Saturday, December 4, 2010
On December 2nd, 2009, I had my first chemo infusion. Last Wednesday, December 1st, 2010, I finished my last infusion of herceptin. I had a full year of IV sticks, infusion rooms and chemical treatment. I saw the cycle of the seasons through the window in that room.
My chemo nurses and their assistants had taken such good care of me during this year - their calm and professional demeanor were exactly what I needed - yet on days when I felt ill or out of it, they had the meds and advice at the ready to help me through.
Because of their outstanding care, I left work a little earlier than normal and stopped at Whole Foods and bought a shopping bag full of assorted treats as a thank you for them and the office staff. I was grinning from ear to ear as I went in, and Joe - the only nurse who thinks I have fat veins (which is a compliment, trust me) - told me I looked like I was about to sing "The Wind Beneath My Wings."
Surely he doesn't think I'm that sappy? Joe, I thought you knew me better than that - you've seen my blood, which is deep purple, not pink and frothy.
The song I really wanted to sing was Five Steps by the Davenports.
you know me well enough to tell
five steps you're over
What a long, strange year it has been. I'd outlasted all the people I started with and was a stranger in the room again. Sadly, as my time ends, somebody else's begins. As I watched my bag drip to the end, I listened to the conversations of the chemo newbies beside me. Two women were on their second infusion and still had their hair. They were talking about constipation and the various side effects they'd experienced from the first one. I almost opened my mouth to give them some tips, but then I thought - let them figure it out on their own, and get through it together. We all find our own way through this experience. I had my time, this is theirs.
It was 5:00 when I said, "I'm dry" for the final time, was unhooked from the airline tubing and the rolling pole, and left the room full of barcaloungers rocking silently behind me.
I now begin my post-cancer life. I have been told, in darling little pamphlets and by other cancer survivors, that I will feel adrift. Uncertain. Uneasy without the protection of drugs dripping into my system, without a doctor examining me monthly. I will begin to fear recurrence and worry that my safety net has been pulled out from under me.
To that I say, "Um no."
I don't even understand that kind of feeling. I didn't keep track of every appointment, but according to what I did put in my iPhone, I had over 70 medical appointments in the time between when I was diagnosed 16 months ago and now.
Do people really feel upset that they don't have to go see a doctor four times a week? They feel lost when they aren't being poked or prodded or stuck or infused or poisoned or burned or cut upon? They miss it and feel unprotected?
I don't believe it. I think it's made up by those pamphlet writers. Once they write their "Getting Through Breast Cancer Treatment" pamphlet, they get their taste of fame and don't want it to end. The writer has to scramble to come up with something else, so after a committee meeting, they come up with a "Post-Cancer Life" booklet and tell everybody they are going to freak out over not seeing doctors and having treatments every day.
And, I guess some people buy into it, just like if you see an ice cream commercial thirty times you might start thinking maybe you want some ice cream, even if you aren't hungry. Word spreads and now people are actually believing something is missing in their life because they are not burning gas to some medical office on a daily basis.
You know what my thought is?
"I don't have one single appointment during the entire month of January."
No, wait, that's not right.
"I DON'T HAVE ONE SINGLE APPOINTMENT DURING THE ENTIRE MONTH OF JANUARY!!!!!!!!!" And, add a bunch of smiley faces and thumbs up icons and you will see how adrift I feel.
Adrift? Nope. I feel free.
Oh I still have appointments. I'll see my oncologist every three months, and also have tumor marker tests every three months. That's already 12 appointments in the next year. I still need an abdominal scan, although I think I've had enough radiation so I might skip it and see if I can do an MRI instead. I might need one more MUGA, and at some point another Zometa infusion and a mammogram. But, I'm not reassured by these things - unless reassured is a synonym for annoyed.
I am now cancer-free and am ready to be done. I have done everything I'm supposed to do to prevent it from returning. I can and will do more, with diet and exercise, to stay in remission the rest of my life. Apparently, the cells in my body like to mutate and so I have to make sure I don't give them any reasons to want to do that again. I will update you all on my progress. But, I believe I will remain cancer free.
I'm now the breast cancer ass-kicker that I told you all I would be back in September of '09 when I started this blog.
Miss it? Adrift? I don't think so.
Posted by Ann aka ButDoctorIHatePink at 2:28 PM