" /> The Merits of the Case: November 2007 Archives

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November 29, 2007

Next Steps

This was my last week of classes this semester. Up next...finals.

On one hand this semester feels like it has been the fastest one yet. On the other hand it feels like it has lasted for a year.

I have begun reviewing some of my notes in order to start my outlines, and I am beginning to realize how much I must have had going on in my head during the last few months. I don’t even remember discussing some of the things I have written down. I’m not sure if that’s chemo brain, or just the fact that I had a lot on my plate throughout the semester. Either way, it looks like I have some ground to make up in the next couple of weeks to prepare for these tests.

I saw the oncologist on Monday and he said that I look “pretty much perfect.” I need to have a mammogram done in the next couple of weeks and then I won’t see him again until February. I’m really happy to get to take a break from medical procedures for a few weeks, but it’s a little bit scary to think of being “on my own.” He warned me that there’s a high probability that the radiologists will see “something” on my mammograms in the near future and that they will recommend a biopsy. He explained that this was mostly because I had the bracytherapy radiation. Since it is a relatively new procedure, my mammograms will look different to them and they will recommend a biopsy to evaluate those differences. He told me not to freak out when that happens. And I’m glad he warned me about it, because I would (will?) freak out.

I am still feeling better and better with each passing day. As a matter of fact, I mostly feel completely normal. And then I catch sight of myself in the mirror and realize that I still look very much like a cancer patient, even if I don’t really feel like one. It’s a strange place to be…looking sick but not feeling or being sick.

I am going to be attending a conference in Milwaukee this weekend and I talked to one of the conference organizers about it earlier in the week. After I hung up the phone, I realized that it may have been one of the first times in the past many months that I have talked to someone who doesn’t know me as a cancer patient. She has absolutely no idea that I don’t have any hair, that I have been through a kajillion medical procedures in the past few months, or that I have spent the past few months identifying myself as a cancer patient to just about everyone I talk to. It felt good not to have that as a part of my identity, even though the gig will be up when I arrive at the conference tomorrow night. What I’ve been through will be pretty obvious when they see the scarf and lack of hair/eyebrows/eyelashes!

November 25, 2007

You Say Tomato, I Say To-mah-to

I have been out and about more in recent weeks and as a result I have been running into people I know. I have been surprised by the number of people who, upon seeing that I look like I feel good, ask if I am “in remission.” And maybe that is an obvious thing to ask someone who has had cancer and is now better. I have found myself telling those people that I am not in remission exactly, but that I am instead currently cancer free.

The definition of remission is the temporary or permanent disappearance of disease. Complete remission means that there are no signs of the disease present in the body. Partial remission means that although there are some signs or symptoms of the disease, there has been a decrease in cancer cells. Often people think that if someone is in complete remission, they are cured and safe. However, while complete remission can signify that the cancer has been cured, there is always the possibility that it might come back. Based on those definitions, I suppose I would probably be officially labeled as someone whose cancer is in remission.

To me, though, the word remission makes it sound like the cancer is still there somewhere, lurking just behind the scenes and waiting to make a reappearance. I am sure that is why I automatically tell people that I am not in remission, but that I am cancer free. While that may not be technically correct, I am sticking with it because I prefer to think that, after everything that I have been through, there is no cancer left in my body.

November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving

I have so much to be thankful for this year.

I am lucky, you know. I am here and cancer free and well on my way to good health.

I have incredible people in my life and days full of love and happiness and a table full of good food in a warm house.

I am thankful for all of you...for your cards and letters and e-mails and phone calls and visits (and votes!) and support. My gratitude to all of you for helping me through the last 8 months transcends one single day of giving thanks, however. I have carried that gratitude through all the days since April and will carry it with me every day for the rest of my life.

Thank you.

Happy Thanksgiving from me and my family to you and yours.

November 19, 2007

Acing the Test

I have another thing to add to the very long list of things I am thankful for this season.

This morning I spoke with the doctor who did my genetic testing and found out that my test results came back as “no mutation identified.” In layperson’s terms, that’s a negative.

