The past couple of weeks I curled into myself, tightened up into a ball, hardened my shell.
First it was to get through the last part of treatment. Being snapped into that radiation mask those last few times was the hardest thing I've done through this cancer journey. Climbing up onto that table when every cell in your body and mind is screaming RUN! required me to dig deep, use every tool I've got.
But I did it, and I'm proud of myself for that.
The doctors told me I wouldn't feel better once treatment stopped. They said I may even feel worse for a couple of weeks, because my expectation would be that I should be getting better day by day. "It will be at least three weeks before you start noticing daily differences in how you feel," they said.
They were right. Both that I don't actually feel better now that treatment has stopped, and that my expectations that I should feel better are making me feel worse, at least mentally.
I'm so, so tired. I'm tired of fighting. I'm tired of brave and strong.
I just want to get up in the morning and fix my kids' breakfast, go to the gym and then do some grocery shopping. I want to drive my car. I want to bite into a crisp apple or a gooey slice of pizza. I want to cradle a toasty Starbuck's latte between my hands and anticipate its deliciousness.
I start to unfurl, sometimes; I'll peek out from behind this self-protective and simple world I've created for myself and see the world whizzing by like usual, people rushing from here to there and from there to here. It exhausts me, and I tuck my head back down to wait.
One thing I know for sure is that the woman who will emerge from this cocoon is not the same woman who began this journey. Just about everything about me has changed, at least mentally and emotionally. Even physically - I've lost so much weight that I weigh what I did my senior year in high school.
I believe, though, that the woman who emerges at the end of all this is the real me - stripped of pretenses, of bravado. All of my priorities have shifted. I have spent so much time unable to be present for my children, upstairs curled in my ball and listening to them laugh with sitters, play games with my Mom or have movie night with Steve - even if I todder downstairs for these things I'm not really present, I'm so very tired - that being with them without Cancer in the way will be the biggest gift of recovery. I want to be there NOW, and I still have to wait.
I'm not online much. If you have sent me an email, tweet or Facebook message and haven't heard back - I'm sorry. I am reading them all, and your support makes this part of my recovery tolerable, makes me less isolated, less depressed. But I can't respond to everyone, and for this I'm sorry. I drift off to sleep after about four minutes of typing, wake up and can't remember what I was doing.
The woman who emerges from this cocoon will be stripped down to the raw essence of who she is and what she wants. I suppose this is a gift, because for so long I navel-gazed about the meaning of it all, what I want to do with my life, how I can make the most impact in the world.
I don't care about any of that anymore. To make the most impact in the world I need to hug my children. And what do I want to do with my life? Live it. The meaning of it all? Appreciate everything you have while you have it. Always.
It's so simple it's almost laughable. I knew these things before, of course, but I couldn't feel them.
For now, I will stay curled up in my safe little ball for a while longer, waiting. I have faith in the doctors, and if they tell me it takes three weeks before I start to feel better, then I will wait three weeks. I will wait longer if I have to, but I hope I don't have to.
I can't wait to be back in my life. To laugh on the couch with my kids, to have a family dinner, to make oodles and oodles of new jewelry.
The simple things that were always my biggest gifts, it just took the jarring experience of cancer for me to notice.