Picking Up Where I Left Off

I’ve been procrastinating. I’ve been doing everything but finish the post I had started about my second round of chemo. I had planned on finishing the story. Instead, I’ve done everything but write about it. In all honesty, I’ve forgotten a lot of what happened. Whether from the chemo drugs or selective memory, I don’t remember as much as I thought I did. I made notes during that time, and we have video and photos, but I haven’t wanted to look at them.

The main reason I’ve been procrastinating, though, is nothing other than pure dread of reliving the experience. Now that I’ve put a little distance between what happened and my return to “normal” living, I much prefer the way things have turned out. It’s hard to leave the bright lights of survivorship and go back to that dark, scary place.

And so I keep putting it off. I write about knitting. Or I don’t write at all. I have enjoyed getting my life back on track and feeling good again. I do yoga. I run. I go for a walk. Last weekend I ran my first 9 mile loop around the lake since last May, with walk breaks, and I’m starting to feel as good as I used to. Running is still very, very hard. It’s taken me much longer than I thought it would to get my conditioning and stamina back. I still have to walk a lot, and after every run I am bone tired. But I realize every step, no matter how fast, is an accomplishment. Thankfully, I have good friends who still want to run with me, despite the walk breaks.

shoe polished car

My friends thought it would be funny to shoe polish my car while I was running to commemorate the loop.

shoe polished car

So funny.

shoe polished car

So, so funny.

I have been very emotional lately. All those salute to mothers commercials during the Olympics always made me cry. Any athlete’s story that was highlighted made me cry. Even seeing the winning athletes stand on the podium made me cry! I seem to feel things more deeply now that I know how tenuous life can be.

Reading other cancer patients’ blogs makes me feel so sad for them. I love reading them, but I feel frustrated that I can’t help. I saw a bald woman walking her dog at the lake the other day and I instantly teared up. I wanted to run over to her and tell her how beautiful and brave she was for walking in the open without a scarf. I didn’t, and I wish I had. I was never brave enough to walk around without a cap, even at the cancer center.

I dreaded going back to the hospital for blood work a few weeks ago for my three month check up. I thought that sitting in the waiting room amongst the people going through chemo was going to make me want to cry. It didn’t, and instead I looked around at all the amazing, strong, upbeat people who were waiting for chemo. They all had hope, and it made me proud to know I was once one of them. Instead of feeling sad, I felt powerful for having made it through. I got to see the chemo nurses. Seeing my oncologist and her nurses felt like going to see my family. And my CA-125 cancer antigen number was a 9, the lowest it’s ever been.

I celebrated a birthday this month. It was, of course, a very special birthday, one I might not have seen if we hadn’t caught the cancer as early as we did. A year ago Saturday was the last marathon I ran before I got sick. There are lots of milestones ahead in the coming months, and I plan on celebrating them all.

The kids are all gone again and the house is a lot more quiet. We’re starting a large vegetable garden in the backyard and I’ve been eating a lot healthier than I was before. I love being able to enjoy and savor the taste of good, simple food again. Losing my taste buds and not eating were by far the worst parts of chemo. That, and losing my hair, which has grown out to about an inch now–with a lot more gray, dammit. My body looks different after being sliced open and having tubes inserted for chemo ports, one of which still remains in my chest.

mulch pile

The huge mulch pile we had delivered that had to be transported to the backyard. You can tell how excited I was. But at least I’m no longer the bald headed lady who lives on the street.

I’ve changed. There’s no way around it. The first few months after chemo were joyful. Everything was shiny and new. I had my life back. I had dodged a bullet. That was so close! Nothing could touch me now. I was like teflon; all the small aggravations and worries seemed inconsequential and insignificant.

Now that things have settled down again, and I physically feel almost as good as I did before I was diagnosed, I’ve had more time to think about all that I went through. I’m a little more somber. The shiny, happy feeling is a little more tarnished. The fog cleared and I understood for the first time how serious everything had truly been. I could have died. Chemo was hell. How did I get through all that? Every slight twinge of pain anywhere in my body now makes me instantly worried. What if it comes back? is always in the back of my mind.

But I survived. Hopefully the cancer will never come back. If it does, I know I’ll be able to deal with it, like so many others have done and continue to do every day that they’re given. I’m only one of many who have gone through this. Some days I’ll feel sad about what I went through, but most days I won’t. There’s no reason to. I’m alive, I’m healthy again, and life is very, very good.

