Sunday 7 February 2016

Post-chemotherapy Day 1

    ‘Healthy’ as it were. After two and a half years of drugs, I have finally reached a finishline. Not many words can sum up how I feel at this exact moment – mostly due to the fact that I have still yet to process everything. Although, I don’t think that I have emotionally processed anything during the past two and a half years of my life.. so I guess it makes sense that I lack a sense of closure for the time being.

Post VAD Day 1

    Finishing cancer treatment on January 29th (post-chemo day 1) was as anti-climactic as anticipated. I washed down my last chemo-cocktail pills with a celebratory glass of wine, then went out for pasta with the family. It was a happy day no doubt, but the degree of relief did not quite bear up to the 2.5 years of pain and anxiety that preceded it. The pill box was empty, the congratulatory support was overwhelming and the pasta was delicious. Although, this long-awaited finish date was nothing but that: a day with such connotative significance, built-up over 2.5 years, that when it actually arrived, I don’t think I had the stamina to fully digest it - but the pasta went down fine. How does one process ‘no longer having cancer'? It's a pill not easily swallowed - mind you slightly easier than swallowing the 'having cancer' pill.
It had come out of nowhere, sucked up my life, took what it wanted, left what it didn't, pulled at my hair (literally), tossed me around, and spit me back out with no sense of remorse. And just like that.. I take my last chemo pill, which was much easier to swallow than the idea itself. 
    Well, it wasn’t until yesterday – hopefully my last ‘long’ hospital day – that I came home having processed, acknowledged, and accepted all that had just happened. The forthcoming realization left me with no reaction except “did that just happen?”
    Despite having taken my last chemo drug a week prior, I was called in to the hospital last minute to get my VAD removed. VAD remember? The foreign object inside my ribcage, which has slackly imparted me the title, ex-machina:

“… all thanks to my wonderful, ‘bionic-woman-like’ VAD. It’s all quite exciting!!! .. If you’re one to get excited about biomedical ventricular engineered ports. But it really is amazing. When I was first diagnosed, they surgically placed an access port under my breast that’s directly connected to a small tube they ran underneath my skin. It goes up all the way through near my neckline where it can access and pump blood to the rest of my body. Aside from a small poke to access the line, treatments and blood tests have been completely painless; so to speak. “

-                 Serena Bonneville, Induction phase chemotherapy treatment, October 28th 2013

    There was something about going back to the OR and removing a piece of plastic from my body that just got me right riled up. Maybe it was that I had grown emotionally attached to this toonie-sized lump, or that it had always been my body’s main facilitator for my IV chemo-cocktails – a part of me which had served with the only purpose of accepting and dispersing liquid cancer-killers into my body.
    Or maybe it was the IV fentanyl, the T-3’s or the lingering anesthesia; all I know is that waking up post-surgery with the absence of a lump under my boob struck a chord of emotional closure for the first time since finishing treatment.
My body is back to normal? The stomach churning chemo-cocktails flushed from my bloodstream and the foreign object that transported them, gone. No physical trace of the cancer fighters that once were. Although realistically, it is going to take my body time to recover from the surgery, some time to fully detox, and god knows how much time until I actually start feeling like myself again. Deteriorating under chemo’s tyranny for so long has left me with little knowledge as to what my ‘normal’ is or was. So like I said on my first day of chemo, (although this time with more confidence, joy and optimism) I’ll be taking it day by day.
    Expressing too much happiness to really put into words, knowing that things can only really go up from here – except for pasta, that commemorative dish set a new bar for food, which has left all my meals since seeming inadequate.
    Not sure what happens next, but I will continue to share and document my post-chemo adventures. Thankful for all of the support, from you, my friends, and most importantly, my family.

Breeding optimism a little easier than before,

-      - Serena Bonneville

Sunday 3 January 2016

Chapters and Books; Scenes and Films

This New Year holds significance to many, for reasons which I am sure vary far past trivial conventions. I would consider myself one of many. As I inch closer to my last treatment on January 29th, a date that still seems fanciful, I am reminded of another date: June 22nd, 2014 otherwise known as “my graduation.” The day that we have all, as a community, agreed to mark the end of Said chapter in our life and the beginning of said new chapter. I cant help but to critique such an odd belief that we all attach to this custom of graduation– it is much like that of the New Year: New beginnings, new resolutions, new chapter. And much like how graduation, for me, felt like a bridge that was never crossed, so did the new years and “new chapters” that trailed on behind it. But man that’s much too dark for my liking – just because I haven’t had the luxury of fresh starts and new beginnings lately, does not mean I have missed out. Like I say, this New Year is anticipated (with high hopes) to mark the first “fresh start” I have had in quite a while. Much like in pretty Woman or My Fair Lady, I’m hoping for the future turn of events to play out rather pleasantly. Although I may not share many situational commonalities with Julia Roberts or Hepburn, I like to think that my fresh start will have some comparable “glamour-like” qualities to it – although they will be less physically visible from those ladies, given that my looks and wardrobe will probably remain as is.

But everyone has their “difficulties”/“rough patches”/"curve balls" – their own reasons and longing for a fresh start. Whether it comes in the form as trivial as a graduation or NYE, or as customized as treatment finish dates, the point is that these new beginnings really cannot come a second sooner.
Chapters in our lives will start and end at their own leisure and not by our own hands – one of those darned happenings in life that can’t seem to stick to a conventional rhythm. 2.5 years and I’d say it’s about time for my chapter to come to a close.

Looking forward to a new year, as I am sure we all are J As I compare the current chapter of my life to that of an early 1900s Flower Girl and a troubled prostitute, I will as always, continue to breed optimism

-          Serena Bonneville