It’s official. Chemo is OVER! And I must admit, it was very anti-climactic. While something as momentous as this period in my life feels like it should be heralded as a rebirth, a moment to exhale, to celebrate the spirit of the fight, it was just another day in the chair hooked up to the whir of the IV poison going in my port. Oh well. That’s why I planned this huge family trip to Tuscany. I needed something to look forward to the past 5 months of feeling like crap. I need to hear that trumpet in my own heart, if not that of my family. So against the wishes of my oncologist, and after having to push it back a week to allow of my unexpected expander replacement and lavage, we were off!
I’m normally the kind of traveler that can’t sit still. I don’t really care for the beach, and the idea of vacation where you sit on the beach all day sounds like a form of torture to me. But this vacation I planned with a somewhat-out-of-the-way historic farmhouse in the somewhat-out-of-the-way historic Garfagnana region on Tuscany. Surrounded by panoramic views of the foothills of the Alps with an infinity pool and a home that dates back to the 18th century (but foundation much older), we didn’t leave the property for the first 3 days. I cooked. We picked and ate cherries straight off the tree. It was glorious. And peaceful. And calm…. And for the first time since November 15, 2013, after hearing the words “we found a mass, and it’s going to be cancer”, I remember who I used to be.
This is what relaxation looks like.
Today just a quick question: I have a real urge to dye my hair platinum blonde. I never quite had the nerve to do it before, but the current me says “don’t be a pansy”. So I’m going for it.
However, I want to be sure it has been long enough after chemo. There is not as much information about this online as I had thought. The only direct answer I saw was “doctors will usually say wait at least 6 months.” It has been a full year since my last drip. I think this is plenty of time. My bf’s mother isn’t so sure (and is hoping I will settle on highlights instead). I thought I would query here to see if anyone knows the answer or has experience.
Hey, remember that “this time last year” thing?
I’ve been off it for a while for ovious reasons, and I don’t plan on overly focusing on the past, but I do like being able to make the comparisons. While here I’ve been doing all this surgery stuff, last year I was having chemos #3 and #4. Three was a breeze. An absolute godsend. No drama. Neulasta worked. It gave me a second wind, made all the rest seem possible to get through. (So for all those struggling through, I wish you a random and unexpectedly easy chemo!) #4 was more usual, but I no longer threw up after any more. Although the “Neulasta flu” made me throw up randomly once or twice each time. This is also when Neulasta started a new side effect: making me feel like I had a fresh bruise all over my body. Everywhere. It hurt to have a massage. It hurt to lie down. It hurt to sit on the toilet! It hurt if Del even stroked my face. This usually lasted 36-48 hours.
Then #5 came. I just didn’t think I could do it anymore. I couldn’t even think about chemo without my stomach revolting. I remember the day before taking a bath. Thinking that I felt good and that I only had to do two more. Giving myself a pep talk. I thought “only 2 more chemos. You can do it.” And I promptly gagged. I decided I better not think about it anymore. In any capacity.
I didn’t know how I was going to drag myself back there and let them pour more chemicals in. My French friend Vanessa was coming back (the same one who shaved my head for me) and would arrive that morning. I got up and got ready, was dressed to go, still wondering how I was going to get the courage to go through with it again, when she arrived. I was happy to have fresh company and knew she would hep entertain me through it. But then she said, “I brought something for you, but it’s too heavy to carry up by myself. Can you come downstairs and help me?” A thought about the limitations of my bad arm flashed through my head but I went to help.
We got to the landing of the stairs and there at the bottom stood two more of my friends! All the way from L.A. and Oklahoma! We four started our flying careers rooming together in Chicago our first year, and every year we try to take a reunion trip somewhere. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but this year they decided to bring the trip to me! I was so happy and touched that I was all teary again. To this day I have found it hard to express how much that meant to me. They really got me through that chemo, and on to the next – and last – one.
So, once again rescued by good friends, a year ago today my second to last chemo was now history. And an exciting moment that should not go without mentioning: now, before I’d even reached my last chemo, my hair would begin to regrow. A message from my healthy cells that maybe they accepted my mental apologies after all? I liked to think so.
Today cnn.com has posted a story with the headline “Breast Cancer Chemo Raises Heart Risks“.
I find articles like this a little strange simply because, well, doesn’t anyone getting treatment know that? They should. It’s not new information is it? It seems a little like posting a headline such as, “More than One Kind of Chemo Available” or “Breast Cancer Patients who Have Lymph Nodes Removed Risk Swelling in the Arm for the Rest of their Lives” or “Hey, Breast Cancer Sucks!”
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking anything that works to keep the issue in people’s minds, keeps them thinking, keeps them realizing (as much as it is ever possible) that it can happen to them so to be aware. Maybe it is just to keep the cause in the headlines. I’m all for that! But if that’s not it, then it just seems odd to pick something like that feels like “old news” out of all there is to say on the matter.
I’m simply curious. Or am I missing something? (Quite possible.) Cause right now it seems the only thing I’m missing is a cush job writing breast cancer articles for CNN! Where do I sign up?!
