After what seemed like an endless week trapped in isolation, I finally mustered up enough energy to drop by my school for Halloween; couldn't pass up my last ever high-school costume contest on an account of low hemoglobin’s... Although I only lasted a couple hour’s yesterday morning, I realized that I’d truly underestimated the power of support when you are fully immersed in it. But regardless of support, the mere social exposure in itself was worth this drastic loss of energy that my body’s still seems to be recovering from ... 48 hours later ..
However, with all the fun festivities of Halloween, and as much as I tried to embrace the normality, there is no denying that this week has been the most brutal since the start of my treatment. 3 weeks in, and although I was starting to adapt to the physical changes, the mental affects of chemo had never really hit me so hard.
For the first time I woke up feeling depressed, cynical and erratically insensitive. No desire to welcome the day; It was a confusing mix of emotions for me (I usually wake up feeling perky, especially when I sleep in as late as I had). Typically we’re able to reason with our emotions, recognize why we feel a certain way and provide a solution for ourselves. The first phase of my treatment is called induction and with the combination of drugs I’ve been taking for the past 3 weeks, I’m supposed to inhabit a feeling known as “chemo-brain.” (Chemo brain: Trouble concentrating, short attention span, multiple space-outs, trouble multi-tasking, lack of focus and motivation.) I spent most of Wednesday morning staring at my computer screen. There could have been a movie playing or just a blank screen-either way my feelings and motivation were indifferent. The good news is that all of these feelings are totally, completely, normal and expected! In fact, this foreign feeling of anguish was supposed to have set in during the first week of chemotherapy. My oncologist reminded me how rare it is for patients to leave the house during induction let alone spend the day at school. But like I said, I can’t begin to express the magnitude of community and the power it has to overcome a troubled state of mind (like chemo-brain.) Sometimes we underestimate the strength of a community and the power it has when brought together through mutual support and compassion.
The above photo was taken yesterday of a group of faculty members at my school. I’d notice their ‘costumes’ when I walked through the halls but couldn’t put the individual letters together: Breeding Optimism.
We are constantly presented with unexpected circumstances and the way in which we take action and respond to them is what will define us; as individuals and as a community at whole. Whether you’re battling through an issue or supporting someone else through theirs, a strong community, like the one I’m so fortunate to be a part of, is no match for any challenger. Spending just a few normal hours at school, surrounded by this sense of belonging, has proven to me that no one is alone in their fight.
Even as I lay in bed now, consumed by the crazy demands of my body, I will continue to remind myself of this. I couldn’t believe how spending a morning at school and attending a class would make such a positive impact on my mental distress, who woulda thought ... J
Looking forward to the extinction of chemo-brain, it’s getting hard to maintain steady blog posts when I’m just as content staring at a blank screen.
Continuing to breed optimism through, hopefully, my last week of induction,
Battling through the side effects as they come, taking it day by day,
- - Serena Bonneville J