Blessings at my feet
Last August, when we were on our post-chemo vacation that was gifted to us by some dear friends, I snapped a picture of my feet.
I know, I’m weird.
(I found the picture as I was organizing photos and trying to decide how to group photos into albums. I miss the age of photography when this had to be decided every 24 pictures when the film roll was full. I’m more than a little overwhelmed by the thousands of pictures on my hard drive. Suggestions?)
Today, I looked down at my feet, and I see that I have flip flop tan lines.
Flip flop tan lines = happy, carefree days.
Seeing the picture of last year’s feet made me remember how high maintenance my feet were then. Oddly, my feet were plagued with the most problematic side-effects during chemo last year. I lost a toenail early on, after my first round of Adriamycin (chemo agent), so that toe lived under a band-aid for the whole summer. Throughout my twenty weeks of chemo, I had 7-10 infections (like hang nails) that my weakened immune system couldn’t fight off, so I was on antibiotics for each of those infections. I learned to call the doctor as soon as I felt the pain start, otherwise I was left at 3am with my foot awkwardly elevated above my heart in a desperate attempt to make the throbbing pain stop. There were some days/weeks that I couldn’t run because my toes were too fragile. But, for the most part, I put on bandaids and carried on with my day.
By the time our vacation rolled around, I had just finished 12 rounds of Taxol, a drug which is notorious for causing nail trouble. Most days when we went to the beach, I put bandaids on all ten of my toes to try to keep my nails on in the surf. (Band-aids + sand = bwwahahaha). I would come back from the beach and soak my feet in hydrogen peroxide and use q-tips to clean the sand out. I should have bought stock in band-aids. I ended up losing four more toenails when it was all said and done.
It’s funny to think about all of that now. It sounds like a lot of drama, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. I was bald, after all, and that made my bathroom routine seem gloriously breezy and efficient. Band-aids and beach just went hand in hand, and I knew that my toenails, and my hair, would recover. Toenails and hair are not the good stuff in life.
I have so many fun family memories of that trip. I am so grateful that I did not get sidelined by toe infections or baldness or awkwardness. I would have missed Greta’s first steps in the ocean and Maren’s first boogie board rides. We adapt, don’t we? We shove aside what doesn’t matter to soul-search the things that do matter.
I am still running 1-3 times a week: I wear a compression sleeve on my left arm (where I had lymph nodes removed) to prevent my arm from swelling and feeling tight. (Incidentally, I got my compression sleeves from a fantastic company called Lymphedivas; I highly recommend them if you are having lympedema (swelling) issues after surgery. Their customer service was exceptional.)
I am swimming 1-5 times a week, depending on the weather and schedules: I wear a suit that covers up my chest and my port. I think I would feel more self-conscious if I had time to think about it. Usually, I’m too busy with my kids to think about body image; this, I know, is a great blessing.
All of my hats feel too small this summer because I have, you know, hair instead of just a bald head.
Things are different; there are always challenges and adaptations, but the sweetness is always right there too.
I see the picture of last year’s feet, and I don’t think about the drama/pain/issues. I think: “Dang, look at that mama out there in the sand with her family. Overcoming hardship often leads to a greater reward. She’s having an awesome day!”
I look down at this year’s feet, and I think: “Wow, flip flop tan lines. I am one lucky lady. To count my blessings is to number the stars.”
There are a myriad of blessings that lay at my feet. I must choose to see them for what they are.