Travelling is good for you

Yes! Punch in the air! Cross off my first vacation of the summer. It’s been about two years since Zsolt and I travelled (apart from trips home, but that’s more comfort than adventure), so landing those excellent tickets to Faro was a real treat. I mean, it was essentially a confirmation of my recovery from chemotherapy. For anyone going through the process of chemo, it will knock you down – but you will get up.

Totting a badeau bikini I went sans prosthesis to the beaches in Lagos. Really, my chest is so flat anyhow it’s hard to notice the absence of a second breast. Plus, my bathing suit has a busy pattern, which helps disguise the difference. Because it’s early April, Lagos hasn’t hit its peak tourism season. Therefore, we were actually able to find a beach to ourselves – like, literally, only the occasional sightseers came along, and even then they stayed just a few minutes. Essentially we had our own little resort amongst the cliffs.

In the mornings we would tour the old town, then pick up some pizza (gluten alert!) and fruit, head to the beach, and then eventually return to the guest house. We stayed in this lovely place outside of the city centre – it was about a fifteen minute walk, but worthwhile due to the kindness of the owners, the cleanliness of the rooms (five stars for cleanliness) and utilities provided. Plus, everyone who stayed at the guest house was really easygoing. I had forgotten how enjoyable the company of other travellers can be. When people are on vacation, they’re generally pretty cool. In fact, we even met a lovely Hungarian couple – honestly, for such a small country the Hungarians seem to be everywhere. I haven’t gone on a trip yet without hearing Hungarian at some point. We cornered this couple in the kitchen and essentially twisted their arm to play a card game with us (Zsírozás) – Zsolt was the reigning champion, but Dávid was quite a competitor. Meanwhile Hajni and I did our best, but seemed to get trumped every round. And I ate ice cream the entire time.

Now we’re back. I have the month of April off work because the students are all gone, and that’s how my contract rolls. However there’s plenty of writing to do. Tomorrow I need to rework a chapter of my fiction, plus add to and figure something for Also, I’d like to start an online literary magazine for breast cancer survivors and fighters. Something light, quick and easy to digest. I’m naming it The Narrative Nipple. (If you think this is a stupid name please do let me know, but otherwise it makes me laugh). And finally I’m filming a quick video for this website called ‘the day I found out’ which features stories from cancer survivors about the – duh – day they found out about the cancer. I’m not 100% positive there is a pin point day that I realized the cancer existed. . . first came the lump, then the uncertainties, then the worry, and finally the diagnosis . . . but I’ll run with the actual diagnosis date for this video.

And in the meanwhile Zsolt will be studying for his viva. The date is set for May 6th and the man is about to engage into full throttle study mode. Again. But I’m crazy proud of him.

Overall, it was wonderful to take a vacation. I think if you can afford the time, then make the effort to vacation (sitting in your backyard sans responsibility for a day counts!). If you can’t afford the time, then try and at least have a cup of tea in the sunshine. Pause is a very good thing.

Cheers to travelling, and being healthy again. Man, it was wonderful to walk the cliffs of Lagos and not get winded. Really wonderful.

Post-chemotherapy physical

And finally I can relax. The past few days have been jammed packed, so it’s very good to lay here in bed and talk with you. Outside, in typical British style, the sky is grey. For Canada winter means snow and ice and deep freeze. In England winter means grey and rain and wet. I could take either climate, but my apartment grows mould with too much humidity and that is not fun, nor healthy. Sooner than later we’ll ditch this accommodation.

Anyhow! Good morning! Today I’m doing a body check. It’s been a little over one month since my last chemotherapy treatment. So head-to-toe inventory:

Toes: Still painted and enjoying the result of a post-Christmas pedicure with Mom. The ladies are lovely in their pale green varnish, though if I could go back I’d have gotten a hot pink instead. During the pedicure, despite the tingling that had occurred during chemo, there was no discomfort. And since then no tingling has returned. This is a very good thing for which I’m thankful. Paxlitaxel did not disable my toes.

Shins: Leg hair is sparsely returning, though not as Amazonian and fierce as it once was (it was like a black jungle). Due to winter and my new adoption of legging/tights beneath my dresses, I will not be shaving this season.  But it doesn’t even matter. I’ve now got my father’s legs (what every woman wants), totally bare of hair.

