I keep saying that I haven’t written in “a while.” A while ended up being more than a year! I finished chemo in May 2012, radiation the following July, and my body and mind have been gradually healing ever since. I’m not sure if I’m 100% yet, but I really feel like my brain and personality are as close to human as I’ve been in a long time. I’m surprised how long it took for the chemical and physical damage to diminish. One or two months after chemo, I thought I was feeling better. I WAS better compared to a few weeks before! But, a year out, I’m still learning about how bad it was. I compare it to the inversion that we’re so familiar with in the Salt Lake Valley. When you’re in the thick of it, downtown, you can’t tell that there are particulates in the air because you can see the buildings across the street just fine. But the farther you get away from the cloud of nasty air, the higher you get up the mountains, the more you can see how thick that dirty fog is, and realize how nasty it was even though you could see across the street.
While I credited getting back to volleyball right after radiation last year for helping me push to accomplish more, at mid-season this year, I am realizing that I don’t remember a lot of last volleyball season! I discovered that the chemo inversion prevented me from seeing that I was not all there. I thought my brain had to be clear to coach sophomore girls at the high school level. I was wrong, and the girls, coaches, and parents were VERY patient and tolerant of my chemo-brain recovery. We are doing drills this year that I honestly don’t remember running last year…and we did. Just like work, there are some things I just plain don’t remember! I look at videos of how puffy my face was under the uncomfortable wigs and fake eyelashes…and that was the crappy stuff you could see. My brain and body were even more uncomfortable, but I tried hard to not let that show. I know my co-workers had to pick up the slack, energy-wise, and for the work load…and I hope I let them know how much I appreciated it! (Yes, I only missed four days through all of it, but some of the days I was “there” I was probably not “all there.”)
I think writing while I was going through the treatments was a bit of therapy for me. While I had my husband/confidante to talk to every ugly day…putting it down in visible words helped me come up with better ways to explain things, not only to others, but to myself. The spider analogy when I saw the CANCER sign…totally cathartic for me! Just Keep Swimming…Dori’s motto, and what I thought every morning when I woke at 3am. The photo and feelings about the soaked wig and eyelash glue running down my face at Universal Studios in Orlando…so horrible, miserable…and FUN! Unforgettable fun that I’m so glad I didn’t miss out on because I had silly radiation treatments!
I haven’t even written about my sisters surprising me for my birthday last year!!! I know it was out of pity for what I had been through the past year, (I HATE pity) but when all five of my sisters showed up on my front porch the night before my Friday BIRTHDAY, I had kittens- right there! We spent the whole weekend together…at my house, with my awesome husband and kids…and it was THE MOST SPECIAL gift anyone has planned for me ever!!! I still tear up that they all came and spoiled me, knowing we were coming to Seattle for our family Christmas visit a week later. Susie, Toni, Jean, Betsy, and my little sister Sally are seriously the best sisters in the whole world!!! They even sat through the sophomore, JV, and varsity basketball games…just in case Zach had a point. They embraced bleacher-butt for the nephew they don’t usually get to see play! When our car needed a ton of work to fix the brakes that weekend, they pitched in the money they planned to spend on a fancy birthday dinner for me…to pay toward our car…and we stayed home and had home-made tacos, watched movies, and sang The Sound of Music instead. PERFECT.
Really, everything I’m learning about the world and about myself this past year is that I am SO LUCKY! Lucky to come from the big, amazing, smart, funny, strong family I am from. Lucky to get the education I got on a volleyball scholarship. Lucky to find the job I wanted in a small market (Yakima.) Lucky to meet the man who is the yin to my yang and my best friend for life. Lucky to get a job in a big market like Salt Lake City, and have a connection with the people here. Lucky to have boy and girl twins that are the perfect combination of love, fun, beauty, talent, and challenge. And lucky to have found the aggressive cancerous tumor because of my job…and to turn that horrible discovery into a message that might help other women discover health challenges early enough to beat! Just lucky…in so many ways…and still finding new ones.