Dreaming Through the Pain

“What are these doing in here? They aren’t even my presents! Do you SEE my name on them? I’m sick of this mess! Get these out of here!” I too was surprised at my reaction and knew it was rude and uncalled for, but the fury was building and I was on the verge of an emotional explosion. The woman blocking the door to my bedroom turned to me and gently probed, “Chemo or Radiation?” I glared at her and asked, “Excuse me?” I was getting more angry and impatient by the second. Who was this stranger in my home and how dare she invade my privacy? She asked again, “Chemo or Radiation? I can tell you’re very upset. Which one are you going through?” As quickly as my uproar began…it subsided, and I broke into deep sobs. She held out her arms to me, and I rushed into them, allowing her to nurture my weary soul. For a small second I felt safe and without pain. I felt her warmth and understanding and knew if I could just stay in her embrace just a little longer that all would be right again. And then I woke up with a painful cough as the gathering of mucositis in my throat threatened to block my airway during my sleep.

As I laid in bed, I quickly regained an awareness of my surroundings. I was at the beach on a short weekend getaway with my parents. They rented a beautiful two-bedroom house with large open windows, overlooking Bodega Bay. The day was Saturday, May 1, 2010, and I had survived 13 days of Radiation Therapy. I swallowed carefully, aware of the new sores beginning to develop throughout my mouth. With the rumble in my stomach notifying me that there was a need for sustenance, I silently whispered thanks for the tube implanted in my stomach which would give me the necessary pain medication and nutrition without having to overuse my already bruised throat. In addition to the sores, my taste buds were quickly racing towards a tunnel of nothing-ness. Salty foods tasted more like metal and dishes containing sugar had little to no taste for the first several bites but hit me with an overwhelming richness that left me feeling ill by the 4th or 5th sample.

I joined my parents in the living room where we spent most of the morning soaking up the gorgeous view and talked about the feelings of anger I was experiencing in my dreams. For the most part, we all agreed that I had been doing well throughout the process. I was able to vocalize that maybe my outburst while asleep was an indication that I hadn’t quite worked through the anger stage of the journey. The rest of the morning was dedicated to reading, relaxing and breathing in the smell of the fresh ocean air.

Around mid-afternoon I showered and prepared for our daily drive to the ocean. As I pulled on my long, dark hair to ring out the excess water, dozens of strands came out in my hand. At first I assumed it was the normal shedding that occurs on a daily basis; however, I quickly realized that it wasn’t stopping and soon my brush was overloaded with an abundance of hair. I rushed to my mom to show her what was happening. We were both under the impression that losing my hair was not one of the symptoms I would experience from Radiation. In fact, my oncologist had been very clear that it only occured with Chemotherapy. There it was; however, and as the bathroom trash can began to fill with my hair, I began to cry.

It started with slow tears and quickly escalated to uncontrollable sobs. Sobs that left me breathless but failed to cease with comfort coming from my mom and dad. Despite my desire to crawl back in bed and curl up in the fetal position, I pushed myself to get ready and off we went for our drive around the bay. We drove further than normal, taking in the beauty around us. The ocean stretched in the distance far beyond what we could see, and we soaked up the sight of the waves building for miles only to crash against the huge rocks in a grande finale. There in the midst of the drive, I again cried. As the sounds of “Three Plus” my favorite Hawaiian band played throughout the car, I allowed the emotion of my heartbreak to beat against my need to be strong. Much like the waves against the rock, eventually the tide changed and I came to a place where I knew I had to make a decision to continue to be angry and sad or to be at peace with the new changes invading my body.

On the phone with my sister later that night, I again allowed the reality of my new situation to take control and her sympathy led to more tears. As we sat in sadness, she gave me the permission to express my fears and acknowledge that the loss of my hair was just one more symptom of this destructive illness. When enough time had passed, she moved into the roles of protector and “Miss Fix it” and reminded me how cute my hair is when it is cut short. By the end of the evening, with the help and love of my family, I was in a place of acceptance, and I knew that no matter what else happened, they would be there to sit with me, hold me and support me through the journey.

In bed that night, I closed my eyes and allowed the exhaustion of the days events to lull me into a silent sleep and more importantly…a dreamless night.


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Jenn
    Jun 22, 2010 @ 09:32:53

    Tears for you my friend. As hard as this process has been for you I can feel the love and protection your family has for you. I am so glad they are by your side every step of the way. I love you girl…prayers and thoughts continue to pour out for you.


  2. Karen Erickson
    Jun 22, 2010 @ 10:20:29

    You and your writing are an inspiration to us all! I am grateful that your sweet sister has shared your journey with us. Part of processing a loss involes debating. As you walk out your journey try to remember that you are in the process of transformation…. you are being sanctified… refined in the fire to be set apart. God will not let your experience go to waste I have a feeling you will be helping make sure of that. You are simply a catipillar that is lying in wait in it’s cocoon. It will be a struggle to emerge but once you have you will fly!


  3. Hannah
    Jun 22, 2010 @ 18:24:38

    oh my precious pritch… how i love you!


  4. Linda
    Jun 22, 2010 @ 19:18:55

    Dear Kelli – Thank you for allowing us to have a glimps into your heartfelt thoughts, feelings, and the challenges you have endured though this life changing experience. I continue to pray and give thanks to the Lord for all that He has done, is doing, and will do in your life. He has given you the spirt of strength and has made you a survivor, and He has surrounded you with the greatest love on earth, your precious family.

    The road to recovery, as you know, is all about baby steps … and sometimes one step forward and two back, but never loose sight that regardless of the challenge of the day – God is in control and He will continue to carry, comfort, and strengthen you through the days ahead just as He did your yesterday’s. You are a survivor Kelli because God has called you to be one.

    Prayers continue on behalf of you and your precious family. Sending a hug from my heart to yours –

    Love, Linda


  5. Gramma Jan
    Jun 22, 2010 @ 19:23:15

    Dearest Kelli.
    My thoughts and prayers are with you as I admire your courage and strength to go through the pain of this disease, not only go through it but doing so with the strength of the Lord. I think you have a gift for journalism and look forward to the book you will write when this is past. You are such an inspiration to all those praying for you and loving you. Know that I love you very much and am praying continuously.
    All my love,
    Gramma Jan


  6. renee
    Jun 23, 2010 @ 06:33:57

    Sweet Beautiful Kelli,

    May I be one of the first on that waiting list to purchase your book. I have many friends who have dealt with or are currently dealing with this horrid disease and you have the story I want them to read. May God use your life for His glory. And may His blessings be upon you.

    Much love and prayers to you my friend,


  7. Darlene Strong
    Jul 03, 2010 @ 12:33:13

    According to some things we had to deal with today, Dan and I had
    a ‘crappy’ (excuse the French) day. I’m so glad the Lord laid it on my heart to open your page, only to be reminded how petty my thinking was today and how big our God is. God bless you as you continue
    on your journey, and I know we all appreciate you sharing your
    thoughts and emotions so we can pray for you appropriately!
    You are a blessing to many….



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