Nether Regions: aka The Lady. Five shots of Zolodex threw me into menopause and took away my menstruation. It’s a dry well. Unfortunate for several reasons (use your imagination) but the greatest worry is that my period hasn’t returned. Right – here is the thing. If chemo knocked out my baby-making abilities, then the periods will never return. If the Zolodex is simply taking time to wear off, it’ll return eventually. Some women get it back immediatly, others wait months – like even up to half a year. I’m not too worried, just sick of the hot flashes.

Belly: Happy. It hasn’t had a needle in over a month. Yay! I’d like to maintain the trend.

Boobs: Or boob. Whatever. Chest. Apart from my bi-weekly meltdown with fear of reoccurrence (something I really need to work on) things are great. At the moment my skin is a rich cream colour, and the scar is still red, and will likely become redder as radiotherapy progresses, but for now things are okay. My left nipple still intimidates me. I try to ignore it.

Hands: Improving daily. The extreme sensation has reduced significantly, and it’s only my thumbs that feel the discomfort. Mind you, my nails have all suffered. Oh they are UGLY. Like rotten teeth. Hopefully this disgusting mess grows out quickly. Although, as a reflection of what happened within my body during chemo, it’s quite revealing.

Face: Smiling. It’s good to be done chemotherapy. Oh, and my left bottom eyelid is essentially without lash, and I suspect my eyebrows have further thinned since I’ve returned to England. Cursed allergies! This apartment has got to go. (or rather, we need to go from the apartment)

Head: Give me a head with hair! Long beautiful hairrr! I get hair-envy, and wonder what Freud would  say about that? I look at people’s gorgeous heads of hair and crave. I crave hair. At the moment it’s thickening up on the side and back, but the top front is completely sans new growth. Hopefully I’m reverse balding, but there is a fear that I’ve simply gone bald at the front of my head. That would suck: Bye bye bangs.  AH! No way! It’s got to grow back.

Overall: I’m doing great & feeling good. Sure I get tired, but this little island between treatments has been an excellent holiday destination.

There you go – body check complete. This is the body of a post-chemo babe, and it’s coming back nicely. Yes, the hair could grow more quickly (and more evenly) but I’m thankful nevertheless.

Have a lovely day and thanks for reading this self-fixated post. Next time I’ll talk about the killer whales, which has a further reaching meaning than stuff like leg hair, pedicures and reverse balding.

Relearning how to be alone

This weekend was an interesting case study. Having done a BA in psychology (with no follow up) I love to think of my experiences as personal case studies. And here is another for publication . . .

Zsolt, my wonderful husband, spent all of Saturday fixed to his keyboard pounding out thesis corrections. I spent all of Saturday with my ass fixed to the sofa, doing little else. Contrast that to Sunday where I left Zsolt and his thesis behind and headed out to Tragos to meet a friend, which was followed  by having another friend over for lunch, to finally topping off the day with a little Zsolt/Catherine Donkey Kong Country marathon.

So, time to guess – on which day did I fall into a depression?

Finding A: Getting out of the apartment is my favourite non-writing activity in England. What to do on the weekend? Get out of the apartment. Doesn’t matter if you go down the road, to the tea shop, or visit the tip – if it’s out, it’s good, and for me, typically involves family or friends.

Finding B: I need to starting being active alone. If friends are busy, if Zsolt is occupied – who’s to blame that I collapse into sulksville? Me. A hundred percent me. And that is a problem.

Anyhow, getting out is good. Being with friends is better. Sharing time with my husband is awesome. But what about being alone, acting alone? When did I stop enjoying my self? Back in highschool I used to take walks to the football field and sit by the playground, watching the kids play soccer while I picked blades of grass. Sometimes I would lay in my backyard and count the sparrows that flicked overhead. Other times I tried to shrink the clouds by projecting warm thoughts in their direction. And then at night, if no one was around, I’d wash the dishes and sing with my reflection in the window.

Now that was quality alone time. Something has happened to make even visiting the tea shop difficult when solo.  And I don’t like that.

I love being with others and I love going out. But, it’s about time I loved being alone.

Conclusion: It’s nice to realize this problem – because a problem identified is on the way to resolution. At least, it’s a start. Zsolt has a lot more thesis to go, and I don’t want to fall into that chemo depression all over again (or make him feel guilty).  For some reason ever since chemotherapy I hate to be alone, but that’s over now; time to resolve the fear. Sometimes the best option is simply to step forward, take the risk. Hopefully next weekend when Zsolt is busy working and my ass has returned to the sofa, I’ll remember this post and get up – get dressed – and GET OUT.