Tuesday, February 1, 2011


Old Man Winter blew into our city last night with a vengeance, and it seems he is settling in for a few days. I have some excited little cowboys who are not going to school today. It's going to be a Netflix-watching, pajama-wearing kind of day.

And I have to confess that it won't be the first day that I've stayed in my pjs recently. I've had a rough go of it lately. It started on my last treatment day, when the woman in the chair next to me cried the whole time. It was her first chemo treatment, and she was scared. Part of me wanted to comfort her, but most of me was annoyed and angry--angry that she had to be there, angry that I had to be there, and angry at cancer in general. That treatment room is a terrible place. Cutesy ribbons and bows on the IV poles and cheery green plants on a desk can not disguise the reality of what goes on there. It's awful, and I hate it.

The side effects of last week's treatment were tough. They always are, but for some reason I had a more difficult time bouncing back. My emotional state is directly related, to a degree, to my physical pain. The more my body hurts, the more my heart hurts. Tuesdays are treatment days. I typically go pretty early in the morning, and I am back home by lunch time. I like to stop off at Schlotzsky's on my way home and grab lunch, sort of like a reward for myself for enduring the morning. My order is always the same: a small original sandwich, hold the lettuce, onion, and tomato. I get home, change into my pajamas, pop the first of several pain pills, and eat my sandwich. Then I put my best game face on, deal with it, and wait to feel better.

Only this time, Wednesday morning came and I did nothing. I didn't shower or change clothes. I didn't put on makeup. I didn't dig deep and look for the silver lining. I'm not even sure I brushed my teeth. I just let myself be sad. I looked for the closest pool of self-pity and jumped in. I watched kid TV with Baby during the day, and when it came time for church that evening, I did not make the boys go. It was just too much effort. Good mom, right?

Then it was Thursday. I had to do something very hard that brought to light some tough issues. I've said it before, and I'll say it again here: I am not the only one affected by The Sickness. My suffering is not solitary; the sorrow isn't isolated. On that particular day, it simply felt like more than I could bear.

On Friday night, my family chose from these three options for dinner: blueberry Eggos, chocolate chip Eggos, and cinnamon microwave pancakes. Again, the mundane everyday task of preparing a meal required more than I had to give.

I am facing another scan within the next couple of weeks, followed by a meeting with Dr. M. That meeting will determine what we do next. I asked my chemo nurse, and she said he more than likely will want me to continue with the maintenance chemo, in spite of its "uncomfortable" side effects. The reasons are solid: theoretically, the longer I suppress cancer cells with the chemo, the longer it will be before they can grow again. Makes sense.

But the anxiety and depression I feel knowing what's coming is ridiculous. Nearly one year after the start of Chapter 2, I still find it hard to believe that this will be the rest of my life. When I started this journey, I said that I did not want to lose myself and be identified by The Sickness. But more and more, I am afraid that is exactly what has happened. Pretty much everything I do (or don't do--i.e. cooking dinner!) is determined by how strong or sick I feel. I don't make plans without checking to see when my next treatment day will be. I don't laugh like I used to, or even cry like I used to. Not too long ago, I watched Steel Magnolias with my Bible Study sisters, and I didn't shed a tear when Shelby died. Not one. I was stone-faced when M'Lynn lost it in the cemetery. And I can't remember for certain, but I don't think I even laughed when Clairee offered up Ouiser as a sacrifice for her friend.

I am reading a book right now titled The Gift of an Ordinary Day by Katrina Kenison. The author is a mother of two sons, and the book is her memoir. In reading, I have captured a glimpse of what I want more than anything: plain old, ordinary days. Mornings that allow me to sleep as late as I want to instead of my wake-up time being dictated by last night's medication. Afternoons that are open for game-playing or park-going or just plain lazing around with my cowboys. Evenings that invite us to share a home-cooked meal on the back patio and count the airplanes that fly by or wonder about the rooster that we can hear through our neighbor's fence. Days that are blank squares on my calendar instead of doctor appointments. Days that don't involve pills or IVs. Days that I can look in the mirror and like what I see. Normal. Is that really too much to ask for?


Lisa Buffaloe said...

Oh sweet Allyson. I'm praying for you. I don't have platitudes to offer or even the long list of verses that should bring comfort. Because sometimes you just need freedom to be. Freedom to wail and wonder and question. Freedom to admit the journey is hard.

I'm so sorry.

I'll sit with you here, and I'll place you in God's loving, tender arms. Because He knows. And His Spirit hears the groanings too deep for words.

You are loved.

Shellie said...

Continuing to pray for you friend....

Heather Ashley said...

Allyson, I love you and appreciate your honesty so much. I am so proud to know you and to have the privilege of praying for you.

bhayes11 said...

I am so sorry you have to go through this - I hate it with you. You have been on my mind lately and I'm still praying for you. Just wish I could make it better for you.

Uncanny Colleen said...

Sweet Girl and Sweet Guys - we are praying for you all. Looming scans are awful, aren't they? My next set of scans are on the 13th.

I have been going to Beth Moore's Bible studies at HFBC for a while and last week's lesson was about the relationship between joy and anguish in John 16:19-22. In the study, she defined anguish as pain + mental distress. (Sound familiar?) Anyway, I typed up my notes and asked Larry to get your address. I didn't get it into the mailbox before "Mrs. Mail", as my boys call her, got to our stop. But, it's on the way.


Sharon said...

I think it's no coincidence that I read this on a Monday night. I will pray for you tomorrow, my friend.

I know you don't want to be defined by This Crap but please give yourself permission to feel how you feel. If you feel like having a pity party, send me an invite. It's totally ok. I know you want to feel differently and I think that's so admirable. It shows C does not have your heart. But we ALL love you for you and it's ok to be where you are, where ever that is at the moment. I believe God grieves through This Crap with you. I believe He's sad when you are and happy when you are.

You have an amazing perspective. Keep us posted.

elaine said...

have you ever heard of hallelujah acres? if not... please go to their website... i think they could be a real blessing to you & your family. we have the videos & i would love to share them with you... <3