Good news, you guys, I am officially done with chemo, and about half of my eyebrows and most of my eyelashes made it! My brain, however, was not so lucky. Chemobrain is real, and it just feels foggy up in here. Like the set of an 80s video — without all the hair and boobs because duh. I have been affectionately referring to myself as a chemotard (Oh, please don’t try to go all PC on me. I am just poking fun at myself, y’all.), and I am having a hard time focusing, remembering things, and sometimes, retrieving words. I was already terrible at trivia, but if you invite me to your trivia night now, I will blame it ALL on the chemo. I will make up for my lack of brainpower with extra delicious snacks though because I’m not afraid to be that girl. And my love for baked goods and cheese-based dips remains unaffected.
In other good news, I finally saw a radiation oncologist last week, and he nixed the radiation plans! I was a little like, “Dude…I mean, good doctor, are you sure? Like for sure, for sure?” He then drew pictures for me, threw a lot of statistics at me, and repeated certain things over and over so I could let them sink in. The short story is that, in my case, radiation would only lower the odds of a local recurrence by maybe a couple percent, and, in his opinion, the benefits don’t outweigh the risks.
Since my oncologist was all, “We’re going to throw everything we have at you,” I really didn’t think it was an option for this new doctor to come back and say, “Nah, you’re good,” but his nurse practitioner put it like this. “If you want a good cake recipe, you can go to your hairdresser and ask for one. You might get a good recipe or you might not. But if you go to a baker, you know you’re going to get a good one.” Obviously, the hairdresser is my oncologist, and the baker is the radiation oncologist.
So anyway, they told me I was free to go and to get dressed and left the room. Josh and I sat there in complete shock, and, yeah, I started crying. What they had just told me was that I was done. I was DONE. DONE. DONE. DONE.
I’m not gonna lie. This last six months has been a little slice of hell. It has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to go through. (And, trust me, I do realize how much worse it could be or could have been.) I have learned and lost a lot, but I really think that’s all for a different post. My point is that cancer and its treatments are pretty all consuming, and to be abruptly told that you are done is dizzying. That’s part of the reason I’ve kept this news closer to home for over a week. I feel like I’ve spent an entire night at the carnival riding the Tilt-A-Whirl, and I’ve just stepped off. I can’t see straight. I can’t walk straight. I’m nauseated. I’m tired. And I don’t know which way is home.
I don’t even know how to get back to living my life. Things like going back to work feel so absurd. I’m just so dizzy. And the truth is that I’m not really entirely done with treatment. Every three weeks until June, I still have to get Herceptin (a non-chemo drug) infusions and blood draws. I will be getting an echocardiogram every three months with that, and at my next appointment, my doctor and I will discuss which drug I will take for the next five or ten years to block to effects of estrogen on my body and possible ovary removal.
But that night, after I found out that I wouldn’t have to go through radiation, I woke up at 3 AM and couldn’t back to sleep. I laid there next to Penny (How do you keep your kids out of your bed? Ugh.) and did something that I’ve been doing a lot of lately — thought about my life and how I want to use it. After about an hour of that, I decided to check facebook, and just when I thought I was done with cancer, the harshness of it slapped me in the face. Do you remember Sam? The little boy I bonded with (maybe it was one-sided. Ha.) over ports and cancer. Well, Sam, the six-year-old son of former coworkers who just completed his treatments for liver cancer, was back in the hospital already. His cancer had returned. And my heart broke.
Although cancer hasn’t given me all the answers, it has given me the right questions, and when I ask myself how I want to spend my time, helping people is in the top five (along with loving on my family, laughing with friends, stalking Taylor Hanson, and eating cheese while playing board games). Just kidding. Kind of. But helping people, yes.
I never knew how much help I could need. It took a village, or, like, a clown car full of awesome people to get me through this. It really did. And I also never knew just how financially devastating one diagnosis and six months could be. But it was. We, truly, wouldn’t have been able to pay our bills if it wasn’t for the kindness of you guys. Sam and his family have just gone through what I went through — chemo and surgery — and have already turned back around to do it again. In the spirit of helping people, because when you realize what’s important in life, it’s really only people, I’m just going to throw this out there. It’s a link to Sam’s donation page if you feel so inclined. And I hope you do. Sam was diagnosed just weeks before me, and I remember donating the first time thinking, “We don’t really have the money, but if this were ever my family, I would need the support too.” True story. And then it was. Yikes.
Also, I’m pretty mad at Hanson right now. I told them I’d either take the trip or a wig made out of their hair. I don’t know why they never got back with me…