As I write that, I’m really thinking, “I hope only one more.” Everyday that we are shrinking this tumor, I’m thinking about when and where the cancer will come back. We don’t know if it will, but recurrence is always in the back of my mind. I just need to be honest with you about that. This is why everyday I need to stay right here in the present. I am daily fighting for the prize to simply be able to dream about a future, even if in the short term. Right now that looks like going on a short trip to Florida in between chemo and surgery. It’s imagining having about and inch and half of hair. Maybe by March? And maybe going to Europe in the summer to visit friends and family. Maybe. I’ve never been. I got my first passport this past April. I’d like a few stamps. I need to keep dreaming.
As I anticipate this one last chemo, I’m ready to share a bit more about the last three infusions. I’m trying really hard to be clear, but it gets a little confusing. The first round of AC was not so lovely. I felt sick, but it was manageable. Going back for that second round proved a bit harder. Brent dropped me off to do my labs and doctor visit alone (my preference usually). Christy was to join me later for the actual infusion.
Before I made it into the building ten steps, something washed over me. I think I can best describe it as a wave of fear and sadness. My first 12 chemo treatments (Taxol, Perjeta, Herceptin) were weekly, easy, happy even. And side effects? Minimal compared to AC. After the first round of AC, I was in bed a lot more than usual. A low-level nausea was always sitting somewhere in my jaw and neck. My body ached as if I was bruised from head to toe, but only for about a day and a half. After a week, I bounced back so well, that I was goofing off and strained my quad doing a squat. This setback made going up and down stairs painful. I felt like my legs were going to collapse if I jogged even a little. I haven’t been running at all, but I tend to bound around the house and jog back to my car or run to appointments because I’m perpetually late. I miss the old me that could just move as I pleased and not think in the back of the mind how pathetic I look. Oh, look! the poor cancer girl is limp-jogging! Is she crying? Not exactly. She has extrememly sensitive eyes now. Wind and sun trigger big tears. On top of this, I found out at round two of AC, that the oral steroids were so effective at improving my appetite, that I gained a few too many pounds for my ego. No, this was not good like all of you think. Gaining weight and losing hair is just a bad combination for a lady! Think about it. My only sexy lady parts have cancer in them! Let me enjoy some skinny. It’s all I’ve got. And let us not forget that I’m almost completely out of eyebrows and eyelashes. So, yeah, I care about a few extra pounds.
So to recap: Having felt like I just recovered from the first round of AC, walking into the hospital was surprisingly depressing. I didn’t have this joyful sense of trust that I had felt all those times before. And while coming two weeks later gave me more time to recover, I craved more more time away from the hospital. Never coming back felt like a good option. I shared this with my oncologist and she validated that this is normal, sharing that some of her patients vomit upon entering the building. That sounded about right. I headed up for my infusion. But, my heart was heavier than usual. Christy was a true comfort for an out-of-sorts me.
I felt a little more sick after the second round of AC. My muscles were weaker again. All the side effects were a little worse. Even though I had bounced back again and enjoyed a solid week of energy, I was dreading making a return yesterday. I hated that it wasn’t my last one. I was pretty sure I was going to have a panic attack or throw up or both. But, for the prayers of people and the grace of God, it was so much better than I anticipated.
And let me back up again. The night before my most recent infusion, my sister brought dinner and my nephew for a haircut. Added bonus: her mother-in-law from Michigan drove in town just in time for dinner. What a perfect combination of happy things. I can’t get enough of Neely (that’s my sis). I love cutting Samuel’s hair. Elaine has been in my life almost as long as she has been in Neely’s. She’s real family. On a whim, I invited her to my pre-infusion appointments (the ones I usually do alone). Having her by my side was a good distraction and a bigger comfort than she or I could have known. I was fine. Totally. Then, Sarah, my lovely neighbor joined me for chemo. We never get to see each other enough. We always laugh, go deep, shed a tear or two and laugh some more. Time flew. Oh, and I haven’t said it enough, but that chemo floor has the best nurses. For all the yuck I feel afterward, I really will miss their sweet faces. As if God knew that I needed to be completely hemmed in, Roseanne from church was scheduled to deliver a meal right when I got home. Her afternoon had freed up and the day was beautiful and we went on a big, long, spontaneous walk. The last time we planned to go for a walk, I was diagnosed with cancer instead. This was four and a half months overdue and oh, so good.
I know that I’m going to feel pretty dang awful for the next four days. But, it’s manageable. And I can hope that like the first two rounds of AC, the effects will be mostly worn off by Wednesday of next week. I will have a week of big, long walks and laughing and knowing I only have one left, hopefully, forever.