The All-True Adventures of Kelly on Chemo

Ugh. Yuck. Puke. After a six month hiatus I am back on chemotherapy. I hate chemo—it addles my brain and sickens my body. And then there are the side effects of the drugs used to control the chemo side effects. My daughters joke that I am familiar with every public restroom within a 100 mile radius. I have strange (and probably disgusting) food cravings while on chemo. And I can vomit on command. I am about to be bald for the fifth time in eight years—this time hoping to keep my eyebrows and eyelashes because I’m just not very good at applying the fake ones. I recall a lunch date with two dear friends during which I’m quite sure one set of eyelashes was in danger of dropping into my pasta salad. They were both too kind to comment.

At the same time I must be grateful. I am aware that chemotherapy has kept me alive. I have joked that I am a chemo addict, showing up at the clinic praying that my blood counts would be high enough to allow another infusion, practically begging my dear doctor not to lower my dose, and outright lying about the severity of side effects. Hearing loss? Ringing in my ears? Not a problem. Numbness in my feet? Hardly. Diarrhea? Not to speak of. Nausea and vomiting? Minor issue. Fatigue? Shortness of breath? Only when I run. I’m quite sure he’s on to me.

In truth, cancer and its’ myriad of treatments have trapped me in a body that I no longer recognize. That’s a bold statement and I have friends and acquaintances that certainly have a greater claim to that sentiment than I do. I suppose some of it may mimic the aging process. If so, it’s in fast forward and I wasn’t prepared to give it up so soon. I was once an athlete. Heck, in my mind I still am. I ran and swam and biked and skied. I rode my horse with abandon and I was strong. I carried three pregnancies and delivered each one naturally. With the third I drove myself to the hospital, blowing between contractions, reassuring my three year old daughter bouncing along in the pickup with me, and delivering 11 minutes after arriving. I had the strength to stack hay bales and the endurance to swim and bike a half ironman. But the body that did all of that no longer exists. And with that loss my sense of adventure has changed.

There was a time when I thought of adventure as riding a horse through the Swiss Alps, dancing in the streets of Paris on Bastille Day, and skiing the ungroomed slopes of Alaska. With friends I ventured into Mexican border towns for evenings of dance, laughter and late night swims in the Colorado River. And for years, along with a group of equally thrill seeking cowgirls, I fed my adrenaline addiction by riding my steel gray quarter horse at breakneck speeds through rodeo arenas.

I suppose in all fairness my idea of adventure changed somewhat when I became a mother. As a mother I found adventure through the eyes of my children and the wonder with which they viewed every day happenings. As they grew, teaching them to do the things I have loved so much—swim, bike, ski, ride—became an opportunity to relive the excitement. I learned that adventure is much, much more than exotic places, thrill seeking, and adrenaline. Motherhood taught me that adventure takes place without ever leaving home. And although given the opportunity I would still gladly zip line through a South American jungle, snorkel off the coast of Mexico, and parasail over an aqua-colored ocean, I’ve also learned to find adventure every day and all around me.

More than ever I appreciate the adventure found in the kinship of family and friends. Together we share the challenges, celebrate the triumphs, and measure the milestones. We embrace one another through laughter and tears. We encourage, congratulate, and console. With each new day offering unchartered territory, we are life’s explorers, sightseeing, searching, and discovering.

I still ride my beloved horse. Of course he is much older now, too, so we both prefer to just mosey down the trail. His gentle cadence rises through my saddle, easing tension from my back and shoulders, allowing me to reflect on the many miles we have covered together. Although I require frequent hot chocolate breaks, I still ski the mountains of Idaho. I am stimulated by the majestic views from the chair lift and the sound of my skis on fresh snow. And I can still swim and bike now and then but the real adventure for me is in watching my daughters at a swim meet or completing their first triathlon.

Last fall, when my future appeared to be especially bleak, and I was feeling like I just hadn’t experienced enough adventures on this earth, I decided to try something new. It had all the makings of adventure… new skills, new knowledge, some excitement, and maybe even a little risk. I decided I would create a quilt for each of my daughters. Hoping to live long enough to meet my goal, I immersed myself in this new adventure. I learned the pleasure to be gained from the camaraderie of fellow quilters, the excitement of expressing my creativity, and the challenge of acquiring new skills. And of course I learned the self-satisfaction of having met my goal and presenting each of my daughters with a beautiful finished product, complete with errors that made it uniquely my creation. On the back of each quilt I added a secret pocket into which I slipped hand written notes. My notes told the girls why I had chosen their particular quilt pattern and fabrics and what the experience had meant for me. Since then I have made several more quilts. Each is unique and although I do plenty of seam ripping, with each I have found solace.

I believe that the strength and endurance that were mine in a life before cancer have served me well. I believe they have helped me, perhaps even inspired me, to withstand the rigors of cancer treatment. I know that they have allowed me to be inspired by my new found form of adventure. And I am so very grateful for all of it.

Adventure on! ~Kelly~

11 thoughts on “The All-True Adventures of Kelly on Chemo

  1. Every day with you is an adventure… and always will be! Nothing–not cancer, not chemo–will ever change that–you have the spirit/soul of an adventurer, pushing aside adversity and plunging forward!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Alexis Brokaw

    Again I am reeling. You have been someone so total, from being athletic to bi-lingual, a horse woman, a beautiful woman, a loving daughter, an out standing mother, the most profiecint nurse and professor and my beautiful forever friend. Your life skills and accomplishments are amazing and I applaud you for all of them. However, Your biggest achievement is your warrior attitude. Protecting family and highly perceptive friends from worry. I hate cancer with all of my heart and soul for what it is doing to your body, however my beautiful warrior it has not taken your spirit or that radiance that I feel whenever I think of you all the way in Yuma.
    I send you love, strength and light every day, and I remember that beautiful woman on that beautiful gray horse, who rides like the wind every night in my dreams. Give cancer hell, Kelly. God would want or expect nothing else from you. Nor, would I.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Lou Russell

    Lots of tears after reading that. Sadness for the ravaging cruelty of this disease and the toll it takes on a body. The sheer guts and courage it takes to continue with forward momentum. But the majority of my tears are for a woman who has chosen to redefine her adventures. Who lives deeply and who has chosen to live fully. My prayers are with you as you start this next chemo round.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Twyla

    Oh my Kel, you are amazing and inspiring. My life is what it is because I watched and learned from you and your family. I hate what this cancer has put you through, but as I read your words I am once again learning of grace, spirit and courage. I pray and think of you every single day. We too have shared adventures and I smile as I think back to those times. We will have more…just wait till I bring over my grandson to visit! Love you. Twy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Martha Fisher

    Hi Kelly,

    So sorry to hear you are back in treatment but glad to see your spirits are still high! I saw you at MISTI during my last appointment but I was all hooked up so not able to catch you before you left. You will be in my thoughts and prayers. Hope your holidays are happy with lots of love and time with your family. Martha

    Like

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