45. Hooray the Chemo poisoning is over, now onto the rest...or hitting the half-way mark in my Cancer Treatment
Twelve days ago, I finished my final chemo infusion. It was, for all intents and purposes, pretty anti-climatic.
First, it was 7:00 am. While I get up to teach that early most days, the overwhelming energy of people at the start of the infusion day is not overwhelming.
Second, my six month thyroid surgery follow-up was scheduled directly after my three hour infusion session, so there was really no space for celebration. (I’m a fan of stacking appointments, specially when they are across town, however when you are doing that, you do run the risk of getting NEW “news” that may NOT be what you are looking for.)
Lastly, while the feeling of relief is similar to school being let out for break, there was this nagging anxiety of what comes next.
Awful, as chemo is, I have absorbed it into my routine over the last three and a half months. I have worked within the newfound parameters it has set, and because I was fortunate to have crappy, but not debilitating, side effects, I managed to continue living my life.
So the ending is both exciting and terrifying. Now the routine changes, and what exactly will that bring?
First up, twenty five Radiation Sessions, two more surgeries, and 5-10 years of Tamoxifen.
What I don’t know is…
If this annoying sinus drippage, that keeps effecting my voice will FINALLY go away.
If the neuropathic pain that started in round 4 in my feet and has seemingly gotten more severe in rounds 5 & 6 will stay.
If my period, which disappeared with the first infusion, will EVER come back. (Who knew I’d actually want one?)
If the terrible rash that broke out on my hand after imbibing wine, and then less intensely after having a Moscow Mule, is a function of having a celebratory cocktail too close to the initial infusion date or the revealing (post killing all my cells) of new allergies, which happened to my mother as well.
What the side effects of tamoxifen will be.
What my energy levels are actually like. (I replaced my screwed up thyroid with a pill, and have been pumped full of all kinda of poisons, I have no idea what my body is going to be outside of them.)
What the side effects of radiation will be like.
How invasive will the new surgeries be.
When they finally switch out these damn expanders, will the recovery be like having a double mastectomy all over again?
And then I have to really consider the magnitude of what really has happened. As I maneuver the final round of side effects, I am quickly becoming aware of how the full emotional impact of all of this may be the final, unexpected shoe dropping. A gift or sorts, given in treatment my energy was spent concerned only with the present, of a focus on the finish rather than anything that may have held me from triumphing. ( Whatever that means)
I remember at the finish of my mother’s treatment in New York , taking a week, getting in a car by myself for a road trip, trying to make room for feelings I knew I had pushed deep down to deal with helping to manage her care. Long drives have always been an excellent place for good cries. Right after this last treatment, I drove myself to our house in Palm Springs, which has served as that valve throughout this whole process.
The tears flowed, as they have before, but unlike so many years ago, I also had a sense of completion.
The peace of knowing while this journey is far from over, the finish line is clearly in sight.
And for now. That’s victory enough.