I started a PARP inhibitor about 8 weeks ago. The first week sucked, as my body adjusted to the new medication. This is still chemo after all, and while the side effects are far diminished compared to previous infusions, I spent the first week throwing up every morning. Once I got past that initial hurdle, I found my rhythm pretty quickly, learning not to overlap the medication timing (I have to be pretty strict for my every-12-hours doses).
Even though the most pronounced side effects are fatigue and low-grade nausea constantly, it’s still easier than my first dance with chemo. Nothing can be worse than that. NOTHING.
I’ll find out if this is working next week. Like many oral medications, the full potency isn’t reached for a few weeks (in this case, 8) and so I exist in limbo once more. If my cancer marker doesn’t go down, we’ll do another CT and go from there.
This, of course, brings up Anxiety, and its friends The Unknown and Fear rearing their ugly heads.
It’s hard to see the progress we’re making when we live with ourselves every day making (hopefully) tiny steps toward bettering ourselves. It takes months to see growth in ourselves in that day-to-day. But, in looking back over the past few years, I see the progress of the work I’ve made and because of it, I’m starting to recognize my anxiety in earlier stages.
It started earlier this week, with waves of nausea early in the morning accompanied by a tiny emotional knot emerging in my chest. It grows over time, choking me with tears when it becomes overwhelming.
As I’m learning in my meditation practice, my goal is not to rid myself of this feeling. When you cut yourself off from one emotion, you cut yourself off from all emotions. You can’t have it both ways — it’s all or nothing.
I find it difficult to sit with the discomfort of anxiety in a way that isn’t judgemental or avoiding. I actively have to lean into the ache of the emotion and approach it with curiosity. This means asking myself as many questions as possible, tapping into my inner toddler’s “But why?”
Is this a feeling or a thought? Why? If it’s a feeling, what name would you give that emotion? Why? How does that make you feel physically? Why? How does that make you feel mentally? Why? Why do you feel this way? Can you control what’s making you feel this way? What can you control while you’re feeling this way?
I keep picking it apart, until the big worry is 1,000 tiny pieces of more manageable answers.
And don’t get it twisted. It’s not like I talk myself down once and I’m good for the rest of the day. I have to do this multiple times a day; sometimes multiple times an hour.
And yet, 3 1/2 years down the road of this journey, I can see the progress. The panic is less, the fear is the same, but the tools are honed and well-used. And so we carry on, don’t we?