My breast cancer could have been caused by a gene. This result does not mean that it was not genetic. But it does mean that it was not caused by a gene that scientists can identify and test for as of today. That’s the best result I could have received.

For me, that means that the odds of me getting breast cancer again are lower than they would be if I carried the BRCA 1 or 2 genes. It means that for now I get to keep my breasts. It means that I really can close the book on this chapter and begin the work of moving on.

And I think I’m even happier about what it means for Karly. And my sister. And my cousins. And my mom. And my potential grandchildren.

November 16, 2007

What Happens In Vegas, Happens at the Planet Hollywood

Or at least that’s what the marketing department of the Planet Hollywood Hotel and Casino want you to think.

Based on our recent stay there, I don’t agree.

We made reservations to stay at the Planet Hollywood during this trip because the location was excellent and we got a great price on the room. PH took over the old Aladdin Hotel and Casino earlier this year and we heard that they had remodeled and that it was pretty nice, so the grand opening room discount they offered sounded like a good deal. We were disappointed.

The casino has been remodeled with new seats and carpeting and lights. All the old Arabian onion domes and jewels have been removed and replaced with dark wood and wall paper and retro-looking column lights. The color scheme is beige and brown with accents of red and black and is carried out with a lot of geometric shapes and strands of lighted crystals. I think the feel is supposed to be understated retro Hollywood glamour, but personally I think it ends up being a bit more plain and boring retro Hollywood camp.

To me, Las Vegas is all about excess and glitz. From the awesome glass sculptures and the dancing fountains at the Bellagio to the giant Egyptian statues and pyramid at the Luxor and the Roman columns and fountains at Caesar’s Palace, Vegas often feels like Disney World for adults. Each casino is more over-the-top than the next, and you never have to guess at the theme of any given hotel. Based on what we saw this past week, I think Planet Hollywood lost sight of that somewhere along the way. And maybe they meant to get away from all of the cheesy Vegas excess. But they replaced it with dark and depressing, which isn’t very attractive or fun.

Our room was in the back of the hotel, with an ugly view of the theater roof below. That would have been bearable if the room was nice, but it was far from nice. We were on a floor that hadn’t yet been remodeled so the light fixtures still looked like genie’s lamps and the bedspreads were covered with pictures of jewels and silk cords. The carpet in our room was old and worn and dingy and the bathrooms, while clean, needed a good up-dating and some maintenance (and brighter lights!). The hotel staff wasn’t friendly, happy or attentive, although every single maid we encountered in the hallway was friendly and greeted us with warm hello.

We went to the pool the first day we were there and to get there we had to go to a different floor which was redecorated. However, I found the new décor to be worse than the cheesy old Arabian Nights-themed décor. The ceilings were painted a deep, dark gray and the walls were papered in a psychedelic dark gray and red circle print. The carpet in the hallway was dark gray with blood red interlocking circles throughout and the whole effect was dark and drab and made me think of a haunted house or a scene from The Shining. Once we arrived at the pool entrance, however, we were right back in the Middle East with colored tiles and stucco walls.

We decided that we had all the grumpy staff and dark colors we could stand and thought that we would try to find somewhere else to stay for our second night in Las Vegas. I got online and found a room at the Paris for Thursday night for nearly the same price as the one at Planet Hollywood. When I called the PH front desk to tell them we were checking out early, the guy I spoke with told me that we couldn’t check out early. After I argued with him for a few minutes about whether or not I could leave early, he transferred me to a supervisor who told me that we could check out early but that if we did we wouldn’t get the room discount we were initially offered since it required a minimum two-night stay. The discount was $20.00…I decided that $20.00 was well worth it to get out of the depressing atmosphere. Interestingly, the supervisor didn’t ask me why we were leaving or even thank me for staying there. I am beginning to wonder if condescending, reluctant customer service might not be part of their new theme.

So on Thursday morning we packed up our suitcases and dragged them down Las Vegas Boulevard to the Paris Las Vegas Hotel and Casino next door. The woman who checked us in gave us a room on one of the top floors overlooking the Bellagio fountains, with a view of the Eiffel Tower right outside the window. The staff was friendly, the room was updated and clean, and all in all it was a much better experience than our stay at the PH.

