Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Big Girl Chair

Tomorrow is my third round in the big girl chair.  It could be the steroids I have to take prior to my infusion or it could be anxiety- but I am wide awake and it is 2:30am.  What better time to ramble here on my blog!  Hopefully this will be coherent, but if not- I will delete it tomorrow.

I am having the most bizarre emotional experience around chemotherapy.  If I was my own art therapist, I would take out some wax paper and have myself draw each different emotional experience -and then overlay them to create one cohesive picture.  I don't have the emotional energy to cut pieces of wax paper- and I don't think it would translate very well in my scanner, so instead I made this piece of art on photoshop and did transparent layers. I tried to limit the amount of time I gave myself- just because I didn't want to think too much about it and become weirdly perfectionist.  This isn't about the final product.  It is about me sorting out what I am feeling.

Layer One - Date Night


Okay- so the thing I love most about chemotherapy is the five hours of uninterrupted time that I get to spend with my husband.  We talk, laugh, have lunch.  He takes care of me in a way that I feel supported and loved.  It is wonderful.  With two little ones at home, it is difficult to get time together to even have a conversation.  So, I put this image on top.

Layer Two - 1/2 way there


So with this chemotherapy infusion, I will have completed three of the six I am scheduled for.  I visited my doctor today and he was incredibly happy about my amazing disappearing tumor.  I am cautiously optimistic.   He is too.  So this layer is all about the positive emotions I have around this diagnosis.  I love my doctors and spending time with Leo (who I call sunshine).  This is definitely the next image in my layers.

Layer Three - The Uncomfortable, Painful, Yuck


This one is not for the faint of heart.  Chemo sucks.  My body aches, my stomach is a disaster area, discomfort everywhere, my head throbs, swollen, and tired through my bones.  The intense portion only lasts a week- but I still loathe it.  My hair is continuing to fall out, and my nails feel fragile.  I added a new symptom this last cycle - Neuropathy.  For sixty seconds, it felt like all of my fingers were on fire.  Extreme pain and then it disappeared.  I experienced it in my toes the next day.  My oncologist said that unfortunately, this side effect is also cumulative- so he anticipates it might be worse this cycle.  I am trying to arm myself with extra supplements and a positive attitude- but it isn't always easy.  When I look at this piece, it also represents fear.  I buried this layer under all of my happy feelings.

Layer Four - Loneliness 


This layer is about isolation.  Because of my blood counts - and the added risks due to lung complications, I am forced to stay home for nearly two weeks.  I will try to allow myself to go to my support group, but other than that I become a recluse. In the beginning, I am even too sick to spend much time with my family.  I stay in bed and feel miserable.   I sometimes feel like I could disappear.  I hate this one the most.  

The emotional journey to chemoland


I played with the transparency until I felt that the picture was what I wanted it to be.  It feels odd- chaotic- and uncomfortable, so I guess I did it right.  As for a directive, I really enjoyed it.  And now maybe I can get some sleep.  

Good night.  Wish me luck- and as we say in chemoland - No SE!!!!
(SE means side effects)  


  1. The overlapping artwork is so intense. Beautiful job! I love this exercise! No SE!!!

  2. Amazing artwork. I have not read any more of your blog yet but wanted to comment on this art post. On a different note but still art, have your heard of Miriam Engelberg's graphic comic book, "Cancer Made me a Shallower Person?" She took her breast cancer and channelled it into this brilliant personal account. So, I look forward to reading and seeing more from you!

    :) Marian

  3. "My body aches, my stomach is a disaster area, discomfort everywhere, my head throbs, swollen, and tired through my bones."

    You put it so well. What an experience. And then the body begins to come back, and gradually the chemo fog lifts.

    I am sharing this miserable journey with you. It isn't fun. But somehow, I am convinced that there will be better days when this is over. Cancer must go away, and we can live free again. OK, we will be changed. We will know more. We will appreciate the good times more.

    Thank you for your provocative art. It enriches our souls.

    Cindi74 (Lucinda Burbach