As you can see from the title, my progress has merited a change in nickname from my boyfriend. I’m quite keen on the new one! Makes me sound like some sort of hot comic book heroine. 🙂
Otherwise, I’ve had all the people I know in chemo on my mind recently. I have several friends/acquaintances struggling through the stages where it’s no longer even mildly “interesting” (for lack of a better word) as something you never thought you’d have to learn about. Unfortunately, you’re now a pro and it’s just boring to feel bad all the time. And while I did feel bad a lot, it wasn’t necessarily the side effects. It was the guilt that I really detested about chemo.
That’s right. Guilt. This is because of the amazing fact that your body is simultaneously one harmonized organism, yet somehow one part can be doing something major that the rest of you doesn’t know about. Like the tumor, of course. I used to creep myself out on occasion with the realization that just because I had breast cancer didn’t mean (technically) that I didn’t have/wouldn’t get another. Here my liver could be going about its business and decide to freak out and become cancerous, thinking it was putting on quite a show, having no idea that its tantrum was nothing new. However, I figure if my liver could know what my breast was doing, it would be considerate enough not to pull that trick (ever). It would only be fair. But, alas, there are no such negotiations.
This relates to chemo in the sense that my healthy cells had no way of knowing that all these chemicals were for my own good. So a lot of my discomfort came from the knowledge that – as far as most of my body was concerned – I was just poisoning myself. And if that’s the case, how could I expect them to be motivated to hold strong against the onslaught? If my good cells knew what was going on with the breast, surely they would understand. But they didn’t. They just saw toxins being pumped in with my permission. They told me their hurt by the bald head, the bothersome gut, the acidy stomach, the ringing ears, the sore mouth, etc. And I wished there were someway to say to all the 99% healthy part of me, “I’m sorry! Just bear with me. I promise it’s not aimed at you. And if I didn’t do this now it’d be worse for you later.” Even though I technically felt fine during my chemo drip, it’s a real mind bender (the real phrase I want to use is quite impolite) to go somewhere, sit down and just let them pour gasoline into your veins. That’s where the associative nausea came from. I wonder if it’s the same for other patients?
I say all this not to put creepy ideas in the minds of women who might not have them already. I say it because I haven’t seen it said before and it’s no small “side effect”. If I am the only one, well, now you know my neuroses and I’m glad that others don’t have to deal with that guilt too. But if I am not the only one (as I suspect) than I say it to sympathise and say, I don’t forget how crappy it was. But my body understood in the end, and yours will too.
Today is a day to be angry. Today is the type of day when the relentless evil that cancer is sticks its head up and says, “Hey now, don’t you underestimate me! I am heartless and mean and I will be as difficult as I can be sometimes, just cause I’m a bastard.”
That is what’s happening to WhyMommy, as she struggles with setbacks in her chemo. My Cancer Twin, Jess, almost had to do more chemo herself, so I know how utterly gutting that can be. You draw all your energy to deal with the chemo from that promised end point, and then it dances a little further away like a carrot on a string. It’s so demotivating. So to all my readers, pop over to support her if you can. Hang in there WhyMommy. You are doing an amazing job. And we will all say prayers, cross our fingers, send positive vibes, or do whatever it is we each do to encourage your body to rally, for all the good soldier cells to get angry too and go into the battle with a vengeance, for the tumor to learn its place, cooperate and wither. After all, you’re doing your end of the bargain, it can at least do that same. You are in my thoughts. You are so in my thoughts.
It’s that time again. Almost exactly one year after losing my hair, it’s time to take a look at it. I had my hair cut just yesterday and took a photo yesterday for just this purpose, which is funny as I just also had several requests for an update today.
It’s not fixed, but there it is.
My curl is back exactly the way it was. Which is, yes, a good thing. I did love my curl, but it’s tough to contol on short hair though. If you’re surprised that it’s still so short, well, join the club. If it cheers you though, I have had several haircuts.
I have been cutting the back consistently, as I plan to keep the back short. I’m aiming, eventually, for something akin to a Victoria Beckham cut (the only thing I’d ever want of hers! Bleah.), but shorter. It has been regrowing for 10 months now. It’s been visible to the camera for about 7 or 8. As you can see if you compare to the May photo (in the sidebar), the last 4 months seems to have made frustratingly little difference. Even so, I do like this newest cut.
Overall it has generally grown quickly and consistently, but at one point it seems to stop getting longer… and just keep getting poofier and poofier! (As you can see in the photo; if my hair were straight it’d look much longer!)
For those judging their own hair growth, the back would be about 1.5, maybe 2, inches longer if I hadn’t cut it. And the front? Well, that – as the only part I am willing to grow – seems at a standstill. The hairstylists all seem hellbent on trimming the bangs each time, even though I am adamant that it be left as long as possible. They claim they’re cutting the “fine ends” that need to go or else they are “shaping it”. Whatever. I trust them. And I like the new cut. I just can’t wait to have bangs to tuck behind my ear!
PS. I’ll take another photo once I’ve gotten to wash and fix it myself….