Actually time gets a bit confusing after chemo. I had my last chemo infusion March 31st 2010. When I realized the date the other day, I was shocked. It certainly didn't feel like a whole year since I sat in that infusion room and watched and waited as the toxic yet healing drugs were poured into my body. I was stunned at how swiftly time was passing.
Then I remembered it hadn't been a year since I was in the infusion room - I finished herceptin in December, so it's really been only four months.
For those of you in the midst of it, who wonder if they will ever be the same, the answer is yes. I would say I am 98% of normal. I have tamoxifen pains (can't wear my beloved heels often due to aching hips), and I have shoulder (post-surgery) problems. But, the things that chemo did to me: drained my energy, made me pale and tired, killed off my blood cells, made my hands and feet tingle, made me bald - those are gone. My energy is restored and the same as it ever was. My hair is lush again, if a different color.
My recovery was brought to the forefront when my son participated in the Science Olympiad Regionals, this time as a freshman in high school. Last year, I wrote about attending the event ten days before my last chemo, and I discussed how very hard it was on me. I'll never forget that day for the physical difficulties it presented. This year was radically different. Not only did i show up at 7:00 a.m, but I was the volunteer coordiator, working in the back room, checking other volunteers and teams in, grading tests, running errands for the regional director. I did get out and watch events and take some photos, but I was working, and not feeling any different than anybody else. I was not enduring the event, I was enjoying it.
What a difference a year makes.
One thing that has not recovered are my nails. They used to grow long and strong, now they are weak and brittle. They are so thin that I can feel cold and heat on my nailbed through them. The other lingering side effect is some minor short-term memory loss. To be fair, my memory was never very good. I was always terrible at learning names, for example. If you meet me, I will not remember your name, and I'm very sorry about that - it's no reflection on you or your importance in my life. I just suck at names and have tried all the tricks, even using mnemonics, to no avail. I call all the kids at my school "hun" which is kind of obnoxious, and it makes me sound like a 50s-era diner waitress, but I can't possibly remember 1500 names.
"Oh sorry, chemo brain!" has become my
Post-chemo, there are holes in my memory aside from what was normal for me.
You know how when you are a kid, you play with that blind spot in your vision? You look at two letters on a page and cover one eye and focus on one letter and move back until the other one disappears? My memory has been like that - move the wrong way and hit a blind spot. Somebody would tell me something and it'd be gone in an instant. I would be sitting at my desk and say to myself "I need to send an email to XX about XX" and in the time it took for my hands to hit the keyboard, I would forget what I was going to do.
We all have those moments - I had them before chemo. It was the number and intensity of them that was disturbing.
It used to happen 30 times a day - which is a guess, I couldn't possibly count them. It seemed to happen all day long. I refused to allow it to frustrate me. I kept pen and paper with me for times my boss asked me to do something - I didn't trust myself to walk the six feet back to my desk and remember. For those instant "I need to do some......thing....whaaaa????" moments, I just told myself that this was temporary. Don't worry. It'll come back.
And, it seems to have. Those moments are fewer and farther between now. Now what is left are the things I always struggled with - names, directions, places. I have some problems with word retrieval, including names of people I know well. I call my children by each other's name, for example. Not only that, sometimes a sentence is hard to get out and I stumble. It's a bit worse now but I have my coping mechanisms (GPS, technology, pens and paper) and am doing just fine, thank you.
Time is funny. When you are going through chemo, it's just head down, one foot in front of the other and it seems endless. Those months stretch out. You wonder and hope you'll be the same at the end. And, now that it has been a year, I can hardly believe it. It seems like yesterday..
I'm here to tell you that you can be normal again.
At least, as normal as I ever was.
|My hair one year post chemo. Yes, I cut it!|
In the coming days I will be remodeling the blog and adding some breast cancer videos. Please let me know what you think of them and if you find them helpful.