March of the Penguins

When this journey began, among the dizzying thoughts that flew through my head was the shock that I would have to have to experience chemo.  The scare of what that would be like physically was at times unbearable.  Then the icing on top was the thought of losing my hair…Before I started chemo, while putting away laundry one night, I put a pair of nude underwear on my head and pulled it tight covering all of my hair.  I looked in the mirror and concluded that I would look ok without hair…but I would look ridiculous with underwear on my head.  I showed Mark and we had a good laugh.  In between the doctors appointments and figuring out my strategy on how I would kick cancers butt, the thoughts of losing my hair would quietly sneak in.  How would that make me feel during…and after chemo – how would others react to me – how would my kids react – how the heck would I do my hair when it started to grow back – and how long would that take? 
However, losing my ‘do’ was far down on my list of worries…my main focus is saving my life.  Mark had a different opinion on the subject. He has the best quality of looking long term and big picture…and he knows me well.  So on top of the stress of our lives being turned inside out – Mark quietly researched and found a company called Penguin Caps which claims to save 70% of your hair when you are on chemo.  You wear a cap that is -32c that has been baking on 80 lbs. of dry ice. This cap gets strapped down really tight to your scalp and the idea isthat your hair follicles freeze and don’t absorb the chemo…hence helping you keep some of your hair.  You have to change out these caps every ½ hour and only have 2 minutes to make the switch to the new cap…If this sound like fun, it gets even better.  You have to wear this 5 lbs. block of ice on your head for 5 hours after chemo is finished - so a total of 8 hours on the day of chemo.  Mark pushed me to do it and laid out all of the reason why to say yes. I took a deep breath, squeezed my eyes tight, shook my head no...and whispered ‘yes’.
Yesterday was my second round of chemo.  It’s a relief in a sense because you know what to expect, and it’s absolutely daunting because you know what to expect.  The chemo zaps you on one regard – but those Penguin caps of cold ice on your head take it to a whole new level.  Mark learned how to strap the cold caps down tight…he is my Emperor Penguin gathering the dry ice – rotating the caps –making sure they are exactly the right temperature and changing them out every ½ hour.  He works his flippers off.  I sit and smell lavender and meditate going deep inside to just make it through as my energy slowly fades. 
The experience reminds me of the March of the Penguins movie.  The weeks I have chemo, Mark’s wings open wider to take care of the girls –to go to work- to take care of me – and to do the chores of life to ensure our house run smoothly.  There have been times on this journey when I look at Mark, and of the both of us, there is no distinction between who has cancer, and who doesn’t.  What we said to each other 10 years ago, ’In sickness and health’…we are living now. I have never felt more vulnerable, and I have never felt more confident then when Mark says to me “It’s going to be ok”.  I slowly waddle off alone to sea (also known as my bed) and slip deep deep down into the abyss of solitude left with a tired aching body and strong fighting spirit. My mom who is staying with us delivers the pearls of the sea...homemade soups– a loving touch – knowing what I need before I even ask…and most of all providing laughter, songs and joy for my kids while I listen from upstairs.  Penguin friends slide in on their bellies delivering cards, books, soups, fresh juices, farmer’s market baskets, dinners, hugs, compassion, and love.  These are the sweetest of gifts that carry us daily. This colony delivers prayer in motion...taking turns rotating inside and outside the circle to shield us from the cold.  Years from now, this is what I will remember and tell my girls about…the power of kindness from others. 
So, the march goes on – I will resurface from the sea in a week, change into my best tux, and savor returning to my nest with my family and friends.  Till then my sweet penguins.    

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