When I read and studied prior to my trip to Moscow, I often saw the time frame for recovery of 12-18 months. In my MS riddled body, I read that as 12-18 months to recover whatever I could from the MS. What I did not read was that it was also 12-18 months to recover from the actual procedure. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat, but I must admit that I was quite naive as to the true extent of recovery one’s body must go through after chemotherapy and transplant.
As there are essentially two different recoveries happening in my body, I wanted to write a post that could cover each. Let’s start with the chemo recovery and then get to the fun recovery, shall we?
If you are drinking coffee or anything, take a swallow before you read this next sentence or else you are going to spray your screen. All set? I actually thought that hair loss would be the hardest part of post chemotherapy recovery.
When you are finished laughing, we can continue.
Seriously. Now you are starting to border on mean. Try to control yourself. Ahem.
Hair loss has been the easiest and most tame part of post chemotherapy recovery for me. I anticipated a certain degree of hormonal disturbance, but I was in no way prepared for the way my hormones went through a meat grinder, followed by a turn under a steamroller and then a toss in the fire. While I have experienced some physical signs of hormonal upheaval (heavy and irregular cycle), it has been the extreme emotional toll which has taken me to the mat.
I feel completely tapped out of emotional energy. I can easily handle the normal ups and downs that a regular day throws my way, but toss in one little kink and I go off the rails. This has gotten smoother as the months have passed, but I still find myself a bit shaky if I am made to handle any emotion which goes beyond mildly irritated or mildly happy. I experienced this with a slightly different flavor back when I had MS (I seriously can’t use that line enough, “back when I had MS”), but it was different because I still felt like I had my hands on the reins.
Sadly, because I was not well prepared for this side effect, neither were my close friends and family. In the first six months after my return, I turned very introverted and had little to no desire to be around people and no words to describe why I felt the way I did. I am now stalled out with 9 voicemails to listen to, 17 e-mails to respond to, and 4 relationships which need serious attention. Slow and steady may be the pace, but I believe I will see the other side. Patience was never my best quality.
Aside from my hormones getting back to their regular levels, my WBC is now completely in the normal range and I am in pretty good shape.
Let’s get to the fun recovery update, m’kay?
Fun Recovery Update:
Summer is now upon Texas at full blast and I have been really enjoying my body’s response to the heat. I sit through my son’s entire baseball games and even get up to pace back and forth behind the bleachers when things get hairy on the field. The difference between this season and last is beyond remarkable. Before HSCT, I know I said that if heat intolerance was the only thing HSCT fixed, I would do it. Well, I got that and a whole lot more.
My balance is incredible. There is no way I could pass a field sobriety test before HSCT, because I could not walk a straight line unaided – let alone put one foot directly in front of the other in the heel-toe manner I always see on “COPS”. I have no desire to test my abilities in an official capacity, but I am certain now that I could pass with no problem. I walk smoothly – no cane, no furniture walking, and no stooping over. My PT said I had a little too much sway in my hips, but I told her that was because I’m Southern and has nothing to do with MS.
My left arm and hand continue to be weak and a bit numb, but I believe the strength is improved on what it was last year. I trust my left arm to hold a baby this year and did not last year. I still do not trust my left hand to find my keys in my purse or to even hold that purse using only my fingers, but I hope this improves with strength training.
I have not noticed any improvement in my vision, HOWEVER, I have noticed that I rarely see the flashing lights I used to always see when I closed my eyes. Any MS patient who has had optic involvement will likely know the lights I am talking about and understand the all caps on “however”.
Cognitive thinking has also improved and continues to improve. I am not able to read as much as I did in Moscow, but then I have far more on my plate here than I did there. When I do get a chance to sit and read, I am able to do so with very little to no difficulties. In addition, I am now tackling my “white whale’ of dramatic passage memorization and am finally getting to work on the book of “Esther”. Performing “Esther” will be quite the feat, as it will essentially be a 35 minute monologue which will require every bit of MS shirking that I can muster. I’m pretty excited about it and ever so thankful that God has granted me this opportunity.
The pain in my back and legs has not vanished completely, though it does not affect me anywhere near like it used to. It nags more than tortures now and that is pretty substantial.
I am certain I could go on, but I have already far exceeded my personal 800 word limit (my gift to those with short attention spans) and will sign off for now. Thank you for your continued prayers for me, my family, the people of Russia, and the auto-immune compromised patients who are finding their way to Russia and other HSCT facilities. I love you all and I really and truly mean it.