I know the Las Vegas shine and showiness isn’t for everyone, but I wouldn’t recommend the Planet Hollywood to anyone based on our experience. Unless, of course, you like your hotels to be brooding and serious and full of cheerless staff. In that case, it may just be your kind of place.

November 15, 2007

I Am Done

Today marks exactly two weeks from my last chemo treatment. Today would have been a treatment day, but I didn’t have to go back to the green vinyl chair. I didn’t have to get hooked up to an IV and watch the poison slowly drip into my veins. I won’t have to deal with pain and nausea this weekend or a slow recovery next week. There will be no more hair loss or mouth sores or constipation or inability to taste or painkillers or steroids or exhaustion.

It has taken all this time, but I think it is finally starting to sink in that I am done with chemo.

November 14, 2007

Recovery Update

I keep getting a lot of questions about how I’m feeling and I realize that I haven’t talked much about that recently, so I thought I’d better post an update.

I am feeling good…much like myself most of the time (except for a few lingering side-effects such as neuropathy and a lack of hair, among others). I get tired very easily, however, and I have to remember that I am not actually back to “full strength” quite yet. It’s easy to forget that sometimes because I feel better and better each day, so I end up overdoing it if I’m not careful. My hair is growing, although I think calling it “hair” at this point might be stretching it. What hair I have is still very fine and light blond and only about 1/8 of an inch long. It’s still pretty sparse up there…you wouldn’t be able to see it unless you looked very carefully. But there’s more of it everyday and it is getting longer.

I had a doctor’s appointment on Monday for a CBC and all my counts were very low. They didn’t give me Neulasta after my last treatment because they didn’t need my counts to recover before another treatment, so I was on my own. Since the counts were so low on Monday, the doctor ordered a shot of Aranesp which helps to bring the platelet counts back up. That particular shot really hurts going in, so I wasn’t thrilled about it. I have to go back for another blood test next week and then I have a follow-up appointment with my oncologist the week after that.

I went to a yoga class today for the first time since my short-lived attempts at exercise when I first started chemo. I was a bit frustrated because I couldn’t hold the poses very long and I don’t have much strength in my arms or legs. The teacher was very kind, though, and told me afterward that she had modified the whole class just for me. Even without a full range of motion or much strength, it felt really great to move and was very relaxing.

This is all far from over, of course, but I feel like the world is slowly beginning to return to its normal orbit and I feel hopeful that things will soon all fall back into place.

November 11, 2007

Las Vegas Recap

Las Vegas was sunny and warm and as relaxing as we could make it. We spent a lot of time eating and sitting by the pool and a little time walking around. We had a couple of excellent meals, saw (a Cirque de Soleil show) and stayed in two different hotels (that story to follow in another post). Neither Randy nor I are gamblers, so the extent of our gambling consisted of the $15.00 I lost within 3 minutes while sitting at a slot machine in the MGM casino waiting for Randy to pick up our show tickets. My legs held out for the limited walking around that we did, although my feet suffered a bit from the cute shoes I wore to the show and to the scholarship award ceremony.

Before we left, I threw my brunette wig in the suitcase thinking that I might want to wear it instead of a scarf if I dressed up for dinner. And indeed, when I got dressed on Wednesday night I decided that the scarves I had just didn’t work with the outfit I was wearing so I put the wig on. It was great to have hair for an evening, even if the wig itself drove me crazy all night. I spent a lot of the time worried about it slipping backward or forward and was so relieved when I was finally able to take it off that night. It was a strange experience to wear it since I have hardly worn a wig at all since I lost my hair. Apparently I have gotten used to people looking at me because I definitely noticed that they weren’t looking at me that night.

Every time I see this I think it’s a picture of Randy and my sister, Molly.
Randy and the Brunette.JPG
Randy and some chick he picked up in Vegas.

The award ceremony (or what I thought was going to be an award ceremony) was held at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on Thursday night. I was told to be there at 7:30 p.m. and that my award would probably be presented around 9:00 p.m. that evening. Not knowing exactly what to expect, I dressed in one of my favorite lawyer uniforms complete with pearls, pumps and pantyhose.

