Searching for Normal

Days start, some in the wee hours and some at what, in my before-cancer-life, was what I considered a normal time. My run to the bathroom my first clue of how the day is going to unfold. Two things happen in the bathroom that reminds me that my life has fundamentally changed: the quick glance in the mirror that shows either a bald head or, if its been a cold night, a yellow hat knitted lovingly by my friend, Sharon or a colorful bandana supplied by my friend, Pam that I put on at some point during the night. Then there is the pause to remind myself to disinfect the toilet seat and cover before and after flushing. After these relatively quick occurrences, I monitor the time I choose to spend in front of the mirror preparing for what happens next.

(Just a side note about the bathroom. [Warning: Might be TMI] Due to the type of chemo I’m receiving, my bodily fluids are considered toxic waste. So no spitting, sneezing, tissue sharing, sex, or toilet flushing without hazardous waste precautions. In the bathroom that means a toilet wipe down with a anti-bacterial wipe after every use. Never has our toilet sparkled as it does these days.)

Tuesday is a no choice day. Get ready for a trip to the Marshfield Cancer Center for my weekly Chemo Treatment. Feels almost regular. What am I going to wear? What time is my appointment? Who’s going with me? What do I need to bring? Is it a meet with the Doctor week so get your questions ready or just blood work and chemo, so bring a good book or charged iPad? I can almost convince myself that it’s like getting ready to go give a speech as long as I don’t think too hard.

Saturday is also pretty easy. Miriam is going to pick me up at 7:00 am for our normal Weight Watchers routine: weigh in, meeting at 8:00 am, run to the Farmer’s Market for eggs and a great Mother/Daughter discussion over coffee and breakfast at Patina’s. Back home for a nap.

It’s the other days of the week that can be tricky. Those are days I have to make a decision. Am I chemo tired and need to just be lazy, depression tired and need to give into to feeling sorry for myself for a while, or am I attitude tired and need to give myself one of those motivational, change is good presentations I’ve preached to others and just get on with it? Why, I think on these days, can’t things go back to normal? When days were filled with possibilities and activities destined to bring an unfolding future.

It’s not that I’m giving up or that I’m unwilling to fight and do everything possible to have a long and productive future; it’s just that right now with the information I have and the short-term options available, the futures not looking so promising.

Actually if you’ve read this far, please know that this is a good day. As speakers were taught not to share emotional stories with our audience until we’ve thoroughly processed those emotions for ourselves. As a writer, especially in a forum like this, I guess we get a little more leeway. I certainly haven’t finished processing this experience. Guess it will take the rest of my life to get it figured out! For those of you who know me as an upbeat, positive, change-has-a-silver-lining kind of a person, I’m certain this is difficult to read. However, writing this truthfully is helpful for me.

9 thoughts on “Searching for Normal

  1. Chris,
    As always, your honesty and ability to “tell it like it is” is refreshing for all of us. I know this new normal is hard. I’ve been there. However, you’re blessed to have an amazing support system with an army of friends and family who will crawl over broken glass to support, honor and even cry with you. We’re all waiting for our assignment and “permission to approach.” Giving us this forum is a great start. Please know I happily and willingly enlisted in your army and I stand ready to serve you.

  2. Dear, dear Chris,

    It is very special to read your honest e-mail.

    Thanks for bravely sharing this journey.

    It is one we do NOT want you to be ‘on’…nor
    do WE want to be on it. However, you are loved by us,
    and we are ALL vulnerable to the unexpected…which
    comes in so many forms.

    We live as much as we can, through your words, pray for your
    doctors’wisdom, and the positive effects of new and improved

    We pray that God will give your spirit calm, and rest…as you give
    your body the best chance possible to heal.

    Love, Naomi

  3. Chris, I’m glad to read your last paragraph a couple of times. It makes me feel that you are trying to concentrate on yourself rather than putting your effort into helping others. We should now be there for you. Lord knows how many times you, with your wisdom, helped me refocus my poor me thoughts, in the short time I’ve known you. You are thought about and my prayers are for your complete recovery.

  4. Chris,

    I met you last year during the newbie training day at NSA. I was new to NSA and excited to be there, but nervous, and you put me at ease. I instantly loved your humor, your refreshing honesty and the way you gave undivided attention to whoever you were talking to. I love the way you speak, and your writing is just as beautiful. So, while it might seem strange to have a stranger post a comment here, I wanted to let you know that you are an inspiration and that I am praying for a fast and complete recovery.


  5. Love you Chris – it was the fear that was hardest to manage. That’s the tricky one. You’ve got some strong prayers going now.

  6. Dear Sister Smartie,

    I’m reading your posts with great interest, admiration, and compassion.

    Yes, you get more leeway here, more permission not to have answers, not to limit yourself to only discussion emotions that happened in the past, not to tie together your experiences and insights into a bow for the audience’s consumption. Not to be anything besides yourself, in the moment when you feel like communicating, or feel like exploring your own thoughts and feelings in writing. Or feel like venting. Or whatever. Thank you for being real with yourself, and with us.

    I’m glad you’re writing — because, as a writer myself, I know well the two main benefits: The gift to the reader, and the gift to the writer.

    BTW I’ve returned lately to the “morning pages” recommended by Julia Cameron in The Artist’s Way. These are pure “gift to the writer,” because they’re private. I’m so grateful for this early-morning quiet time, when I devote about 20 minutes to reflecting on whatever is on my mind. I usually add a sketch, too, to commemorate my day that way. Perhaps a daily journal (if you’re not way ahead of me) would provide value to you too, regardless of whether you choose to share any of it.

    When I’m writing those pages, and moving throughout my days, you are in my heart.

    Hugs to you, my friend, and love,
    Mariah Burton Nelson aka Sister Bod

  7. Dear Chris,

    Thank you for being you…real, vulnerable, open, and giving. You are giving those of us watching and praying a gift. Life doesn’t always give us positives. You are being courageous…like you have a choice…and honest…like you always have been. You have blessed my life, dear friend. You were there for me when my life was upside down. How I wish I could take this burden from you. I can, however, walk with you and am doing that in spirit. I’m sending you back the love and support you have given me in hopes that it will lift you up in some miraculous way as you walk through this uncharted course. You are not alone as so many of us are keeping you in our daily thoughts and prayers and I for one am praying for a miracle. And yes, I do believe in miracles. So until that occurs…I am sending love and hugs and my phone number…just in case you need a listening ear, a shoulder to cry on, or an understanding heart. Love you. (303-902-7063)

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