I was the first one up this morning.
I threw off the covers and eased my feet to the floor. I am careful to give myself time getting up these days since my hemoglobin is low and I often feel light-headed. I was good. To the window I went and threw back the curtains to see what kind of walk I would be facing. Egad. Snow. Not unexpected. A Nor-Easter had moved in. I wondered if the busses would be cancelled since the road had not yet been plowed? I wondered how tough the trudge would be…
It was dark and normally I am guided by the light emanating from the office where Kevin is busy surfing for good buys on the internet – or completing work that was left over from the previous day. This morning, however, Kevin was not yet up.
I brewed myself a coffee, filled my water bottle, and enjoyed a bran muffin that I had baked the day before and not long afterwards, Kevin was up.
Down the stairs he came with his walking clothes already on. He was still in the dark about the snow that had enveloped our home over-night.
The Weather Network was indicating severe weather moving in – and a windchill of -14. Today was a going to be a snow-pant and winter-boot kind of day. That meant a lot more energy to do “the walk”.
We “suited up”, Kevin and I, and off we went.
I wondered how I would manage this walk. It was dark and very windy. I felt unsure of my way and unsure of my capacity to endure. Our side-walk had been plowed and so the reality of what was to come was hidden.
We turned the corner onto Ferndale and bam! The wind was coming from the north, whipping our faces with cold and snow. I had to shut my eyes as I no longer have lashes to stop the snow. The snow was deep since the plow had not yet been by. I took a deep breath in and let Kevin take the lead. I fell immediately behind as my pace slowed. Even if I walked in his footsteps it was laborious. I fell further and further behind. “Just go ahead, Kevin”, I shouted to him.
“No – it’s okay – I’ll wait for you.”
“I can just do the short walk. Really, I’m okay – I just need to slow down.”
One foot, then the other. Deep breath in. One foot, then the other. Breath. “Oh, good grief”, I thought. “I don’t know if I can do this.”
We made it through the woods and onto the boardwalk.
One foot, then the other. Slow, slow, slow.
We weren’t even half way and I was hitting the wall. Slowing the pace didn’t even allow me to recover. Remember when you are pushing yourself when you exercise and your body “kicks” in with a second wind – or recovers to allow you to continue? This was not happening. “Crap!” I thought. “Is this my new reality?”
I struggled mentally to carry on, but I kept my eyes on Kevin’s foot-steps.. and kept going. Kevin would stop and turn around every once in a while to make sure I was still standing.
We made it to Tiffin. No plowed roads. “Oh, man!”, I thought. One foot, then the other… at least the wind was no longer in our faces.
No matter how hard I breathed, I just could not catch my breath. I was mad. I was mad at myself for not catching the cancer sooner. If I had been more vigilent to take care of myself, we would not be in this mess. Thoughts of my Mom swirled through my head. Mom used to complain about feeling bloated and tired. She had had colon cancer, but had it treated and was cleared. Yet, she complained about always feeling pressure there. I wondered if it was ovarian cancer left unchecked? Had anyone thought to do a CA-125 on her? But, what if it was ovarian? Would she have survived the chemo? Blah – blah – blah – I kept thinking to myself.
Finally, we were at the corner. “I have to stop, Kevin”.
Still, no matter how long I stopped, I did not recover. So – I pushed on. “Keep your nose to the grind-stone, Stacey.” were words that I remember hearing from my Dad. Kevin offered me his arm – and pulled me along.
FINALLY – we were on the home stretch. It was plowed. I breathed a sigh of relief. Our walk was coming to a close. I gained steam. It is amazing how the “will” can find a “way”. “I feel good now, Kevin”, I proclaimed.
It was almost glorious to have some energy. It was almost as though my body FINALLY responded and kicked in again. Was that even possible? I felt so much out of touch with my body – but knew that progress had been made.
We walked almost casually towards our house. It dawned on my that my walk was so much reflective of my journey with cancer: it started out in the dark, became tougher as chemo progressed, and – with the help of Kevin (and many, many, others) I had the will and ability to walk through the tough parts. I do so much hope that my cancer journey will have the same finale as the walk: lighter, hopeful, and finished.
This morning, we had truly walked into the eye of the storm and came through as victors!