Sunday, November 3, 2013

525,600 Minutes

I am a huge fan of the musical, movie, DVD, all that is RENT. I have seen it performed live twice [once with the original members of Adam Pascal and Anthony Rapp], both times taking Ali with me, as it is a favorite of hers as well. The girls and I even went to see the live last performance from seats at our local theatre as the curtains fell in New York and the stage went dark.

I don't know that I would have been a fan when I was Ali's age. AIDS was just becoming known, Reagan was President and it was a scary time as far as the disease was concerned. The movie, And The Band Played On, shows how unknown the disease was for my generation.

But the words, the characters, the music, everything that Jonathan Larson created in RENT was genius. The words and lyrics to his songs are timeless. Everyone knows the song made famous by this work, 525,600 Minutes. Who knew how the year broke down in minutes had it not been for this song? The words that were created are powerful and thought provoking. "How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?" How does anyone?

November 2nd 2013, yesterday, marked one year to the day, 525,600 minutes, since my last chemo treatment. I see my oncologist every three months now instead of bi-weekly, I get up and go through my day as I used to, dragging myself out of bed with the alarm to let the dogs out and then take my morning meds and get ready for work. I go through my usual work day, come home, let the dogs out, prepare dinner and clean up afterwards. I take more meds and watch television or get some reading done, something I had not been able to do for quite awhile, concentration being an issue, and drag myself upstairs to get much needed sleep.

There are a few differences if you were to look at me. My hair being one; it is not shoulder length anymore. It is growing in steadily and I need to get regular haircuts as it begins to look a bit mutton like if I don't, and my hair stylist is helping me to grow it strong and healthy. If you really look there are a bit more differences: my stomach pooch is no longer there, thanks to the TRAM Flap procedure I had for reconstruction. The other difference being that I went from a C to a DD, not by choice but the procedure, I swear. I am still getting used to this difference. I remember telling my surgeon that I didn't want to look much different than I already was and now they tell me I "look more proportionate". Personally, if I was the weight I was when I got married I think I would look more like Barbie. I still have little to no feeling in my breast and abdominal area and likely never will.  If I develop an itch, I actually have to concentrate and watch myself scratch or the itch doesnt go away.  The look on someones face when they inadvertently bump into me, bumping my chest and apologize and I ask them why is priceless.

I know that there are more subtle differences. I don't have the stamina I used to, I get tired very easily and am easily winded with things that are strenuous. I have permanent neuropathy in my hands and feet. I walk down stairs like a 100 year old woman, clutching the banisters, as I am terrified to fall since I cannot feel my feet touch the stair. My hands are better but, when I get tired, I am unable to grip well and drop things. I have emotional issues, I feel angry and things tend to bother me more. Not to say I was easy going before this journey but I seem to notice it more at least.

There are things I have decided, that I need to do more to help myself. I need to eat better, sleep better and exercise more, although, doesn't everyone? I am slowly trying to do these things in an effort to learn from what happened to me. I guess I felt that this would be a life changing thing for me and yet at times I do not and I think this is what frustrates me. How do you not learn from something like cancer? I wonder this from time to time and I think for most of the journey, all I wanted was my life back. To go from day to day as I used to and yet, this is what I think bothers me. I was not the healthiest, more active person and I know that this is exactly what I need to do to help myself feel better and age better.

Ali and Amanda are great examples of strength for me in this area, as well as Greg. Greg took up running when Amanda joined the ROTC. He felt that he should get in shape while she did. Amanda is always striving for better times and numbers in her PT scores with the ROTC and it pushes her to constantly improve herself. Ali, who suffers from a condition called POTS [Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome] needs to exercise to help her condition; the very thing her body does not want to do. Yet, when she called me last week, after having an extremely difficult week of classes and meetings and issues due to her condition, it was 8:30 in the evening and she was in the health club on campus, working out on a recumbent bike.

In an effort to improve myself, for me and my family, I first need to understand that I need to do this for myself. I am going to take better care of myself than I have before. I am going to look into yoga again, meditation, relaxation and healing myself. If this past year has taught me anything it is that while all I wanted to do was to return to normal after the cancer, my normal is not something that I like or is good for me.

So, my question for all of you that are so kind to take time and read my blog posts is, do you like your normal? How do you measure the moments in a year of your life, all 525,600 minutes of them?

525,600 minutes,
525,000 moments so dear.
525,600 minutes - how do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights, in cups of coffee.
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.
In 525,600 minutes - how do you measure a year in the life?
How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love.
Seasons of love.

525,600 minutes!
525,000 journeys to plan.
525,600 minutes - how can you measure the life of a woman or man?

In truths that she learned, or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned, or the way that she died.

It's time now to sing out, tho the story never ends
let's celebrate remember a year in the life of friends.
Remember the love!
Remember the love!


Jeff Yamada said...

This is such a beautiful, open and touching post, Andrea. It is strange how our mortality creeps up on us. I have been fortunate enough to experience these things only vicariously, but exercise, diet and rest mean a lot more to me now than they did even a year ago. My new friends are green, leafy vegetables, my morning run, and a regular bedtime and wakeup time. I now have the wisdom to see that, although sugar, processed food, the third beer and tv may make me feel good in the moment, they make me feel very crappy for an extended period of time (and I thought THEY were my friends!). So I go to bed early (by 10pm), get up early (5am, maybe 6am on weekends), eat as healthy as I can, go the Y before work. I have a desk job, so I bought a standup desk. I'm sure there's more I could do, but I'm working on it!

Anonymous said...

Wow, lots of minutes and time gone by. Always, G

Anonymous said...

Your journey is not yet finished, there is now joy for you in every moment as you rebuild your strength, I admire your will, God is good ;)Remember to Laugh :)Chris M