I’m an adventurous person. I’ll try anything twice.
Most of my childhood summer weekends were spent in rural Vermont. My Father would arrive home from work on Friday night, grab a quick sandwich for dinner, and we would pile into the car for the over two-hour drive from the south shore of Montreal, Quebec. to the sleepy village of Barton, Vermont. Population 2,000.
I don’t recall wearing a seatbelt for any of those trips …
The drive would meander through quaint but beautiful towns of Quebec’s Eastern Townships – the Appalachian Mountains – and into the Green Mountain range of Vermont … we would drive by stunning mountain peaks and fertile valleys, homes to plentiful apple orchards and maple tree farms, tourist attraction lawn ornaments: a giant-sized cup & saucer, a rocket and a horse. I knew each turn in the road and knew what was coming. I loved the horse statue the best and always wanted to be woken up when we drove by. Sometimes my Dad would tease me and scream “Oh Lisa! Look! Horses!” I’d bolt awake only to find a field of cows. “Daaaaaaaaaaaaaadddy.” I sigh. “They’re not horses …” This back and forth went on for years. Occasionally, I’d convince my dad to sing for me … he had a wonderful, rich voice (music and artistic ability graces his side of the family).
I loved the architecture of heavenly heritage churches and turn of the century homes, the landside dotted with the farms you remember from your childhood. Real animals grazing idyllically on real grass. Flags of both nations proudly flying from porches. Occasionally we would stop in at a lovely old-time diner in Mansonville, Quebec for toasted sandwiches, hot dogs and home fries. We drove through sleepy ski towns, the lifts parked on green hills for the summer.
Over the years, my Dad started taking a faster route down I91 from Stanstead, but it wasn’t as picturesque. Sometimes, feeling nostalgic, we’d take the older, more scenic route.
It was on these trips that I took from the time I was an infant (without a car seat) that my passion for photography was born. I wanted to capture each moment and would snap away with my Brownie camera from the car. What I would give to find those photographs now. My artistic mind saw the beauty in the rock formations, the autum leaves, the rolling hills and livestock.
I could feel my excitement build as we exited the I91 in Barton and backtracked through the village. We’d stop at the small, family-owned C&C grocery store in town and grab our weekend supplies. Each week I’d pick a treat … a bag of Hersey Miniatures (Krackle bars were my favourite) or Fritos corn chips or Jiffy Pop to pop over the nightly campfire. Life’s choices were so much simpler then.
The old movie house only had one showing … Saturday nights. We’d buy our tickets, popcorn, and drinks and sit as a noisy group of teens in a row. I went on my first date in that theater. And had my first real kiss in those seats.
The lake itself is beautiful. A glacial lake only 3 miles by 1 mile wide. Surrounded by the rugged mountains of Vermont. I loved each season there.
Those days we were in a trailer with a band of ten other families. By day, I’d run around the lake and mountains like a wild animal. I’d be out the door first thing in the morning and only wander back when hungry or bored. I’d fish tadpoles out of the creek. My friends and I would ride her horses through the forest trails and pretend to be sprites on unicorns. Once, we found bear cubs … and had the sense to leave them alone in that patch of woods. We would hike the paths to Spirit Rock, head up the mountain on rickety stairs and climb the side of the cliff to visit the statue of Jesus which overlooks Crystal Lake. We would traverse a mile to a secluded spot using a deer trail that was no more than a four-inch shift in the mountainous boulder. I’m surprised none of us slipped to our death 200 feet below. I had an amazing sense of balance and an utter lack of fear. What the hell was I thinking?!
We used to cliff dive and rock dive. I remember diving so deep, my chest constricted at the pressure and I wasn’t sure I could surface in time. I burst over the water’s surface to take a huge gulp of air … and swam to shore so I could do it all over again. I loved that feeling of exhilaration.
As I approached my teen years, life became even wilder. We’d have keg parties at the top of the falls. They were dangerously beautiful. People had died by slipping on the mossy rocks above and tumbling down the fast-moving water over boulders. I learned a healthy respect for them at a young age.
When the Barton Fair rolled into town, we’d spend our days and nights there.
We would start a bonfire on the shores and sit around laughing and singing. Skinnydipping.
I am a paradox of choices. City and country. High-heeled dancing and barefoot. Haute cuisine and BBQ. I thrive in the hustle and bustle of downtown living, yet I am equally content to canoe silently through the morning mist on a lake.
I could find the thrill of living on any path.
I approached my first chemotherapy infusion with that same sense of adventure that I approached dating and life. Nervous energy. Happily looking forward. Bring-it-on attitude!
I wasn’t scared … just ready to experience the new experience and get on with it. Let’s do this!
Not so with Taxol … the new chemo regimen I am about to start today. I dread it. My greatest fear it to be immobile from pain. With the AC infusion, nausea and exhaustion came in waves. And in between those waves, I lived my life the best I could.
Taxol brings new cumulative side effects. More fatigue … but even more scary is the peripheral neuropathy. A set of symptoms caused by damage to nerves that control our sensations and movements of our hands and feet. At least a few of my finger and toenails could go black and fall off. A friend and work colleague who had breast cancer twelve years prior advised me to carry a cooler of ice so I can submerge my hands and feet to try to numb the pain. I’ve spent time researching preventative steps in hope that none of the damage is permanent.
Shooting pain that comes and goes.
Tingling pins and needles.
Loss of dexterity.
Loss of balance.
Muscle atrophy and weakness.
Loss of reflexes.
More blood pressure changes.
My Taxol doses will be split over 12 doses in 12 weeks instead of 4 doses in 8 weeks. It will be dripped in slowly to – hopefully – reduce the amount of damage to my nerves. The thought of not being able to hike for a year – or never – is just too much to bear.
I might be working myself up into a frenzy for nothing, but it’s hard to get off that trail of thought once you’ve started. My stomach is rolling and churning like that furious mountain waterfall.
I have no choice but to stick my chin up and walk through the fire. Again.
Trauma comes with the treatment plan.
UPDATE at 12:01am on Wednesday, June 14.
I’m alive, just COMPLETELY exhausted from the pre-tx meds. The double dose IV Benadryl completely overrode the 5x stronger steroid infusion and IV Pepcid (ulcer meds) used to inhibit histamine responses.
Every pre-tx drug administered is sent in to club my immune system on the head, knock it out and drag it off to the woods so it doesn’t reject the chemo … it did a really good job.
I’ve been in and out of consciousness since mid-afternoon in the chemo chair. Thanks to Sherri, those photos are going in the vault …
What day is it?!? Did you see pretty sunlight? Oh … look at the … *THUD*.
UPDATE at 12:01pm on Wednesday, June 14.
Feeling great! Now that the brain fog and steroid highs have dissipated, I am feeling quite … normal! No nausea, mild fatigue. I was able to brunch with my 19-year-old. I have some mild burning and tingling in my hands so I have tried icing them. I am told the effect will be cumulative and get worse over time so I will take advantage of the good days. Thanks for all your kind words!
Onward and upward.
P.S. My first Taxol infusion is later this Tuesday afternoon at 2:40pm. I will have frothed myself into a frenzy by then but will update you with a play-by-play of this new phase. I’ve signed up for three months of this.
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