It’s been 2 weeks now since my first day of treatment. Wow. Where did time go? And where did I go?
Within those 2 weeks, I feel like I went into chemotherapy hibernation, deep sleep, sleeping long, long hours and days like our brother bears do. The drugs submerging me into sleep, hibernation, rest despite all that within me wants to go out and be and live.
I can tell you, I’m getting old. And I can’t tell if its the chemotherapy or my body or the union of both together that is telling me that. I am so not used to how these chemotherapies make me feel, literally tonics that overtake your body and at times feel like your soul as well. I swear at 13 and 18 I felt differently, didn’t experience these drugs so hard and fast.
I welcome questions. Not many people know someone their age who has cancer; I didn’t either at first! (and yet have met some amazing survivors our age since then) And the one question I get most often is—
What does chemotherapy feel like?
Chemotherapy pills as you wash them down make you feel like Shakespeare’s Juliet before she consumed the vial to put her to “sleep”: you are swallowing the tonic whole in hopes of something. For her, in hope of love. For me, in hope of life.
I sometimes feel silly. I request apple juice every time to swallow 7 whole chemo pills. Resort back to childhood drink of choice. My mother laughs, and I know recalls of the time I caught her mixing water with my apple juice. I then requested “juice with no water” at a young, young age. We both didn’t know that one day I would be swallowing chemo pills whole with the sweet, sweet juice.
I also now have a silly goal: gain more weight to take only 5 pills instead of 7. Ha!
I swear I feel all 7 pills travel through my esophagus into my stomach and feel them settle, capsules opening. A small explusion, I hope, and drug race, race to all the cells, both good and bad. How does it target them? I will never understand.
One hour later, I receive I.V. chemotherapy.
I am blessed with good veins. My left arm is a blessing. Veins pop out, ready always to receive and give whatever drug/blood/fluid. Seems like I was almost born to do this job. Chemotherapy sometimes feels cool as it travels throughout you, overtaking your stomach, like its physically punching your GI tract.
You begin to feel it. Feel weak. Feel worn. I swear, you feel the drugs dig inside the marrow of your bones. It digs trenches and steals all your energy. Your bones feel hollow, hollow. You are light, light. Shakey. This must be how birds must feel, with hollow bones for flight! These hollow bones just make me shake and light headed. Walking from one room to the next is its own task. How did you get so old feeling so quickly? I’m 23 still, yes?
The chemo brain is real. Drug veils over your mind. I swear I can physically see it like a bride’s white veil, yet its invisible/physical and I can touch it to take it off. Slowly, slowly it biodegrades itself, absorbing to where? Inside my mind? What are these drugs doing inside my brain? What they want isn’t there but they are thieves, taking over your ability to comprehend and function.
So much more like myself! And it seems very unreal/surreal to type the above when I don’t even feel like that anymore. Like its been one, long chemo dream sleep that I am now waking up from. I am Aurora, Sleeping Beauty, and like God’s cycles from night to sunrise, my body is waking itself from its chemo night to my life day. It is surreal to wake up each day and assessing your own body and having the realization that I am coming back, this is how I naturally feel and this is who I am. So who was I yesterday, or the week before? Like a ghost or shadow of myself, an imprint.
I swear though: sometimes I felt my Spirit hovering over my body. Like almost physically around me, just like an inch above my skin just clinging to me. Invisible/physical, I swear I could sometimes see it, or if I held my arms that I would be able to touch it. Spirit humming around me, buzzing.
I had/have lots of thoughts about the Holy Spirit since then. Such as, if I am feeling this weak, where is all that power You promised me? And why don’t I feel it?
Recall, o my soul:
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The Lord is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the Lord
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.
Did You write that just for me? I swear You must have. I am that youth who is growing tired and weary Lord. Hope, hope. Strength, strength. And at times though yet I still don’t feel this strength You promise although I trust and wait in You to give it.
And my hollow bones? Revive them! So weird now to realize how truly disconnected our bodies and spirits are so disconnected yet so intertwined with one another. My bones are hallow, without marrow. Empty. And yet You say I am full of rushing, active LIFE:
Jesus stood and said in a loud voice,“Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” 39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.
I take time to envision these rivers flowing within me, this Spirit. Spirit rising and filling every dry bone within me, feel the waters rising, body absorbing life-giving energy, THE Life. Where the chemo is thieving and destroying and overtaking, God’s Spirit is overflowing and giving and conquering. Envision and believe, o my soul. This is not wishful thinking: this is true and real and happening, even when you do not feel it soul. Trust, trust.
I am learning on how to wait and trust on the Holy Spirit. It is wild and an adventure and truly how our lives are meant to be lived. How is it that I so quickly and easily forget this? Shouldn’t I have gotten this by now with this being my third go at it? Oh how our minds and hearts are stubborn and independent instead of willing and interdependent on the Spirit within. And yet I wouldn’t recall/remember/relearn/learn again without the chemotherapies sucking me dry and helping me to see my body as my body and my Spirit as my Spirit and how they are separate and yet connected. And how much my body can go through and yet clearly needs something outside of itself to work and function and live. I am nothing. My body is nothing and yet houses my Spirit. Sometimes I cry out because they seem at battle with each other. Yet the Spirit is stronger even though I feel most days the drugs/body are.
Recall o my soul:
9 You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ,they do not belong to Christ. 10 But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. 11 And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.
Spirit/life. Spirit/life. Spirit/life.
Flesh/death. Flesh/death. Flesh/death.
Our bodies are so weak and are destined for nothing. And yet the Spirit is the only thing that gives us Life here. Not our blood, not our drugs, our food, our sleep. (Yet how does God work and knit our bodies together to house our Spirit I feel like I will never know and understand.)
For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. 2 Meanwhile we groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, 3 because when we are clothed, we will not be found naked. 4 For while we are in this tent, we groan and are burdened, because we do not wish to be unclothed but to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. Oh, how I need help remembering that and believing and trusting in that. And yet, my body itself is a walking/breathing/active evidence of that daily. I am my own argument, my own testimony to this. Look down, o my soul, at your arms, your hands, your legs, your feet, that tip hip bone of cancer as you groan and are burdened by this body of yours. This is not your true body and is yours for only this brief, brief moment even though it feels like oh so much longer. Battle within your mind these truths and wrestle. Receive the blessing like Jacob, and be transformed into Israel, your new self and be restored and renewed.
Overall, dear friends, I am feeling wonderful, today and these past few days and am learning much. Thank you for all your prayers, cards, texts, encouragements, gifts, thoughts, energies, love and support. You are wonderful and blessings to me and my family. Pray for my body as it rests and gears itself up for its upcoming round of chemotherapy that I have starting next Monday. And continue in these things friends—
romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”