31 March 2010

To Be or Not to Be

This is nothing new. For most, something snaps when they're at "death's door," as it were. Suddenly, there's a sense of urgency to everything and bucket lists are made. My bucket list was short and simple. No, there was no jumping out of planes or swimming with dolphins. All I wanted was to do was to go forward the trip to Miami Beach that had been planned and confirmed long before I was diagnosed with cancer.

Was this wise? Foolish? Risky? Irresponsible? Did a cancer patient have any business being in Miami Beach, revelling in the sun?

What was I thinking, going at the onset of my chemotherapy treatment? I wasn't. I didn't want to think. I wanted to forget! For one week, I wanted to pretend I wasn't sick. I wanted to be vibrant, fabulous, and alive in Miami Beach, Florida! So, armed with my meds, suntan lotion, and flip flops, my boyfriend and I threw caution to the wind and headed for Miami Beach, two weeks after my first chemo session.

. . . Oh, but sometimes desire and intention overtakes ability and capacity . . .

Soon after landing Miami Beach, things went awry. That familiar pain on my left side and the swelling of the leg visited once more (Oh no! Blood clots!), accompanied by a blinding headache and profuse bleeding. Immediately, I regretted my being on vacation and being thousands of miles away from home and my doctors. So much for forgetting I was sick. And talk about feeling foolish, vulnerable and scared! So, instead of going out on that perfect balmy Florida night to start my carefree vacation, I hid under the sheets with fear and loathing that I had made the wrong decision after all.

. . . Although, ability and capacity CAN match up with desires and intentions . . .

During my phone consult with my oncologist the next day, the swelling on my left leg and the pain on my left side had subsided. Apparently, that long plane ride aggravated the swelling. But after being stretched in bed overnight, things got better. So, my doctor told me to not overdo anything and keep to my Coumadin and Lovenox therapy everyday. Okay. So, I wasn't going to die. That was that. Time to start forgetting and start partying like it's 1999 (well, actually, it was 2009)! No more fretting. When life deals you lemonade, sip mojitos!

. . . I denied cancer to dance and revel like I wasn't sick. . .

But, the irony of this all, of course, is that the very thing I was trying to get away from was with me throughout our vacation. I really couldn't get away from it, could I? Especially because, right on schedule, my hair started to fall out in big chunks! There was hair everywhere but my head. And really, there probably was no worse place for this to happen than in Miami Beach, where every woman (it seemed to me) was perfect and beautiful. I was warned about it and knew it was coming. But, nothing really prepared me for the reality of hair loss. Nothing! It was horrific. I felt like a deformed monster. Oh! And there was nothing like hair loss to snap me back from forgetting. There were times when I couldn't bring myself to get out of bed and face all the fabulous beautiful people of Miami Beach. Thankfully, I came prepared -- thanks to my boyfriend who bought me a chic short haircut before the trip, a fabulous cowboy hat plus a few scarves just for the occasion (He's got me!). So, with a little courage and disguise, I still managed to go and enjoy myself even though every morning, I hated what I saw in the mirror.

. . .Even though cancer insisted its presence, I kept covering it up to forget about it. . .

Though, on our last morning in Miami Beach, I woke my boyfriend up and told him it was time -- time to face cancer head on. No more forgetting. No more pretending it wasn't there. So, we walked hand-in-hand into a Supercuts right in the middle of Washington Avenue to have my head shaved.


Karen said...

You are such a strong person. Good for you, for going through with your plans to go on vacation.

Many others would have caved and not have gone. Yes, losing your hair is monumental, and you'll never forget the feelings that it evoked. But you'll also never forget the strength that you found in order to get through it all, and to enjoy each and every precious moment, one day at a time.

ce_squared said...

Thank you, Karen! You've been such a great cheerleader. Bless you!

Bonita said...

You're never prepared, even though you know the day to expect it. Wow...this brings back memories, and how denial just goes out the drain, with the hair :-). I suppose it would be nice to lose the denial in a comfy, familiar place, but you chose the brave route.

Awesome courage to go to Miami. Or stubborness. Doesn't matter. You go girl.

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