The cancer experience does not stop with chemo’s last drop. In fact many of us will face our biggest challenges after the poison is finished, after the frying, stabbing, and prodding. Let’s not underscore the physical pain during and after treatment. I had lots of that, but it was at least equaled by the emotional side of my experience.
I have a slight physical hangover from my treatments and I know that the drugs and rads put me at increased risk for lots of other nasty stuff, including more cancer. However the mind, my mind, has presented far more challenge after treatment than my body.
I don’t live in fear–anymore. Having a doc say, “It’s likely your first remission will be your longest” pushed me to live like cancer would be back in two years or less, given my first remission was just over two years long. For the record my second remission will see eight years in October.
The fear still jumps in every now and then, but I’ve reached a place where I know how to handle it, and that really has come with an evolved perspective on my life and where I am.
Fear gets a lot of play sometimes but it’s not the only emotional challenge. For me, I can say that I still get the pang of frustration when I feel the urge to do what I would have once done. I could be rolling around in the dirt stopping balls on the pitch, could be getting a good start with 15-16 beer before switching gears and moving on into the night, or sometimes it’s wondering what I would have done with those years I spent in and recovering from chemo, transplants, and ICU.
These scenarios I describe are regular and real thoughts that play out in my mind and they do come with a touch of desire attached. Desire to see my life without cancer. I say “see,” not “live.” I love my life, but that doesn’t mean I don’t wonder and even want somethings to be different. That want represents some work for me, but no one’s perfect! And truthfully, that’s why I come here; getting thoughts and feelings on the screen makes a huge difference for me.
I digress, again. Now that you have the background, I will get to yesterday’s resolution and the title of today’s blog.
I still get my blood tested regularly–at least once every couple of months–and I regularly (though not regularly enough) have phlebotomies to help bring down my feritin (iron) levels, which are super high, like 930 high. I’m working on my eight-year anniversary of my second transplant. I haven’t had active treatment since then, but I still get the pang everyone now and then before or more commonly immediately after my most recent test until I get my levels back. The waiting still kills a little.
As I got back to the gym yesterday after a few weeks off for flu and moving, I was thinking that maybe I need to let go off the blood levels. After almost 11 years of watching my hemoglobin, platelets, white cells, nutrophils, LFTs, feritin, and MCV, it is time I let them go.
The bike will now be my blood test. It may not show the nuances of my blood but I’m confident that it will give me all the feedback I need to know about which direction my health is going. I am taking a break from the levels, but unfortunately that won’t correlate with a break from the needles. I’ll still get my blood checked regularly, and will even make the effort to get in for more phlebotomies and finally get my damn feritin down, but I will no longer inquire or worry about my blood levels.
One thing I have noticed about getting back to some reasonable level of fitness is that I have a better gauge on my body when I’m pushing it.
Going forward I will do both: push it and gauge it.
Live life. Love life.