How to Be?


By Kristen Knott

Written February 2, 2014

Now a month into 2014 and the hair on my head is slowly coming back, my eyebrows are reappearing, and I can even see some eyelashes growing. It will probably be another month until I can ditch the wig, hat and scarves. My energy is quite good during the day, in fact at times I feel like the old me, the me before cancer. Yet the evening comes and I am smothered in fatigue again.

I look around my house and I see the differences, they are likely subtle to others, but to me they are profound. The one room that has completely been ignored is my office, as it hadn’t been addressed since the spring. Mail has piled up and needs filing, calendars still read May 2013 and the Juravinski patient handouts were frontline and center on my desk. The room looks like time stopped when I was diagnosed June 6th. I slowly organize the clutter and discard the one-inch thick “welcome to chemotherapy booklet “ that lists all the side effect information that I needed during my August to December therapy. It feels odd throwing it out, yet a part of me feels like I should keep it for some odd reason. I ignored that crazy thought and pitched it.

In my bedroom I still have my wigs sitting on their stands; I have my container filled with my padding inserts; and my prosthetic breast is on my dresser. In my jewelry box I now have a few new pieces, all symbolizing my fight against breast cancer. In the corner of my room I have ‘my cancer box” that is filled with cards, small gifts, hand made knit hats, and natural health products that all came from friends and family over the last 7 months. In fact the box was also a gift that housed my beautiful quilt that was made of hand -crafted squares, each offering well wishes and messages from by friends and family and then sewn together by my friend Nathalie. That blanket was used every chemo infusion and it has sat at the foot of my bed since I received it in July. It still overwhelms me when I look at it and read the messages from everyone. It symbolizes love and can bring me to tears immediately.

My pantry in the kitchen has always been a disaster, however, now the food within has different labels that read organic, or non-GMO or other healthy mantras. This is new in the last four weeks and is the new normal going forward.

The bathroom remains the room of truth. The mirrors clearly show the new me.  As I disrobe for a shower my scar is impossible to ignore. I am working very hard on breaking up the scar tissue and getting full rotation with my arm. My face is no longer red and swollen like a tomato, and the layers of extra fat that had packed on during chemotherapy are slowly starting to diminish (although still too much for my liking!). I again have begun to use shampoo (yes organic) and no longer use the sensitive scalp treatment that I bought with my wigs and had used since my hair fell out in August. My eyebrow liner sits on the top of my makeup kit as it has been my magic wand needed to create a somewhat normal looking face for many months. I have my box of cosmetics by the bathtub, which I received from my Look Good Feel Good Workshop at Wellsprings in December.  I love the phrase printed on the box “Find Support, Gain Confidence, Lift Spirits, Take Control”.

And then I withdraw back into my mind. The place that is definitely the most changed and the busiest place where I live. I had a few very sad days this past week, Thursday and Friday in particular where I felt exhausted and overwhelmed. I realized I over did it in January. Speeding back to work, running the house and kids and cooking and trying to be healthy and be like the old me. I hit a wall on Thursday and I was frustrated.  My brain isn’t what it used to be, it is still very foggy and I am so fearful I will forget something important, so I do things immediately when they are fresh in my mind. I have always prided myself on my memory, it better come back.

I guess what I am struggling to articulate is that daily I am still trying to figure out how to be me.

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