Dear Future Polly,
Lest you forget you are writing this back in the swirling mists of post Chemo 5, (1 more to go!). Last night you ate a dinner that consisted of 95% home-made, home-grown produce and it was gooooood. This morning, though it was early, you were left with words of love, a spattering of kisses AND pastries made by A’s own fair hand. Sure, you’re taking a lot of pills to feel ‘normal’, sure, your super low levels of haemoglobin mean that before too long you may need a blood transfusion; but Future Polly, there are small moments of greatness too. Moments, you will have a hard time recalling during your dramatic retellings of this period of your life. The above is just a little snapshot of your everyday.
Last week you were in a car with Dad, on route to the Doctors (again) for a Hormone Injection (again). It was a sunny, September afternoon and you felt fascinated by the strangers on the streets, walking and talking, waiting for buses, for coffee, for friends, looking worried, or stressed, shouting into phones. Just people living their lives, their totally normal lives. Some noticed you, and pity was registered.
You look sick now, or like the bald, boy cabbage patch kid you had as a child, or a turtle – steroids, steroids have made your cheeks get puffed and swollen – does this happen to weight lifters too? There’s a pallor too, a greyness. A. makes a good point; at least you’re unambiguous now, people don’t struggle or feel uncomfortable looking at a healthy-seeming, bald women. Yup, most definitely sick NOT challenging femininity… Lets all breath a sign of relief, and then pity her. It’s OK, well it’s not, but you’re judging them too, so it sort of is. These busy/non-busy livers of lives are Aliens to you. You judge them because they don’t all seem to be living life at 110% and if they aren’t doing that? You don’t know what they’re doing. They seem distracted by the whole rigmarole of First-World life, mole hills becoming mountains, wherever you look.
The truth is you lived that way too, distractedly, Future Polly, you may well be living that way now. Don’t get me wrong, I hope you’ve moved through this, that it is a facet of you, not a diamond you’re polishing and refusing to let go. I hope there are days, when you forget entirely but be mindful of just what you’re forgetting.
and now I’m getting to the point of this letter! We’ve been bitten on the butt by writing before, we know this. There’s a post written pre-chemo Reality Check that you’d merrily delete. It’s about remembering why you’re doing the Chemo, to LIVE….. eventually. You’d delete it, not least because A. only needs to raise an eyebrow when, after each new round you swear you’re not doing it again. This list below though, take it out occasionally, remember how lucky you are to feel well.
1) I hope you remember when you wake-up each morning to make your first thought a great one, preferably about how nice it is to be healthy. Don’t wake up to a worry. Also, isn’t it great not to have to scan yourself and figure out the aches, pains and fatigue or struggle out of sleep from a pill induced semi-coma? Jump out of bed or snuggle back in but saviour waking up!
2) Isn’t it amazing not to have a lot of bodily functions, pain levels, your very life being regulated by a thousand and one different pills, chemicals and supplements? You no longer shake, macaca stylee, while you walk!
3) You REALLY missed swimming, running, dancing, skipping and walking – in short everything that whirled and whipped your body around. You couldn’t physically do it back then, you can now – sure you want to sit on your ass right now?
4) Remember when we took baths to help try to take the constant ache away? You don’t have to do that now! How awesome is that – go have a bath for fun!
5) You lived for most of a year with a significant amount of tubing between your arm and your heart cavity. It was sore, unsightly, you had to wrap it in plastic to wash and it really hindered your swimming. You can actually just jump in the shower or pool now – yay!
6) You’ve been bald, puffy faced, invisible or pitied. It’s time to dial down the vain. Work on the insides of you, you silly thing. But oh, when you do get a chance to dress up – have the BEST time!
7) OK tough love time – DON’T be too thin or too fat, be honest and be healthy. Don’t pretend to be comfortable if you’re not for society or anyones sake. Don’t lie to your self. Don’t starve yourself (even if you’re heartbroken), don’t over-eat either, even cake. You have an honest-to-god, happy weight. Be sensible enough to maintain it – actually you don’t have a choice because of lymphoma risks etc… You know what you need to do, just do it.
8) Your hands and feet used to be numb and tingly, Your mouth was often grey and dead looking (you’re taste buds stopped working too), Your nose would drip, Your eyes would be dry – the secret life of cells when they are being bleached by Chemo. Be kind to your cells now – Get enough Sleep.
9) Remember how tough it was when you’re brain was lobotomized? You longed to read but couldn’t? How about you turn off youtube, Facebook and the weird website you’re looking at and lose yourself in a book.
10) So you’ve caught a cold/bug/stomach flu – I bet you feel rotten, I am sorry for you but you know what? You’re not actually going to die, Chemo didn’t kill you, so this probably isn’t either. Drink a lot of fluids, sleep and it’ll end in a few days. People don’t need to hear you complain.
11) You no longer have to go through an often embarrassing list of side-effects on a 3 weekly cycle. Your bodily functions are your own business. Plus you no longer have to factor in where Bathrooms are – Hurrah!
12) It has been an awful long time since you’ve had to jam a needle into your own stomach. You did this on and off for approx. 6 months, you NEVER got used to it. Aren’t you lucky you don’t have to do it every day, forever?
13) A lot of people have worked really hard, for a long while, to put you back together again. It’s been tough handing over to them, to feel so out of control; well, you’re back in the driver’s seat now – take responsibility for you.
Future Polly, I hope you’re enjoying life. I’ll write again.
You. Me. Us.