Many things about cancer treatment are cyclical. Chemo rounds, appointments, prescription refills, and waves of grief are just a few.
There’s another cycle with which I have become intimately acquainted. It’s the meltdown. Now, I’m sure my family will say that I am more emotional than many on any normal day, and that treatment has just made me worse. They are probably right.
The cancer diagnosis itself is emotional. No matter how good the prognosis, one is always aware of the frequency with which cancer ends in death. Sorting though those emotions and looking at life through a different lens is a process in itself.
Regardless of a person’s natural emotional bent, mental and emotional stability is challenged by so many things during treatment. Physical fatigue, side effects and sleep interruptions caused by drugs of all kinds take their toll. Cell die-off and running to medical appointments have an effect.
One odd thing that happens with chemotherapy is something called “chemo brain.” I’m here to tell you it’s a real thing. My mental acuity has been poor and my memory dull. Things that never used to bother me like lights, noise, and crowds suddenly way overstimulate my brain and overwhelm me. Keeping track of the order of things and even tracking simple conversation can be difficult and frustrating.
Add to all of that the abruptness of this whole process. In August, life was normal. I had things to do and plans for winter. I had a job and a busy house to run. September came and all of that changed. Cancer took over our lives, with a snap of its finger. There was no time to ease in, no time for mental preparation and adjusting of the schedule. Diagnosis came and demanded our immediate attention, to the exclusion of all else.
There is a pace at which I run in life. It’s a pretty brisk one. I don’t sit down alot, and I like to be busy. So when I suddenly spend most of my time in my recliner, watching the world go on around me, it’s a challenge. I’m learning and growing, and getting better at pacing myself, but I I still struggle.
On Christmas Eve, I had a meltdown. It had been awhile, and I was due. I hadn’t finished everything I wanted to and the house wasn’t as perfect as I’d have liked. I’d had a couple busy days and terrible nights, and really the whole week prior to Christmas was rough.
Chemo went well on Christmas Eve, and we had a wonderful time at my mom and dad’s with all the family, but even these good things were hard on my overtaxed body and mind. By the time I reached midnight, a minor family squabble sent me over the edge. Like dissolving-into-sobs-over-nothing over the edge.
I can handle losing my marbles now and then, and sometimes a girl needs a good cry. But I hate these meltdowns–not for myself but for my family. They are so often triggered by tiny things and people feel the need to walk on egg shells. My children are afraid that any little thing will make me cry, and my poor husband doesn’t know what to do with himself some days. I don’t like to be a burden, and knowing that they feel on edge and helpless is hard for me.
I am so blessed and humbled in these vulnerable moments. My children come to hug me and hold me. The ask if they can help and they adjust my surroundings to make things easier for me. I am never alone, unless I need to be.
I suppose, again, it’s all part of God’s grand design to develop character in all of us. We are all learning that it’s okay to need help and be vulnerable. My children are learning to tune in to others and be sensitive. They are learning to serve and come alongside. I am learning the depth of my husband’s devotion to me and our children’s love for both of us.
I’m finding, in each step of this journey, that for those who love God all things work together for good. Even the meltdowns.
Ad we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28 ESV