Back to Reality


The temple ruins of Selinunte, Sicilia.

My first bit of peace since being diagnosed in December.


It’s been weeks since my last blog post and I’ve been feeling way overdue to write. Since my last post there have been two more chemotherapy treatments, I’ve come clean with my son about my cancer diagnosis and I even traveled overseas to Sicily! Oh and I also managed to ace my Italian History class midterm (woot woot!).

Sicily was absolutely breathtaking. Between the scenery, the food and the people–I fell in love. I worked hard to earn the scholarship that funded my trip; thankfully I was also awarded Federal Pell Grants which picked up the rest of the expenses. Everything worked out in the end. Sicilia and I were destined to meet. She’s my adopted zia, mama and long lost nonna.

I haven’t dreamt at night in weeks, save for the one dream I had of my son while staying in Sicily. Yet every single night since returning to the states I have dreamt of Sicily; the beaches, the towns we visited, meals that were delightfully devoured day after day. Apparently my love for Italy extends beyond the Island portion of Sicilia because last night I had a dream that my son and I went to Puglia, a long coastal city that makes up the heel of Italy’s boot.

Diece giorno in paradiso. The travel writing class from school that I traveled with returned on a Sunday night, early into Monday morning, around 1 am. That Monday morning I was scheduled for blood work and an oncology appointment. The morning after, that Tuesday, I began chemo session number three.

It wasn’t just a jolt of reality. It was ten thousand volts of mind numbing “welcome back to your life, let’s make up for lost time!” and I was Franken-mommy. My chemo treatment begins with steroids, anti-nausea meds, Ativan (if I feel I need it) and some fluids. That usually takes about 45 minutes, give or take. Then three hours of chemo drugs and a final flush of something else that I honestly can’t recall right now. All before attaching my little buddy, Fanny the the Folfox Pump. Okay so her name really isn’t Fanny but I do what I can to keep things interesting.

SIDE NOTE: The side effects for my chemotherapy treatment can include–but are in no way limited to–nausea, diarrhea, constipation, headaches, vomiting (not a good sign), fatigue, hair loss, muscle loss, weight loss, extreme sensitivity to cold temperatures of any kind, tingling in the hands and feet and I’m sure there are others but these are the ones that are most common.

It had been four weeks since my last chemo session when I began my third treatment. I was scheduled to have chemo the week I left for Sicily but, per my mother’s advice, I consulted my oncologist about skipping a session. He gave the okay and I was very thankful that he did.

After ten days of enjoying gelato to die for, I had completely forgotten about having sensitivity to cold after chemotherapy. The morning after chemo I went into the fridge, without thinking, for a glass of ice cold chocolate milk. My fingers hadn’t yet developed the tingling that occurs when they come into contact with a cold surface. My body wasn’t prepared for the shock it received that “yes, I am very much a cancer patient going through treatment and by the way you’re no longer in sunny Sicily.” I poured the glass and down the hatch it went.

My mouth immediately became painfully chilled. If you’ve ever eaten a peppermint patty and then drank something cold, you can relate to what I felt. Pair that feeling with thousands of tiny pins and needles poking at the inside of your mouth, bingo! Chemo cold rush. It doesn’t end there. My throat felt like it was closing up on me. Painful pins and needles poked at it from the inside. I felt like I had just swallowed broken glass. I rushed to the faucet for a cup of hot water, warm water, anything but this. Relief filled me as I chugged it down and the pain subsided. Reality check, welcome home!



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