Randy and I arrived at the Hard Rock early, so we snuck into Nobu for some champagne and sushi (which was amazing) and then sauntered over to the designated room around 7:00 p.m. or so. As soon as we got there I recognized Daniel Kovach, the man who runs CollegeScholarships.org, and introduced myself to him. We talked with him for a few minutes and got the run-down about what was going on during the evening.
With Daniel Kovach.JPG
With Daniel Kovach.

At one point I noticed two people walking by with t-shirts on that said “wifeadvice.com” and I realized that one of them was probably one of the other scholarship contestants. I ran after them and once I caught up with them breathlessly asked if he was Chris Clark and sure enough, he was. I spent a few minutes talking with him and his wife, Nancy. They are both smart and friendly and I really enjoyed meeting them. We rehashed the contest and talked a bit about the expo and blogs and then went our separate ways.
With Chris and Nancy from Wife Advice.JPG
With Chris and Nancy from wifeadvice.com.

The “event” of the evening was a Blog World Expo party for expo attendees. There was music and food and drinks, but since Randy and I were not expo attendees we were not allowed to go in until it was time for our award. I didn’t know any of this until we got there and I also didn’t know that the party was billed as the world’s largest pajama party. The pajama party idea was meant to be a shot at criticism leveled against professional bloggers a few years ago. Someone implied that compared to journalists from 60 Minutes who work with many levels of checks and balances over their writing, blogger journalists are just a bunch of people sitting around in their living rooms in their pajamas. We saw a lot of people dressed in pajamas, robes, and slippers, and my suit and heels suddenly began to seem pretty formal and out of place.

The pajama party was held in “The Joint”, a small venue in the Hard Rock with a bar on one side of the room and a stage on the other. It was rather dark and filled with pulsing blue and purple light and music, as well as lots of people mingling amid tall bar tables and stools and tables of food, including a chocolate fountain.

Because we were not required to be in the event room for another hour or so, Daniel, Randy and I sat at one of the casino bars and talked. I admit to being very curious about Daniel and the way the whole scholarship program worked, so I was happy to have an opportunity to talk with him and to get to know him a little bit. Daniel Kovach is energetic and dynamic and quite an interesting guy. He definitely knows the ins and outs of internet marketing and traffic generation, and I was impressed with how much he has accomplished for such a young guy. We spent an entertaining hour getting to know one another and then it was 8:30 p.m., which was when we were supposed to go into the event room to get ready for the awards presentations.

At about 8:45 p.m., Randy and I left Daniel sitting at the bar and headed to “The Joint”. I told the people guarding the door that I was the blogging scholarship award recipient, and suddenly the pace of the evening picked up. Someone slapped wristbands on my and Randy’s wrists, someone else told us that I needed to be up on the stage right now and yet another person led us quickly through the rather dense crowd right to the base of the stage. There I spoke with the expo organizer, Rick Calvert, who wanted to know where Daniel was. There was a gentleman at the podium on stage finishing up the presentation of various weblog awards and Rick wanted Daniel to present the scholarship award as soon as he finished. Randy offered to run back to the bar to find Daniel, I sent him a text message and Rick asked the presenter to stall for a moment. It was all a bit chaotic and we were ultimately unable to connect with Daniel until he came into the room a few minutes later just before 9:00 p.m. By then the opportunity to make a formal presentation on stage had passed.

I had prepared a short thank you speech just in case I needed it and had some notes written out on a piece of Planet Hollywood hotel stationery which I was holding in my hand in anticipation of the award presentation. Although I didn’t end up giving the speech on stage, I did end up giving an impromptu version of it. Once he realized that there wasn’t going to be a formal presentation, Daniel pulled the giant check he had ordered for the occasion out of its box. And suddenly I felt like I was on the red carpet at the Oscars.

