active, fast moving self I used to be. Like I said before, that girl is gone.
When I get a compliment on my curls, I say “thank you.” Inside I feel sad. I feel like I’ve aged overnight and I want that bouncy, energetic, healthy self back again. I’m working on recovering my self.