I love a good road trip. Obviously I love family vacations and the occasional girls' weekend away, but I'm also a big fan of going it solo. I love the planning, the anticipation, the packing, the leaving, the arriving, all of it. And no matter how long it takes to get from the point A to point B, I love the hours on the open road. Okay, I love most of the hours on the open road. The hours I don't love are when I've exhausted my podcasts, my audible library, the rare albums I'm able to listen to for pure enjoyment, the time I get to spend writing in my head, and dreaming. Because when those activities are done, I'm left with the hours that get filled with worry, mind-fighting, loneliness, negative self-talk, and feeling sorry for myself. Those are ugly hours.
I've noticed over the years, how when I'm driving and somehow get consumed with all those negative, self-absorbed, fear-filled thoughts, I inevitably end up miles down the road, not remembering a single thing about how I got there. I don't remember the sights I've driven by. Whatever places I could have seen and enjoyed and learned from, I've completely missed. I've always hated that feeling.
I started this cancer journey as the new year began. I have been given every indication I will end the year cancer-free. The grace of that statement overwhelms me. The planning, anticipation, and starting off on this little 12 month trip has been one of the biggest blessings of my life, truly. Someday I'll write more about that, but I can't tonight because I'm a tad weepy and I can't see the screen if I'm all blurry-eyed. Sometimes I think about the celebration I'm going to have when 2021 becomes 2022, and folks, it's gonna be a party, you can count on that. But I'm realizing it's the getting from point A to point B that will refine me in ways I never wanted. These are the hours on the open road. And some of them are just plain ugly.
I made it through the first round of chemo, feeling relatively well. Had the expected nausea, exhaustion, raw mouth, loss of appetite, hair loss, etc. I wasn't prepared for this, but one of great cruelties of this treatment is that one of the true happinesses in my life, coffee, now tastes terrible. I can't tell you how sad this makes me. Anyway, the symptom that got me the most was bone pain. Ugh...it is no fun. It's from the drug I'm taking to boost my bone marrow and keep my blood counts where they need to be. I'm sure there's a better way to explain how it works, but that's my attempt to keep it at level I can understand. It is crazy how you feel good until they try to make you well and then you feel like crap. By day 10 after chemo, I felt pretty good. So thankful for that.
Round 2 was last Thursday. Everything about this round was harder. I had all the same symptoms, just all a little tougher to deal with and wasn't sleeping as well. I ended up staying home from work a little more this week, but managed a full day on Wednesday. This morning I went in for blood work and ended up getting IV meds and fluids, because every person I saw said, "Do you feel okay?" Apparently I looked a little weary. So, I got the IV, slept the afternoon away, and tonight, I feel pretty good.
Over the past few days, I've realized I am on the open road. I've planned, I've anticipated, I've packed, and I've left point A. There have been many, MANY hours of joy so far. I will recount as many as I can at some point, but again...weepy...can't see... But some of these hours are the ugly ones. The hours I can't stand to listen to a book or podcast or music. When I can't read or write or even move. When my thoughts get the best of me. When the only thing I have the strength to do, and probably the worst thing I can do, is look at my phone and watch the world go by as I am reminded of all the things I can't do or am missing out on. See the tailspin happening? It ain't pretty.
When Harrison and I left California last November for the long drive home after American Idol, I called my friend Lisa and said, "Here's where we are now. We'll be somewhere in Utah around midnight. Can you find me a hotel somewhere so we can get some sleep and finish the trip tomorrow?" I just couldn't deal with one more detail. She got back to me with three options in the general area we expected to be in at that point in the trip. A couple weeks ago we were recalling the events of that night when she said, "I couldn't wait for you to wake up the next morning and see how beautiful it was all around you. I knew you'd be driving through some incredible places." And she was right. It was stunning. Some of the most beautiful creation I've ever seen. In the midst of our long drive home, when we might be tempted to give in to disappointment and sadness, she knew there would be beauty. I've learned a lot from Lisa about having that perspective.
I have no doubt I am driving through beautiful country these days. I hope I can keep seeing the beauty. I don't want to get miles down the road, not remembering how I got there and realize I've missed things I could have enjoyed or learned from. I know there will be stretches of highway when I am fighting discouragement and loneliness and the reality of just how long the drive is going to be. I've been trying to approach the tougher moments the same ways I try to keep my thoughts in check when I am literally driving on the open road. I pray out loud. I write in my head. I drink coffee. Again, the sadness over my coffee. I open the windows. Yeah, it's been a little cold for that. I dream out loud. I thank God for the good things happening in other people's lives. Trust me, those things don't come easy in those moments. But I do know it's a choice. So I'm trying to choose wisely. Anything to get my heart and mind back on things that are true, noble, right, pure, and lovely. I'm also trying to be okay with the moments when it feels like midnight and I can't handle one more detail. When I just need to go to bed and trust I will wake up and see the beauty.