As Daniel and I stood side by side holding the check, cameras descended on us from all sides, a crowd formed around us, and before I knew it there was a video camera with a bright light in front of us and a microphone in front of me. The guy with the microphone asked Daniel about the award and Daniel turned it over to me. I think I gave some form of my speech, but I have absolutely no idea what I actually said. I do remember the camera guy and the guy with the microphone frantically pointing at the camera lens to try to get me to look into it while answering their questions instead of looking at the guy holding the microphone while I was talking. When I looked at the pictures later I realized that I somehow managed to free one hand to gesture while I talked despite holding my unopened speech notes AND a giant check.
The interview.

The Big Check.JPG

All of this took place in a whirlwind between 8:45 and 9:15 p.m. and then it was over. My feet were killing me and we were ready to get out of there, so Randy and I said our thank yous and goodbyes and left. We dragged that giant check all the way home and now it’s sitting in our family room waiting to end up in its new home in the basement crawl space.

Even though the reason I went to Las Vegas never actually happened, it was a good trip. It was nice to get away and to relax in the warmth and sunshine for a couple of days after all the activity and difficult days of the last few months. And now I am home and ready to start the serious business of feeling better and getting my life back to normal.

November 05, 2007

Crazy Sexy Cancer...Crazy Sexy Motherhood

I heard about Kris Carr’s book and documentary about her battle with a rare, incurable cancer (epithelioid hemangioendothelioma--yeah, I don't know how to pronounce it, either) a couple of months ago. I mentioned her in this post, and have since read her book, seen her movie, and last week I watched her on Oprah. Her story is amazing and fascinating, and she is truly inspirational in many ways. She was diagnosed at a very young age and has spent the last four years fighting for her life. She has explored medical procedures, diets, spirituality, and new age healing in her quest to live. Her message is positive and attractive—take control of cancer, don’t let it control you.

Because she was so young when she was diagnosed, she has had to deal with things that many older cancer patients don’t have to deal with, such as questions about whether she will ever get married or have children. One thing I have learned about dealing with a serious illness is how significant a patient’s age is in how they deal with the diagnosis. Each stage of our lives brings a completely different perspective to such a diagnosis.

I enjoyed Carr’s book and documentary and I think that there is a lot that cancer patients—and indeed, anyone—can get out of her work. Her message is universal in many ways and can be applied to many different situations. I would recommend this book to anyone who is facing a cancer diagnosis or some other serious illness or who knows someone who is. I want to stress that there is a lot I like about Carr, her book, and her website and that I have gotten a lot of great information from her work. The entire time I read the book and watched the documentary, however, I felt like it was directed at someone other than me. Her experience is informed and shaped by her youth in a way that makes it dramatically different from mine in many ways.

One of the first things Carr talks about in her documentary is selling her New York apartment and moving in with her parents. Her parents accompany her to most of her appointments and her mom acts as her “cancer secretary.” In her book, she explains that her parents wanted her close and she wanted to be close to them. She tells the reader that the only time she was alone was after they tucked her into bed at night. As soon as I read this, I knew that Carr and I were in different worlds. There is no possible way that I could or would have moved in with my parents after my diagnosis…nor would they have wanted me to! They live close and have been a constant presence in my life before and since my diagnosis, but I have my own life and they have theirs. For someone like me, there is no going home to mom and dad’s house when the going gets rough.

Another luxury that Carr had as a young, single woman was her ability to make her diagnosis and treatment a full-time job. Keep in mind that she has a very rare, incurable kind of cancer and there are not many doctors who are even familiar with it, let alone who have treated other patients with the same thing. So for her it’s a quest for information and expertise as much as anything else. For someone with a “common” cancer, like me, it’s easy to find doctors who are familiar with breast cancer and my cancer is definitely treatable. Even so, I agree that those initial weeks and months after such a diagnosis are months of research and learning—kind of a crash course in medicine. But as a wife/law student/mother of three kids, I didn’t have the time or the opportunity to make my cancer quest a full-time job. Neither, I suspect, do most people who are diagnosed unless they are in Carr’s position—young, single, and with little responsibility for anyone other than themselves.

This difference is highlighted again in Carr’s next step, which is to travel the country seeking out potential cures and treatments. While I would love to have the opportunity and time to do that, there are some logistical problems to such a plan such as my house, husband, and again, those three darn kids of mine. I don’t think any of them would be too excited about the prospect of me travelling around looking for a way to prevent a recurrence while they all just went about their lives. (And besides, who would keep the family calendar up-to-date and running smoothly if I was galavanting around the country on a Cancer Cure Tour?)

