The first change is a surprising one: my hair.
It began growing back before chemotherapy was over last September, but by Christmas, it was still only peach-fuzz. I remember dragging my hand across my head often, feeling the soft stubble of hair between my fingers. When spring rolled around, it wasn't much longer. In fact, my passport picture was taken in late May and my hair was still very, very short.
But within a month, my hair had suddenly sprouted! It was almost back to my original length by my birthday in early July and I just had my second haircut in about 5 weeks.
Not only was it quickly growing, but the texture was thick and curly, two adjectives that I've never attributed to my fine, baby-soft, stick-straight hair that I'd had for 55 years. I actually like this new sassy do that I now part on the opposite side of my head.
And I've often wondered why this is. I've been parting my hair on the same side for several decades; then it grows back in and I automatically began to part it on the other side. Weird.
Another change: Because so much poison had been infused into my body over several months--causing my hair to fall out and my skin to change--and because I wasn't sure what had contributed to getting cancer, I became vigilant about what I put into my body.
I started purchasing Reverse Osmosis water on the recommendation of a friend who'd had the same cancer and knew that the water in our neighborhood was not healthy for immunocompromised people. Then I started buying Organic foods, focusing on more fruits and vegetables. I've since cut out most sugar and have gone gluten and dairy-free.
I also started using essential oils on, in, and around my body, which I have continued to use. I diffuse them nightly at my bedside, I drink them in my daily cup of tea, and while my tumors were being disintegrated by chemo, I was faithfully applying Frankincense to my chest since it has been touted to be a good tumor-fighter.
I also changed my soaps, lotions, shampoos, and make-up to natural products, though the latter has been a bit more challenging since I am breaking out like a hormonal teenager with the use of clean products. Perhaps I'm still detoxing and it's coming out of my skin.
Alternative treatments: I had already been getting massages every other week, so I added weekly acupuncture once cancer came on the scene. The reason was two-fold: I wanted my body to have the best chance possible to heal itself, and I was in quite a bit of pain after the first rounds of chemo. Acupuncture was an immediate antidote that I continued for the length of treatment, and even when I was no longer in pain, I believe the consistency of treatments helped my body return to homeostasis where it was better able to heal.
Weight: After the first chemo treatment, I'd lost 7# when the largest of the dozen tumors was eradicated right away, but with my overzealous eating habits, I had gained that back fairly quickly during chemo while steroids were a part of the regimen. However, once treatments were over and I got more fastidious about my intake, I lost 9# fairly quickly.
Finances: Ironically, since cancer I have become more financially responsible for my future. One would think that butting up against a possible death sentence would make me want to run away to Tahiti, not caring about a retirement that may never come, but I've actually tightened up my purse strings.
You may have read that my cancer symptoms began while I was sitting at my lawyer's office while I was updating my Will last year, so I have often joked that people should not bother with such trivial plans since they can be bad luck!
But if I am to live a long and healthy life, I also want to have a bank balance that supports that.
So I have set up more long-term accounts to counteract the years when I was more reckless with my money. And while I am usually prone to changing jobs every few years (because as a Nurse, I can!), I am feeling more content to stay where a predictable paycheck and health insurance can be counted on.
I've also become more generous with my cash. As a single-parent for a few decades, I am a fairly decent money manager but I've also been very frugal in my daily spending habits.
So many people shared their wealth to help me through a tough financial situation so I'm happy to pay the favor forward. After all, it was a great lesson in trusting that I am being taken care of--no matter what my situation looks like--and witnessing how generous others were when I was in need was not only heart-warming, but mind-blowing.
How could I ignore others' as they face their own hardships?
People and things: I am less capable of putting up with bullshit, though I'm also more willing to let things and people go when I smell bullshit. Experiencing the pain of two of my closest friends walking away this past year contributed to this, I'm sure. I just don't have the energy to wonder why people do or say certain things, especially if they've been hurtful.
On this memorable day of September 11th, I am reflecting about how life can be taken in one single moment, or altered with one single diagnosis.
I do not take this lightly, but I am also thankful for the simple pleasures that cancer has restored in me: the choice of good food, healthy habits, meaningful relationships, and a financial plan for my future.
Oh, and curly hair.