The first time I walked into the cancer center where I get treatment, I noticed the staircase. It seems to loom over the entire first floor of the center. I remember looking at that staircase, as imposing as the one in Gone With The Wind (only without the rad red carpeting) and thinking to myself "I'll never be able to take the stairs again." Those stairs seemed as daunting as the stairs Rocky ran up during his training in the first Rocky. No way I could do that. I was so grateful for the elevator.
You see, I was so weak. This was after 2 weeks of ascites building in my abdomen to the point I could barely breathe, and hardly eat. After surgery a month before that opened me up wide and removed multiple organs - and as much cancer as they could see. After weeks of nausea and vomiting and not being able to keep anything down. After blood clots in the lungs and having to have TPN because I just couldn't eat much. After losing 30 lbs - 7 liters of it ascites that was drained during my surgery - and much of that muscle strength. The day after my first chemo. I had to have my husband drop me off at the door to the center because I simply didn't have the strength to make the walk.
It was a scary time.
Since then, I've lost the nausea (as well as my hair), regained my appetite and my ability to eat regular meals, ditched the TPN and built my endurance back up. But I was still taking the elevator when I went to the cancer center. Those stairs still scared me. The thought of only being able to get halfway up worried me - would I then have to go back down? Or get help to go back down? Or worse, have someone come get me to carry me the rest of the way up? Those stairs are completely open to the main floor - as well as the 2nd floor - everyone would be able to see my humiliation if I failed. So I just didn't try.
Not trying isn't usually my MO. Yet the changes my body had been through affected me emotionally as well as physically. And to be honest - I wasn't that brave a person to begin with. Public humiliation has never been something I was willing to risk.
I tend to be a little more willing to step out there now. It's like I figure what do I have to lose? I've already lost my ability to have children (as well as the ability to regulate my body temperature - good lord a'mighty I'm tired of these hot flashes!), my appearance, hell - my modesty/dignity while in the hospital. Does it really matter if I made a spectacle of myself? Does it really matter if people can see my newly grown in silver hair?
Can I let them see me try and possibly fail?
Sure I can. Last week, when I went to get my weekly blood draw, I took the stairs to the second floor. I told myself I would take it slow and one step at a time. I grinned all the way up. I made it to the top, all by myself. I might have heard "Gonna Fly Now" in my head while I did it. I did manage to restrain myself from dancing around with my fists above my head when I got to the top. Just barely.
Last night, my youngest brought a couple of friends over to the house. I tend to be bare-headed in the house, unless we have company. Last night, for the first time I didn't rush to the bedroom to grab a cap or scarf when I heard voices on the porch. I just stayed in my chair as we watched the hockey game, and let the boys see my bare head. And you know what? None of those boys seemed to care that I was practically bald. I may not quite be ready yet to go without my scarf at work, but I'm getting there.
One step at a time.