Along those same lines, in her book Carr recommends a "cancercation"...a trip somewhere to recuperate and revitalize. Carr’s cancercation consisted of not only her trip across the country, but a stay in a Zen monastery. In what universe can a mom (or dad, for that matter!) of young kids pack her bags and head off to a monastery as an escape from the everyday grind of having cancer? Or even to a long spa weekend or “an afternoon lying on a soft blanket in a pretty park?” I could barely find time to do anything like that B.C. (Before Cancer), but once I found the lump my “free time” became filled up with the full-time cancer job. Between the surgeries and radiation and reading and phone calls and chemo and doctors visits I’ve hardly had time for grocery shopping and taking the dogs out, let alone embarking on a relaxing spa vacation. It’s a wonderful thought and I know all about the whole “you need to take time for yourself” thing, but as any fellow parent knows that kind of time is hard to come by when you have kids whether you have cancer or not.

One of the things Carr discovers in her effort to deal with her diagnosis is the importance of nutrition, and she embarks on a radical change in her diet. While I agree with the importance of nutrition and have embarked on my own pretty radical diet overhaul (and I have lots to share with you in the future about what I've learned), I also have a family to feed. I am lucky that they are on board (for the most part) with the idea of more healthful eating, but there is no way that any of the four of them would agree to live on mostly vegetables and lots of fiber with me. In her movie, Carr talks about the number of hours a week she spent preparing her healthy food when she first began to focus on her diet—and that was just for herself. I would love to find that kind of time to work on meal prep, but I can’t spend my time in the kitchen creating abundant and perfectly-balanced vegetarian meals for myself unless I want the rest of my family to starve.

I don’t want to take anything away from Carr’s message, because I really love her attitude toward cancer and toward the hand she’s been dealt. She never seemed to think about just lying down and giving up—she’s a fighter, and I admire that. I also think there is a lot that anyone can get out of her book. And I certainly don’t expect one single book or philosophy about cancer to address every individual cancer situation. I think what I’m railing against here is the idea that people like me are very much an underrepresented class (this is beginning to sound like a Con Law lecture) in the cancer world. I am young, but I’m not that young. But I’m not old. I have young children and am still enjoying my youth. I have an established marriage and family and perennial garden, but I’m nowhere near retirement (or menopause!) age. In her book, Carr talks about the same thing. She says that she was frustrated with the lack of information about the unique problems facing young women with cancer. She writes:

Everything was geared toward either kids, or people much older than me, and most of it was either really sappy or really depressing. I hadn’t raised children, gotten to the end of my career, entered a second marriage, or buried my parents yet.

But here’s the thing…I haven’t done those things, either! And yet I am in a very different place in my life than she is, and have issues that she can’t possibly imagine.

Carr highlights other women who have cancer in her book, and there is at least one other 40-something woman whose experience is highlighted. However, there is no mention of this woman’s children, if she has any. Carr also shares the experience of two young women who are mothers…but their children are very young. One had her first baby after she had cancer and the other one was pregnant when she was first diagnosed.

Heather recently wrote about being a parent with cancer with children at home and about how difficult it is to find support for people like us. Fighting cancer is a very intense, personal, all-consuming fight. Parenting while fighting cancer brings up issues that are just not addressed frequently or thoroughly in most what-to-expect-when-you-have-cancer books or other resources.

As mothers, we pour so much of ourselves and our energy into our kids. We wash their underwear and toilets, we make sure they have warm coats and bedtime stories, we drive them to and from school and activities, and we cheer them on from the sidelines and the audience. We will them, with everything ounce of our being, to be safe and healthy and we hurt when they hurt and we are thrilled and happy when they are thrilled and happy. In so many ways, the needs of our kids take preference over our own, especially when they are young. In fact, there is advice everywhere you turn about how moms need to take more time for themselves. Then cancer comes along and suddenly we don’t have a choice anymore. We have to take more time for ourselves, but instead of going to a spa or the gym or book club, we are going to chemo and radiation and doctors’ offices. Our energy is turned toward getting back on our feet after chemo treatments and on fighting against this disease so that we can be around to watch our kids go to prom and graduate and go to college and get married. The trick is in finding a way to balance our intense new personal needs with theirs. There is plenty of discussion about balancing motherhood with a career these days, but where is the discussion about balancing motherhood with cancer? How exactly do we do that?

