One of my sisters described my cancer diagnosis the best – a hurdle. I had no idea what having cancer meant or the toll it would take on your body, so I assumed a patient completes treatment or surgery and then returns to their life. Like clearing a hurdle, you are up, over and going again. I was shocked to realize that this was not necessarily true, and it was hard to graciously accept the fact that I could not just jump back into life.
It took almost two full years for me to feel somewhat like my old self. It was just a new normal and I had to learn to navigate that new life. I learned to keep my hands and feet warm to avoid muscle cramps, spasms and pain from the peripheral neuropathy brought on by chemo. I learned to brush my teeth with lukewarm water to avoid jaw pain and I found undergarments that hid my ostomy. It was just an adjustment through trial and error.
Eight years later – I still live with this new normal. It’s just second nature now, and I rarely think about it. Well, last night…I should have thought about it a little more. In bed, I was a bit warm and without even thinking I took off my socks. At 4:59 a.m. my alarm went off as usual, and I jumped out of bed. My alarm sits on my dresser on the opposite side of our bedroom. I learned along time ago that I need to get up to turn off my alarm, or I could easily hit snooze over and over and not get up on time. At 4:59 a.m., my feet hit the hardwood floor and I was immediately awakened with pain, pins and needles threatening to creep up my legs and muscles pulling so tight that my toes curled. I wobbled, heal-walked and bumbled my way to the alarm threatening to wake everyone in the house. Off! Whew! Then I stumbled backwards toward the end of my bed and scrambled in the dark to find socks.
Warmth! Relief! Usable feet! This morning it took less than a minute to fight off the pain, but I hear it’s a pretty mild morning. Even during the hottest of summer mornings, I have to be careful that my feet don’t get cold. I couldn’t wear flip-flops for the longest time, and even now they are reserved for vacations in the south where mornings are always warm.
As I prepare for the day, I now have to be extra careful that I don’t get my feet cold. My neurologist explained that my nerves (the working ones) are on high alert all the time, and this morning I just gave them a jolting waking up call. Warm socks will be in the wardrobe today.