Archive for August, 2011

So cliche but so necessary.

I’m huffing, exasperated, swallowing air (a sign of stressed breathing), all because I don’t know what classes to take and my schedule today has not been to my liking and my smile wasn’t perfect in my senior picture.

As my beloved high school history teacher would say: What a great problem to have.

I have so much more in my reach than last year, and I even have the luxury to complain about it.

Coming off of a year of having only a resemblance of control over my own life…

I have serious self-control issues.


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I’m back.

Back to set autumn upright, from its previously toppled position.  An autumn of weekly road trips–past the changing New England foliage, without a true home, a true purpose, a true happiness–must become an autumn of redemption, of surfeited love, natural beauty, and self-confidence.  It must.

I had an emotionally tumultuous first few days on campus, my first fall semester since 2009.  Partly hormonal dysphoria, partly a sinking feeling of nostalgic dysphoria yearning for the present.  It’s something I’ve mentioned before on this blog, and something that’s happening repeatedly since being treated: a ache that comes from experiencing life as so heartbreakingly beautiful, and realizing how fleeting that beauty and that life are.

The view from my senior single is almost disgustingly pretty.  Whether it be watching lightning storms miles away or soaking up the rich browns of Cantabridgian buildings, bluest blues of the Charles, or array of greenery along the river, it seems too good to last.  When I lie down on my memory-foam-topped mattress hoisted by bed risers, all I can see is landscape from my window, and I feel like I’m floating high above the ground, on a marshmallow of bliss.  My diction may seem too whimsical or overblown, but it’s true.  When I hear the faint chug of trains in the night, see the twinklings of lit windows lining the river, it’s breathtaking.  This is the best real estate I might ever have. And because of a little behind-closed-doors room shuffling amongst my friends, I was paranoid that a higher power (Leverett, God) would take that away from me.  It’s completely (I can’t convince myself to say “completely”) nonsensical, to live life in fear of the worst.

But I think autumn came to symbolize what wasn’t mine.  The band I fought to stay a part of yet I was completely disconnected from and unprepared to really be a part of, the familiar buildings that became strangers to me as I held visitor status, and the friendships that became defined by my illness.  I was physically there, but emotionally I wasn’t.  It wasn’t mine to have, but I took it nonetheless, for better or for worse.  I still cringe at what an emotionally blank social chair I was at times, and feel guilty at how accommodating everyone in my life was, just to give me a hint of happiness that I begged for, in a setting loaded with defeat.

Autumn has been tainted… but I guess last spring, my nearly disastrous first semester back, was as well.

This is a year to reclaim.  A year to make right.  I’ve got a ninth-floor sanctuary, a bike for emotional escapes, and a year to solely focus on myself and my friendships, having given two and a half years at Harvard to prioritizing a great relationship with my boyfriend.  He’s graduated, and we’ll talk daily to stay connected, but I’m owing it to myself to use the time I would have spent with him each day to repair, restabilize, reduce stress, and reclaim my truest self.

Give it a few weeks to sink in, to feel real–but I’m pledging myself to not trade reality for that sense of relaxation.  The two must coexist.  They must.

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Sun reflections

After a two-year hiatus, I’m back in Virginia Beach, fulfilling the family tradition for summer vacation.  Although I was really disappointed that my doctor and my family didn’t think it was appropriate to go last year (I shouldn’t complain, because it was probably the only thing I wasn’t allowed to do), it makes total sense now.

The beach is not designed for chemo kids.

Sweltering heat, water to ruin week-long bandages, sunburnably bare heads, 7-hour distance to medical care, the disappointment of having food restrictions at restaurants, and the possibility of getting sand in an open wound running straight to your central artery…

what was I thinking?

I would have hated it here and never wanted to come back.

So instead, I get 3 blissful days of sunny, breezy, 85-degree weather: we’ve never had such an optimistic forecast.

I think that’s saying something.

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I put a generic Claritin on my tongue today, and tasted Procarbazine.  There was something faintly chalky, clearly foreign about the taste that suggested ill health, tedious medicine schedules, and dietary restrictions.  Luckily, it was just allergies.

Cancer sensations come frequently, and come on strong.

It’s amazing how “midnight pomegranate” scent from Bath and Body Works makes me wistful, reminiscent of a fall day at the Charles Hotel, trying to keep up with my Band responsibilities and keep my relationship in check while feeling run down.  It’s uplifting with a hint of nostalgic longing for a more perfect time.

It’s amazing how alcohol sets off an utterly toxic reaction to me, of intrigue mixed with fear.  Coming off of many months of abstaining, when a drop could tamper with chemotherapy or destroy a weakened body, it makes me feel almost sinful to indulge now.  Granted, I really don’t drink much: perhaps an average of one drink a week, since I’ve turned 21?  But each drop is a decision dripping with an malleable destiny, a fork in the road between self-induced health and hardship.  At least in my mind.

The worst of all is the sole arbiter of “anticipatory nausea.”  I thought I wouldn’t fall prey to the typical woes of chemo-goers, but in my last two cycles I started to hit all of the benchmarks.  The soap at clinic recalls more long, draining days of headaches and general unpleasantries… it was rarely true nausea for me at the time, just a sharp distaste for the world, in a sense.

I can never again wash my hands at Columbia University Medical Center.

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More Survivor Jokes

I think the funniest thing to happen to a hypochondriac is: you get cancer. —-Mike Birbiglia

Mike Birbiglia’s track “There’s Something in My Bladder” on his CD Sleepwalk with Me was really great to hear. Not great in the sense that he had cancer, but great to hear someone making the same jokes I did, dealing with the same drama, and finding the same ironic revelations.  I can’t find a single video to post, but I urge everyone who’s reading this to check out this CD!

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I need to have more artistically pleasing blog posts.  They’re just not captivating enough.  Sleep time.

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I had a final today.  And who knows what I’ll get on it, but I did make some personal progress that outweighs any grade I’ll get.  It was the first time I took a test since treatment that I finished on time, kept up the pace with other students, and kept my panic in check without it unraveling and working against all of my knowledge.  Last semester, I knew my stuff but I was just so stressed from being tired, nervous about my health, overextended, uncertain I could actually finish another semester of Harvard…

Whew.  Progress.

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