November 04, 2007

Catching A Break

It seems that the universe decided to give me a break this weekend, although I’m almost afraid to write that in case I jinx it. I seemed to have skipped right over Excruciating Pain this weekend and gone straight to Minor Aches and General Bad-Feeling. But general bad-feeling is so much better than pain. (The fact that the previous sentence makes sense is a good indication of what I’ve been through. It’s all relative.) Instead of feeling sorry for myself and willing the pain to go away, I spent a lot of time yesterday and today thinking about all the things on my list of things to do as soon as I feel better. That is a big change from previous weekends when I just thought about getting through the week and to the next treatment.

Next up: Vegas, baby!

November 02, 2007

Lessons in Pharmacology

The contents of my medicine cabinet before cancer:

A sampling of the contents of my medicine cabinet, linen closet and cupboards today:
Cancer Meds.JPG

I'll be having a big "flush the drugs down the toilet" celebration as soon as possible!

November 01, 2007

The End

…of the chemo chapter, anyway. It’s not really the very end. I still have lots of doctor’s appointments in the future…check-ups and port flushes and blood tests, etc. But today was the last time that I will ever have to get hooked up to an IV to receive chemotherapy drugs. Hopefully for the rest of my very, very long life. I don’t feel as excited as I thought I might, but I do feel hopeful. I am hopeful that everything I have been through since April has been worth it, hopeful that all the cancer is gone from my body, hopeful that, barring any buses coming out of nowhere, I will make it to my 100th birthday. (And it's not the end of my blogging...I'm just getting started!)

Today’s appointment was great…the doctors and nurses and other patients were all excited about my scholarship win and told me all about how they told their relatives and friends to vote for me, and everyone was excited that this was my last chemo appointment. I was able to talk to my friend Jane the teacher for a long time, which was wonderful. (Both Janes were there today, but one left just after I arrived so we didn’t get to talk very much.) I made chocolate cake for the staff, which was a big hit, and the nurses jumped in and helped me with the vial of blood for the genetic test—one of them even offered to call FedEx for a pick-up of the package! Those nurses are so wonderful…I will miss seeing them each week as much as I won’t miss the chemo.

Now that chemo is OVER, I feel like I can look forward. Up until recently, I hadn’t been looking much past today. Not because I thought I wasn’t going to make it to today, but because everything that has happened in the last seven months has been very intense and all-consuming and has left me little time for contemplation of anything else. It’s been as if I was in some kind of strange cancer time-warp. It feels like it’s been two years of dealing cancer, and the time before my diagnosis seems like it happened years and years ago.

Most of my classmates have spent the fall lining up summer (or permanent) employment. I’ve hardly thought about next summer and what I’m going to do. I should be sending out resumes and trying to line something up right now, but the thought of going on an interview with no hair or eyelashes or eyebrows is terrifying to me. I would have to decide if I was going to explain the bald head or just let it be an elephant in the room. And we’re talking about a pretty conservative industry here, so I’m certain that the way I look would have an impact on any hiring decisions. I would have to explain that by the time May rolls around I will look and feel “normal.” Would I pull out an old picture of myself to show a potential employer how I look when I don’t look like a cancer patient? Would they have questions about my ability to perform? I’m not quite sure what to do about this.

I also feel like I can look forward to bringing some normalcy back to our house. Without treatments and blood tests and recovery days we can all have a more active social schedule. I can start planning for the holidays and preparing for finals. Once I feel better, I can start exercising and really working on the diet changes I’ve been starting to make. And I can start watching my hair come back, which will be really wonderful.

I know it’s going to be a long road back and that I’m not totally out of the woods yet, but I hope the worst of it is over. Now if I can just get through the weekend….