And one day I will finish the story I started, all in good time.

yoga dog

Look at all that hair! Yoga dog just wants a good belly rub.

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76 comments

  1. Deanna

    Hi Angela,
    So wonderful to hear that you are feeling so well. Happy belated birthday 🙂 I suspect you will always have that emotional reaction you describe. I feel people that have been through things like this personally and with close family and friends develop even more compassion for others. I just cry and call it human. Continued good health for you – you are an awesome lady.

  2. Richard Caspers

    Hello Angela, it is not easy thing to do but you transferred your feelings to your writing very well. Cheers to you for being a cancer survivor. Onward to you and your family.

  3. aFrankAngle

    Happy belated birthday to the fighter! Thanks for sharing your perspective, after all, reading your reflection was as important as the details you didn’t get a chance to write.

  4. Kerry's Organized Chaos

    I am so happy that you are feeling good again! I love hearing your perspective of getting through everything and viewing the world again. You’ll have to blog about the garden. I always try to start out so motivated in the spring and it turns into a weed pile by September!

    • Mind Margins

      We had just started the garden last spring when I was diagnosed. We spent the rest of the summer and fall watching the grass and weeds take over, knowing full well what a job it would be this year to get it back into shape. It’s been sooooooo much work, BUT hopefully we’ll have tons of homegrown veggies to eat this summer. I will certainly write about it!

  5. westerner54

    What a great, great post, Angela. Your genuine frankness about all that is going on is so uplifting; you’re writing about life – cancer or no cancer – and you’ve got it just right (I first wrote “just write”, which is correct, too!) Thanks.

  6. Lyle Krahn

    It’s so great to hear you that you are able to run again and it sounds like you have great friends. Hopefully writing about this helps in some way.

  7. sensuousamberville

    oh your doggie does yoga too. 😉

    tearing up is a good thing, a hug with tears is more special, you don’t need to hold back when you see those bald ladies. I know they would love a hug from you and may share tears with you, but hope, they will share hope and that can be powerful too.

    I like what your friends did to your car, not that it tormented you a bit… but to show you they are proud of your achievements. I hope it wiped off easily.

  8. HC

    Your dog is such a cutie. Congrats to you on the 9 mile loop! Bet that was a fun drive home. I’m glad you’re feeling better and looking forward to seeing garden pics soon. I didn’t realize chemo affects the taste buds. It makes sense, but seems like a double slap in the face when you’re already going through so much.

    I really enjoy reading your posts. It’s not what you write about, it’s your perspective and voice. Cheers to some tasty food ahead.

    • Mind Margins

      I was sore for a few days afterwards, despite the yoga I did. As for losing the taste buds during chemo, it was the worst. Coupled with an extreme lack of appetite and nausea, having the few things I could tolerate taste “off” didn’t help. And it took almost two months before food started to taste good again. I enjoy your posts as well. I’ve gotten a lot of good book ideas from your pages!

  9. therunningtherapist

    I’m crying with ya. My eyes filled with tears as I read the wonderful things your friends wrote on your car. I am glad to see you coming back and 9 miles is amazing. I think we forget as people who usually run farther that 9 miles is a huge accomplishment. Keep up the great healing and when you get a chance send some of that warmer weather up this way so I can get outside and run before I head down to OKC for that marathon!

    • Mind Margins

      I will definitely send some of our warm weather up north to you. We’ve actually had surprisingly little this year. We barely have leaves on the trees, and they are usually in full foliage by now.

  10. monica

    i love this post and i’m not feeling very coherent right now – so here’s my rambling comment! happy belated birthday! your hair looks great. I’ve cried quite a few times READING your posts so I cannot imagine living it. you continue to be so brave and so eloquent. it is a blessing for me to read your stuff. and NINE miles. holy moly! I’m over here feeling smug because me and the dog can do an easy six finally. yowza woman – you rock! *slow clap*

    • Mind Margins

      Monica, YOU are the one with all the talent! Your posts are so funny. I expect a book from you one day. As for the running, believe me, those nine miles were HARD and there was a LOT of walking involved. I’m still working on getting to an “easy” run!

