“Take Off” the Sweat Pants

Sleep is a big tease these days.  I fantasize about it but can’t quite get it in my grasp.  Watching late night television at the time only vampires and security guards are awake, I was thinking about a woman’s post I read on a breast cancer forum recently.  She said that the most she expected of herself each day during her chemo treatment is to take a shower, get into her sweats, curl up on the couch and watch “Desperate Housewives”.  She considered that a good day. 

The Desperate Housewives are not wearing Sweats!

As I was channel surfing, thinking about this woman and vowing not to end up on the couch all day every day during my chemo treatment (but secretly worrying this could happen to me), a Delta Airlines Commercial caught my attention.  I was captivated by the voice and tone of the narrator, as if he were personally talking to me.  The commercial shows a plane taking off from the runway, as an entrancing voice says, “The thing you push against is the thing that lifts you up.”  Wow!  I thought to myself as I ran to find my notebook and pen frantically writing it down before my chemo brain absorbed it into oblivion.  Not only is it a simple law of physics based on Newton’s laws of motion, there is such truth and humanness in this simple but profound statement, I knew at that moment I had been transformed yet again.  The Universe is now reaching out to me through a Delta Airlines commercial.   

What brilliant marketing, “The thing you push against is the thing that lifts you up.”  In the case of an airplane wing, the wing exerts a downward force on the air and the air exerts an upward force on the wing.  You have take-off.  In the case of my battle with cancer and my current chemo treatment, my body exerts a downward force on my mind and spirit and my mind and spirit exert an upward force on my body.  You have healing.

There is an incredible mind body connection that we are just beginning to understand.  Our thoughts and feelings can positively or negatively influence our bodies.  As Lawrencw LeShan, Ph.D. and father of mind-body therapy states, “Feelings affect body chemistry (which affects the development or regression of a tumor), just as body chemistry affects feelings.”  We all know that when we are stressed or anxious about something, we experience physical symptoms such as muscles tightening, upset stomach, headaches, sleeplessness, back pain, pain in chest, shortness of breath, pounding or racing heart, and sweaty palms.  Every one of us has experienced most of these symptoms at one time or another.  This stress will eventually wear our immune system down and we will get sick.  Research shows that when one is diagnosed with an illness, it is important to minimize these negative effects so that the healthy, healing aspects of our mind-body connections are maximized. 

How do I minimize negative effects while faced with cancer and undergoing chemo treatment?  By not choosing to watch T.V. all day in my sweats like the woman in the forum!  I know myself and I would definitely slip into a state of depression as I slipped into my sweats.  Depression sucks all the energy, optimism and joy out of life.  Visiting the dismal swamplands of sadness and despair does not seem like the best way to kick cancer’s ass.  And of course, studies show that I am right.  Tumors shrink, cancer’s go into remission if not cured and a patient’s life prolonged when one has a positive optimistic outlook on life. 

I admit chemo has not been easy so far.  Hours spent at the doctor’s office attached to an IV, sore tingly legs and feet, a cloud like feeling in my brain, debilitating  fatigue, fever, chills, muscle and bone pain, no appetite, horrible mouth sores, a disgusting metallic taste in my mouth, and extra saliva that makes me want to carry a spittoon with me at all times.  There have literally been moments when I had only enough strength for my legs to carry me up the stairs and into bed.  Symptoms vary from day to day.  And, as I get further into the process, symptoms will intensify due to the cumulative effects of the drugs.  Knowing all of this is very trying.  My newest challenge this weekend is watching my hair begin to fall out in clumps.  It’s in my brush, in the kitchen and bathroom sinks, on my clothes, on my man and pillow, you name it, traces of my DNA are everywhere.  How does one not give up and slip into her sweats?    

I get angry.  When depression, lack of energy and pessimism begin to push hard, I push back.  Anger you might ask?  Here is a quote from a letter written by Maestro Lorenzo Sassoli, a physician to a patient in 1402:

….let me speak to you regarding things of which you must most beware.  To get angry and shout at times pleases me, for this will keep up your normal heat; but what displeases me is your being grieved and taking matters to heart.  For it is this, as the whole of physics teaches, which destroys our body more than any other cause.

Yes, there are many reasons to be angry about cancer and let’s face it life in general.  And, since depression is anger turned inwards, it seems logical to assume that to avoid depression it might be a good idea to turn that anger outward.  Of course, it needs to be kept in check and does not mean letting anger run amuck.  No plans of going postal.  Instead, I have found that anger coupled with a splash of frustration and flavored with a bit of optimism can be an incredible positive driving force, just the push I need to help me get back on my feet, face my problems head on and keep me going in the face of pain, exhaustion and hair loss.  This is when I take-off, where I have lift-off, and I am certain when healing occurs. 

Debi, guitarist, up front and center

Yesterday, I mustered enough energy for band practice with Daisy Chain.  During practice, I lost a big clump of my hair, the biggest so far.  Thank goodness my girlfriends were with me at the time.  My friend Debi suggested I take my hair outside and donate it to the birds to build their nests.  Birds build the most beautiful intricate nests with all types of materials including human hair.  Debi’s idea was just what the doctor ordered.  It brought tears to my eyes and felt so right.  What a perfectly creative approach to help me cope with my hair loss, turn a negative into a positive and stay on the road to healing.

Every day, whether I feel like it or not, I put on my sexy jeans, a cute top, make-up and heels (ok sometimes my comfy Ugg boots) and go back to work, business as usual.  Morning walks, carpool, shopping and an occasional band practice fill my days.  Yes, I feel yucky, tired, sore, and sometimes I simply have to find a place to sit down or lie down for a minute to catch my breath, but I refuse to stay in my sweats and get stuck in the swamplands.  When my body pushes, I push back.  Learning to convert my anger and frustration into positive energy gives me just the push I need to help lift my body, mind and spirit from the dismal swamplands of despair to the clear open blue skies.  On the way to school the other day, Maggie said to me, “Mom, sometimes I forget you have breast cancer, life seems normal.”  Then she added, “Well, normal for the Browns.”  I have take-off!

4 Responses to ““Take Off” the Sweat Pants”

  1. Debi Says:

    You’re one of the most positive people I know! My constant reminder that the glass is half full…I love you and am lucky to call you and all the Daisies my friends!

  2. Mom Says:

    Up, up and away honey. I have talked to so many of my friends who love your writing and can’t
    wait for another one to be published. We will see you a week from tomorrow. xoxoxoxox

  3. Liz Says:

    Is it possible that the salivating is caused by one of the meds they are giving you to stimulate your appetite? Maybe the oncologist can adjusted it if it is unpleasant. I remember Steven hated that feeling too and he stopped taking them and he just made sure he ate even without an appetite.
    My Dad has found that the only thing that really works for the discomfort of chemo is marijuana and it can stimulate your appetite too! Everything else made him feel awful. He has his prescription for it now so that is great.
    Just be careful not to get run down as your immune system is severely compromised. There are a lot better shows out there than Desperate Housewives…. I love curling up in my bed with my laptop and watching movies, in fact that is what I am doing with Sasha today!
    Great Blog.

  4. Lynda Toraya Says:

    Girl, you are amazing. The push back statement caught my eye. You continue to push and push as much as you can. I pray and think about you everyday. Please continue to write. You have great talents. I’m proud to know you. :)

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