It’s week three of treatment. I’ve got the drill down, I know how it will make me feel, when the nausea will strike, how long I’ll sleep, what I can eat to feel better.
Before each chemo round, I have a routine to prepare myself mentally.
I practically bounced into the hospital on Monday ready to face the challenge. When I arrived, they completed blood tests and I was told that my neutrophils were 0.1 (a tenth of where they needed to be), so after the nurses and consultants took some time to deliberate, they cancelled chemo for that day.
My body was not playing ball, and was clearly not responding well to treatment. My neutrophils being down translates as “Hey your immune system is shot, and you will have nothing to fight a simple cold or flu and we can’t take that risk,”
I was feeling so well that morning and was totally thrown with the fact that my mind was telling me one thing yet my blood from a physical perspective was saying, “OH NO NO.“
Naturally I felt relief that I got to avoid the vomiting, the imprint of the tile floor on my hands and knees from hugging the toilet for a few days. That morning, I’d been brimming with lyrics and melodies, but then I felt something other than sickness, I’d felt an eagerness to get well and get back to what I love— my music world.
That hit to my health-confidence hit me that day. Just like I’d felt fine the last year, but my body was raging with stage 3 bladder cancer, that morning I’d felt fine, was planning my next steps in music and how after this was done i Want to simply get on the road and SING, and the nurses had bad news for me. My body hadn’t even been well enough to inject cancer-killing poison into it.
I’ve been learning the difference between reality and fantasy lately, and how to be positive within my reality, rather than ignoring it in order to stay positive. I can be happy and have cancer. I can be whole and also sad about my circumstances. I can be afraid and still courageous about what is happening. Everyone is different regarding their journey, please feel free to share yours with me, Just reach out at any point Keithcullengm@yahoo.ie
“it takes a lot of strength to share yourself with someone else” A lyric of one of my songs written 5 years ago is back to remind why it was written!
Yesterday I stood in the shower, and for the first time, I had clumps of my body hair in my hand. As that was a particular fear of mine, As part of my treatment i am doing the “cold cap” (they basically freeze your head to stop the chemo targeting that area and have a 30% chance of working). I said I would take a 3/10 chance over none. Who knows if the pain of it is worth it from a vanity and identity point of view?
Hair has always been a touchy point for me. I was 18 when I started losing my hair, and at the age of 25 I had a hair transplant because I was so embarrassed. It was something I tried to fix and I succeeded.
Now, honestly, as much as I love the hair on my head, I’m fully ready to embrace the fact life will go on with or without it! I do wonder if i can pull off the bald emoji look.
Ladies I can’t speak for you, but I can imagine, as hair is such of part of modern day norms in terms of beauty that to have to face the loss of your lucious locks comes as shock and for some is tied to confidence and self esteem. I’m learning to give up my attachments to any body parts and truly appreciate the hard work the body does to keep me alive and deal with the drama it’s thrown day to day.
The outpouring from people, far and wide, the last 2 weeks has been a truly humbling and pure test of the amount of goodness there truly is in the world. People have shared their intimate stories of struggles, and assisted in lighting up some of my darker days.
With the thousands of messages that came in, each one of them was like an injection of healing light that couldn’t have come at a better time. Being new to cancer and to chemotherapy I hadn’t imagined it would force me to be so brutally honest and reflective as I currently am.
Each decision I make now has meaning and the value attached to survival and being a source of good has never been stronger at the forefront of my mind.
I’ve been gracefully broken and now am focused on rebuilding a stronger, more knowledgable, kinder Keith who surrenders to what my new path and will continue to keep my arms wide open to lifes opportunities whilst doing some good along the way.
LOVE and LIGHT
P.s The cat nor the dog have left my side (animals are way smarter than we give them credit for)