  11. Grace @ Cultural Life

    Happy belated birthday! I’m so happy to hear that life is returning to normality. And 9 miles…wow! That’s great (and probably more than I could run!). 🙂

    I’d like to take up running but I have a knee injury from slipping and falling on some steps. I’ve procrastinated about getting it dealt with because most of the time it doesn’t bother me. But I finally had an MRI this week so I’m waiting to see what needs to be done about my knee before I start running! When did you start running? Have you been doing it for years?

    • Mind Margins

      Good luck on your MRI this week. Hopefully it’s nothing serious. I started running eight years ago. I walked and did yoga before that, both of which were great ways to slide into running. I took my time about running a marathon (3 years) and built up a good base first. I still love to walk and I try to do yoga daily–both of which are great complements to running. If you do start running, take your time and start with a walk/run, then gradually increase your run time. Start small so you don’t get injured.

  12. AndrewGills

    Love the looper reference 🙂 🙂 Your friends are hilarious. Happy birthday for this month. It’s great that you are running and healthy again. I kinda get about not writing so much during times of change. And you’ve been through so much change and such a journey that I imagine writing is not as high priority as experiencing. I picture you sometimes contently running / walking in the woods in America there 🙂

    • Mind Margins

      Those run/walks in the woods have been pretty rare these days, but soon I will go out and do some trail walking/running. Unfortunately, I am a klutz and tend to fall quite often on trail runs, and I’m in no hurry to abuse my body any further at the moment!

  13. getgoing-getrunning

    Congrats on being a looper. I think your friends are hilarious and are to be congratulated. Glad to see you back and getting at it. If you don’t want to write about session two, I don’t think you should feel pressured to go and relive those dark time. You beat cancer and we all know it and are really happy for you. None of us are going to criticise if you don’t want to go back there. Instead, tell me about yoga dog. She looks awesome. Not awesome at yoga, mind, but she looks like a cool dog who would be lots of fun when she wasn’t kicking your face while you were doing your own downward dog…

    • Mind Margins

      Shasta is an awesome dog, but can be a handful at times. At 70+ lbs, she has been known to pull some of us off our feet when the temptation to chase squirrels becomes overpowering on our walks. She is a rascal that way–but we love her!

  14. runcolbyrun

    I just love your writing Angela. And I’m happy to see you are posting. I will admit, I think of you often. I would also say that I would be shocked if your experience hadn’t changed you. For the better. 🙂 So strong you are.

  15. pwhent

    Well first congratulations on the loop – that’s great progress. You have such a positive outlook – it is an inspiration. Don’t write part 2 of the story if you don’t want to. I followed your posts avidly at the time and no-one can doubt if was an horrific experience. Don’t relive it for anyone’s benefit but your own. And happy Birthday!!!

  16. MikeW

    Another wonderful post from the Looper! Your day in the life descriptions, your over-after-cancer senses, they inspire me. Following your story, reading your words of it, and praying, all of this has made me much more attuned to people who show signs of going through the hard inner terrain in this life’s Odyssey that you went through.

  17. The Twisted Yarn

    I know I’ve said this before, but you write so powerfully about the experience. And I’m not surprised if it’s only now, with the relative safety of a little distance, some of the scary/powerful reactions hit you. But you’re amazing, and so strong. Maybe you don’t always feel like that, I don’t know, but you are. And I love what your friends did to your car! Oh, and happy vegetable gardening from a fellow grower. 🙂

    • Mind Margins

      It’s a little bit of a roller coaster right now, to be honest. It will get better. I hope your ground dries out a bit so you can plant your garden. Maybe all that flooding has been good for the soil!

  18. devadatta

    the way things have turned out are The way the things are!
    and you as I told you are an Amazon; a beautiful one.
    Devadatta (f.casabal)

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you. There’s a very good chance it will never return, and for that I am very, very lucky. I’m so sorry to hear about your sister-in-law.

  19. Nancy Loderick

    Happy Birthday Angela! May this next year be filled with lots of good health and happiness for you. You have such a positive and uplifting outlook on life.

    Nancy

  20. brad schrader

    Great to see your post Angela . The shoe polished car was way funny – as if you had really never been around the Lake ever. Keep moving foward – I dont think you have to worry about finishing blog on your Cancer experience .

    • Mind Margins

      I only want to finish writing about the experience to help others who are going through the same thing. Thankfully, the number of women who will develop ovarian cancer are relatively small, but it also means the resources are smaller.

