I have done many bold, adventurous things in my life. Some required courage, others resilience, and several were an exercise in reckless stupidity.
I climbed the Mayan Ruins, swam with sharks, ran five marathons, skydived, parasailed, hung upside-down on a flying trapeze, rode in an ultralight 12,000 feet above Burning Man, rode a flying pig at Burning Man, spun fire topless in a wind storm at Burning Man...
The other weekend I chased what looked like a sniper in the back of a pick-up truck, down interstate 95 so that I could get a picture of him with the hopes of blogging about it.
Imagine if my cause of death ended up being ballistic head trauma due to a high velocity bullet from a masked madman's semi-automatic weapon and NOT cancer.
But hands down the most frightening, the most daring thing I've ever done is chemotherapy. I feared chemo more than cancer, more than surgery, more than death itself.
Two weeks ago, with my soul-savvy daughter by my side, I faced my deepest fear.
Initially, I was adamant about not doing the drug oxaliplatin because of its potential long term side effects but eventually long term side effects seemed a small price to pay for a 27% chance at a longer life.
Besides, if Luciano Pavarotti (pancreatic), Walt Disney (lung), Steve Jobs (pancreatic), and Bob Marley (malignant melanoma) couldn't beat cancer with their wealth, talent and tenacity, then I knew I had to be courageous and committed to finding my cure.
The side effects from the infusion were immediate, intense and intimidating. I developed chest pain and pressure thirty minutes in that required additional monitoring. I developed an extreme sensitivity to cool temperatures the minute I walked out of the hospital. I couldn't breath the brisk fall air without the sensation of slivered glass pureeing my throat. I couldn't touch anything cold, even with gloves on. I couldn't walk outdoors, even with winter boots on without pain, similar to an electric shock, shooting through my body. My eyes hurt, especially when I cried and my jaw hurt when I chewed. I couldn't swallow anything unless it was heated. Even room temperature was agonizing. I developed extreme pain at the site of the infusion and my doctor worried the surrounding tissue might had been damaged.
Despite all this, I am okay. I am wiggling my way around the unpleasant side effects and I am learning how to ask for help.
When I worried I would not be able to care for my dogs, my neighbors came together and offered to walk them. When I broke down crying at the grocery store because I couldn't hold a quart of milk or a package of cheese, my neighbors, family and friends, pitched in and brought me food.
Because I recognize that my mind is powerful, daily affirmations and visualizations are some of my wellness tools. I have mentally replaced the "poison alert" label on my chemo drugs with a "fairy alert."
My infusions enlist the aid of hundreds of flittering fairies whimsically gliding through my bloodstream. Intoxicating, fierce fairies darting around platelets, capillaries and lymph nodes - detecting and destroying the genome instability of minuscule cells before they have a chance to feed and form tumors.
Slowly, I'm doing it. I'm learning how to cope with my diagnosis and my treatment. Fear still bubbles up but mostly it's about tomorrow so I'm focused on today.
Today I studied the dance of golden gingko leafs against a milky blue sky, and the call of a catbirds song at dawn. Today I cared less about what I looked like and more about discovering my life's true purpose. Today, while savoring my coffee, I got down on the floor and thanked Sasha, Lucy and Phoebe for their love and loyalty. One by one I stroked their fur, scratched their sweet spot and watched them eat their treats.
Today was a very good day.
For some it's diabetes, or auto immune disorders, or chronic pain, or heart disease. For me, it's cancer. But that's not an excuse to stop living. It's a reason to live larger.
Photo by Sarah Hickox taken at Burning Man 2006
For a complete list of my ridiculous cancer journey click HERE