Yesterday while I was at the dermatologist to try and get rid of said hives, Dr. P congratulated me on getting to my last treatment. “It’s a big day!” he said. And for once I said “thank you. It is a big day” and meant it. Before this, chemo was just something I had to do, something I endured because I had to (kind of like a whole bunch of root canals. Without novacaine.) But now that I’m actually here and it’s almost done, I do feel like I made it. Like I accomplished something big. Or at least survived with my sense of humor marginally intact, which feels like a big accomplishment in and of itself.
My stepmom texted me last night to ask me what my “chemo eve” resolutions are. As in “you’re done with this chapter. You get a fresh start. What do you want that to look like?”
It’s a little hard to say for sure, because like so many “opportunities for growth” you don’t really appreciate them until they’re done and over with and you have a little perspective. When they’re happening they usually kinda suck. And even though I’m at the end, I think the lesson in all of this won’t be evident for months or years to come. That said, I thought long and hard, and so from where I stand now, here are my “chemo eve” resolutions:
- Get more sleep and eat more vegetables
2. Train for a marathon
Because I’ve also learned that my body is stronger and more resilient in the kind of ways you don’t understand until you’ve tested the limits. It’s capable of beating cancer and surviving ritual poisoning for 6 months and bouncing back. Plus I’ve always wanted to run a marathon and have continually put it off, which brings me to…
3. Stop putting off my life goals for “maybe someday”
Warning: this is where I invoke the cheesy cliché about life being fragile and precious and how you only get one go ‘round in this body. That’s because well, life is fragile and precious and you only get one go ‘round in this body, which you appreciate a lot more when you face the prospect of losing it. So I’m going to run a marathon and write my book even though I don’t totally know the story goes yet and direct my own film even if I don’t have the funding in place and visit all the countries that start with an “I”, also Greece. Oh wait, Iran and Iraq both start with "I"s don't they? Okay maybe I'll stop at India on that one.
4. Reach out, pay it forward
More than anything this whole experience has really shown me how important it is to reach out, the power of connection. You can’t imagine how the simple act of sending an email or a text or a pair of fuzzy socks in the mail can make someone’s whole day, but I’m here to tell you they can. Now that I’m finishing up with my rough patch, I’m going to harness all of the energy and support and fuzzy socks love that you’ve showered on me the past six months and do my best to do you proud by reaching out to other people who need it.
5. Practice gratitude daily
I’m usually a pretty optimistic person, but these last six months have really put that to test, and I can say without hesitation that gratitude has carried me through. When so much feels so heavy, it’s easy to get crushed unless you take time to remember why you should get out of bed. That’s why I have taken to spending a few minutes each morning to thank the universe for at least three things I feel lucky to have in my life. Some days all I can muster are things like peppermint tea and bubble baths, but everyday my list includes all of my amazing family and friends. You’re enough to make me feel like the luckiest girl in the world – even on chemo days.
6. Follow my heart with intention
I’ve tried to follow this mantra my whole life, but I have to admit that in the past, it’s been way too easy to get caught up in the rat race, to listen to the nagging “shoulds” that programmed in, without really thinking about why I’m doing what I’m doing. Now that I’ve spent six months just putting one foot in front of the other out of necessity, I cringe at the prospect of doing it by default. Whatever I choose to do, I’m going to do 100% with my whole heart. Anything else is just a waste of time.
7. Stop sweating the small stuff
There's nothing like being bald to put all those times I stressed over a bad hair day, in perspective. Ditto for worrying about the size of my thighs and for taking things personally. Imagine how much more time and energy I would have for following my heart and paying it forward and marathon training and book writing and vegetable eating (not to mention playing in bouncy castles) if I just let go a little more and said f* it a little more often.
I'm sure I could think of a few more but the nurse has ported me up, my dad and Annie and Jeff are on their way down and Charlie is decorating the treatment room with streamers and balloons. The receptionist just walked by and stopped to see what's going on (I’m going to go out on a limb and say it’s because I’m wearing a tiara…we take this last treatment celebration business very seriously). She asked if today is my birthday. I guess in a way, it is.