  21. MikeW

    Checking in, and dropped by the knitting space over at Etsy to see what you have up. Have some ideas for my better half!

    • Mind Margins

      Hi Andrew, I am indeed still happy and healthy, but I have been a bit of a slug about writing and commenting lately. I have been reading your posts, however, and am very excited about the new direction your life has taken. Here’s to being a nomad! (and thanks for checking on me)

      • AndrewGills

        You’ve not been a slug … You’ve probably been out actually living your life instead of writing 🙂 🙂 And that’s awesome. I just think of you sometimes and hope that you’re still all good.

        Yes, here’s to the nomadic life. I only have today and tomorrow in the office before I go to camp at a nearby island for 5 weeks until departure. I am so excited! I am almost certain that my writing and commenting will also reduce once I am no longer chained to my desk 8-10 hours a day 😉

  22. Mind Margins

    Thanks so much for checking in. I have been reading about your beautiful mandalas. In all honesty, I’ve just been very lazy lately about updating any of the blogs or commenting on others’! I have been knitting, though, and reading a lot, and just generally enjoying life. My daughter-in-law has been staying with us while my son works in Canada and I use her as my excuse (sorry, Nicole!). I have been working out and running again, too — so life is very, very good right now!

  23. Run Colby Run

    Hi Angela! I wanted you to know that I was thinking of you and just wanted to check in. Both Tina and I are riding in the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge this weekend and I want you to know that you will have a ribbon on our bikes. I hope all is well. It’s been a while. I’m hoping you are out enjoying life, running and knitting!!! Sending you healthy, positive vibes. We’ll be thinking of you this weekend. 🙂

    • Mind Margins

      Thank you so much! I really appreciate the ribbon on your bike for the race. I have been keeping up with your blog (you’ve been writing a lot lately!!!) but have been very lazy about commenting–or writing. I’ve been enjoying life, knitting a lot, and am back up to 6 miles in my running–soon to be 7 after this weekend’s long run. Hope you and Tina have a fantastic race this weekend. Can’t wait to read about it!

      • Run Colby Run

        I love that you’re being lazy about being online—ENJOY LIFE! Congrats on your running! I can’t wait to ride with Tina this weekend. And of course, you will have a pretty blue ribbon which will wave in the breeze the whole way! It’s calling for rain so ya might get a little wet! So nice to hear from you! And hear that you’re enjoying life! Be well Angela! xoxox

  24. Friesen Group

    Thank you! Thank you is completely inadequate, but it will have to do. I found your blog during a search to try and understand what was happening to my body two weeks post chemo round #2: freezing cold and its’ 95 degrees outdoors in Kansas! Now, a day later, I have worked my way through from beginning to end. I am writing with tears of gratitude in my eyes, for sharing your story, for the courage to share your photographs, for the fact that you have won! I am fighting ovarian, stage 1C too and have heard over and over from my doctors how very rare it is to “catch it early.” It is good to find hope amidst the blogs about ovarian cancer. My mantra is “life is good, especially today.” And, it is. Best wishes for the journey. Peace and love, Kathleen

    • Mind Margins

      Kathleen, your comment made my day! YOU are exactly the reason I decided to put everything out there. I found so little personal info about going through ovarian cancer when I was first diagnosed, and I hoped I might be able to help someone else who was going through the same thing. I’m so happy you took the time to write and tell me about your own journey.

      It has been nine months since my last chemo, and I have been enjoying life cancer-free and taking time off from writing. I am running again (up to 8 miles!), doing weights, yoga, and pilates–and I feel GREAT! You will make it through chemo, just hang in there. I feel instantly nauseous when I think about chemo, and a sense of dread overcomes me . . . It was horrible–but doable. It is going to save your life and hopefully keep the cancer from ever coming back.

      Those of us who “caught it early” are the lucky ones. Celebrate every single day you’ve been given, Kathleen. And keep me updated! Email me anytime you want, especially when things get tough. I would love to hear from you again.

  25. Beverly

    Angela, did I just see a pic of you amongst the survivors at the NOCC walk? Posted on NOCC fb page.

    • Mind Margins

      If it was the group photo, yes you did! I was there, for the second year in a row. Last year I was in the middle of chemo and walked; this year I am cancer free and got to run and cross the finish line with my oncologist. It was a great day!

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