Resting and Recovering

Staring at the sunset from our pool in Salvador
Staring at the sunset from our pool in Salvador

It’s been about three weeks since we’ve been back from our travels. School has started again which means, aside from some meetings and social engagements, I’ve been home by myself, recovering. The reason for so much time spent recuperating is I’m a lot more fatigued than I was at the beginning of my treatment. Jon wakes up early to go to school and sometimes I barely even hear him leave. I continue sleeping all bundled up in my hooded sweatshirt with Kubi at my feet and Chingy with his head on my chest. It makes it really hard to get up and start my day. I have successfully come down off the steroids from 60 mg at the beginning of my treatment, all the way down to 5 mg currently. And through it all I seem to have avoided the headaches that I had before treatment. Unfortunately I’m not getting all the manic energy and insomnia from the steroids, and am now sleeping about 11 or 12 hours a day. Except for the events that I save my energy for, I am generally moving pretty slowly.
When I first received my new diagnosis, Jon and I were glad that my treatment was short- just ten sessions of radiation. We thought it meant we would find out if the new treatment was working sooner than the treatment the first time. When we were told I couldn’t have an MRI for another three months because the radiation would still be working to fight the lesions, we both groaned. I am not a very patient person in general, but sometimes in life you have no choice but to be patient. Think about an important work project that you work for days on and you have to impress everyone at the office with your presentation in order to keep your job. Imagine that same fear and pressure to succeed, but instead of the feeling lasting for minutes, it actually lasts for three whole months. Except in this case, there is really not much you can do to affect the outcome. It is excruciating! For one thing, I’m not sure if it’s normal to be sleeping so much now. I don’t know if the brief aches in my head are related to radiation or if it means the cancer is still growing. I prefer to have music or TV on in the house or else all I hear is the ringing in my ears, which I hope goes away very soon. No matter how positive or optimistic I convince myself I am, it never gets rid of the fear of the unknown, which is the dark feeling I’ve been trying to push away now for a month and a half. (And I still have a month and a half left to go…)
I do feel a bit more prepared for what could happen this time, rather than during my first diagnosis. Last time I didn’t change my diet, or look things up on the internet, or worry about survival tricks. Some people treated me differently, but I think they got used to me, especially when it became clear that I was going to survive and that I was the same old Eli, albeit, bald. This time, most people definitely treat me differently. I get it, it’s hard not to… What do you say? The re-metastasis in my brain makes my disease seem more dangerous, more real. I am no longer a miracle; just a Stage IV breast cancer patient who beat the odds the first time and was in remission for a glorious two and a half years. What I finally realize is, after much time to think about it, that even if I survive again this time and go into remission, the nature of my disease is that it will come back again, and I will have to go through all of this over and over in the future (or they could find a cure for metastatic cancer- which seems unlikely right now).
Now, I know what I wrote above is upsetting to hear, especially since most people who read this blog know me and care about me, but this is the reality that I face. I would like to believe in miracles like some people have told me to, but I just don’t believe that about life. The truth is that sometimes people get cancer, sometimes people die in a freak natural disaster, sometimes people are maimed for life in war or tragic, traffic accidents. I happen to have been afflicted with the first scenario. These are all things to be sad about, but they are a reality of life.
This blog post also doesn’t mean I’m depressed or that I’ve given up. Just the opposite, really… When I asked my doctor whether or not there were certain foods that were good to eat to help me recover, or if there were certain things I should not eat, in typical Chilean fashion, Dr. Majlis replied, “No. You can eat what you want”. Well, according to all the books and online research I’ve done, that is simply not true, or if it isn’t true, at least eating healthier will make me feel better. So I’ve cut out pretty much all processed foods, bread, pasta, and dairy products. I’ve even tried juicing and kale smoothies. A lot of books recommend becoming a vegetarian, but I eat meat, so that didn’t really seem feasible to me. These dietary changes have been no fun because I am a foodie, and I want my food to taste good, and usually what makes food taste good is fat. But if it helps me to recover and survive longer, than I am all for it. Two days ago, Jon and I took the dogs to my favorite place in Santiago, Parque Bicentenario, and walked all the way around the park and back home. I was proud of myself because I was able to hold on to Chingy (who pulls a lot, especially when he sees or smells cats) and walk around the whole park before I started to fade. At the turn to go home I had to give my dog to Jon and then trudged behind them very, very slowly, all the way home. Although I was pleased I walked so far I was also very cognizant of the fact that I used to do this walk with no trouble, all the time.
Occasionally I do let myself dwell on the fact that none of this is “fair”. I really hate that word. Nothing is ever “fair” in life. But I do get annoyed sometimes when people complain about little things that don’t really matter. But who am I to begrudge people the right to complain when things aren’t going their way? Even though many things have not gone my way, plenty of things have. From working on all my travel books and editing Jon’s breathtaking pictures, I can certainly say that I’ve been able to see many things that people only dream about. I’ve been able to affect kids’ lives all over the world through my profession. I have a loving family, wonderful friends, and my husband has been a great partner throughout this journey. I have enough money to pay for my really expensive health care, and also have enough to travel or buy things when I want. So, in reality, I don’t have a whole lot to complain about, compared to other people. You just ‘gotta keep it all in perspective and do the best job that you can to live up to the ideals that you find important. That is what I intend to do during this next month or so of waiting around to find out if the treatment worked. I hope you will join me in pouring a very large glass of wine when I’m done with all my steroids in two more weeks, and laugh with me like you would normally do. I would really appreciate it!


Add Yours
  1. Matthew


    I admire your courage to share your story. We are praying for you and a strong recovery. I am sure you receive a lot of ideas, blogs, suggestions, so perhaps you will throw this one away or already have seen it, but I think her story is inspiring and may help your recovery.

    Best from Mexico,
    Matt and Mariana


  2. Carolina

    Hi Ms. Timms,
    I heard about you from my brother, I am Carolina Ho (from class of 2014)…He also told me you have a blog, which is how i found this site. I just want to let you know that I am also praying for you! I wish you the best ❤ .


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s