Cancer dreams can tell us a lot — and not just the nightmares that play on our worst fears, but also those that have surprisingly comforting messages.
I thought about this because of a relatively recent development: graft vs. host disease of the skin. The condition presents as a kind of bubbly surface on my thighs and abdomen. It’s like those parts of my body are covered in bubble wrap.
Another development is the puffiness of my stomach, which neither Pilates nor any other exercise can eliminate. It’s not fat, but rather a hardening of the tissues as a reaction to my donor’s cells attacking my skin.
I’ve thought of writing to my donor, Denise, and asking her to tell her cells to mind their business, which is to patrol my system and knock off any possible leukemia cells.
Thank goodness that nearly six years after my stem cell transplant, those cells have been doing their job and my graft vs. host has been limited to my liver, which is why I take prednisone daily.
My transplant doctor said that more prednisone would be the obvious remedy for the outbreak of graft vs. host on my skin. But because my overall goal is to decrease my prednisone intake, that’s not my first choice.
This week, I have an appointment at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute with a new specialist, a dermatologist in the cutaneous oncology center — which is a specialty never knew existed (so I guess I can add one more to my long list of specialists).
When thinking of the severe physical challenges faced by survivors, such as disfiguration after surgery, I feel somewhat guilty even addressing this. But for every problem we have, there is someone who has it worse and someone who has it better. Therefore, it’s best not to compare.
In my dream, I was at a beautiful island about to go swimming in an azure ocean. I had on a long black shirt that I didn’t want to take off. My mother, who has been gone for seven years now, said I should show her my bathing suit.
When I did, she said that the shirred top going below my waist looked perfect. She said I looked great and I should go ahead and enjoy myself. I ran into the water.
I like to think that when my parents visit me in my dreams, it is really them and not some figment of my imagination.
In any case, I woke up feeling better.
Today, when I went shopping, I walked past the bathing suit department and saw a suit like the one in my dream. I tried it on, and said to myself, “I do look great.”
Or maybe I was speaking to my mother. Thanks, Mom.
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