The last several weeks have been all about the anticipation of an end. An end to the chemo. An end to what we think of as the miserable part of the treatment of this disease. I mean, the whole thing is pretty miserable, but this part is literally poison. This part has been so hard on my kids. They feel it every day. They have begun to understand this pattern in our lives, the way the week begins with a pretty good Monday, then the infusion hits on Tuesday. Wednesday I have steroid energy (but also steroid crankiness) and then the rest of the week is a slow, agonizing climb back up to an almost normal mom on Monday again. My six year old daughter is terrible at knowing what day of the week it is and what day we have plans on, but she knows when it’s Tuesday and what that means in our house these last months. So, this countdown to next week’s final chemo treatment has been on the forefront of our minds. It comes up a lot. A lot a lot.
I’ve been seriously looking forward to the end of chemo. I’ve been beyond looking forward to building my poor body back up. Man, am I jiggly and soft. I try to go for walks when I can now, but it’s so damn difficult and exhausting. If I walk too long I blow my energy for the rest of the day. It’s like I have this finite amount every day and when it’s gone it is just gone. I wish I had a battery indicator light so I could know when I’m pushing it and could know to stop. That would be super helpful. I’ve been thinking about the joy of getting to Tuesday, November the 28th and not going to chemo. Tuesday mornings I feel decent, and I’m downright excited to have a Tuesday that doesn’t get ruined half way through with poison. I think I’ll go to the beach that day and fill myself with salt air instead.
I’m looking forward to having the energy to walk every day and work my way back up to doing yoga. I’m looking forward to going back to physical therapy for this damn arm that got ruined by the surgery. I’m looking forward to having the energy to do all the chopping and cooking that goes into a healthy plant based diet. I’m looking forward to not having to tell my kids that I can’t do whatever or I’m too tired for this or that. I’m just looking forward.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks. It felt like when you’re a kid growing up poor in the 70’s and it’s three weeks until Christmas, and you know your mom has been scrimping together money all year to make it beautiful and you know you’re going to get what you want from Santa, because even though you often don’t have enough food in the fridge you always know you can count on Christmas. Like that.
Then a few days ago I had a long phone consult with my naturopathic oncologist. He’s putting together two protocols for me. Well, actually, he already did, I just haven’t read them yet. One is for helping me clean up my body post chemo. One is for going forward in life and remaining cancer free in the future. (according to some charts I have about a 30% chance of recurrence, according to others as high as 50%). When I hung up from that call I wept. To be honest, I just barely kept it together through the call at all.
Because part of this is over, though there are still more surgeries to come, and part of it will never really end. I’ve had to make changes (that really, I should have made anyway, that make sense for all humans in this world) and I can’t go back to living the way I did before. I want to get back to normal. My family wants to get back to normal. Then there is this realization that there has to be a whole new normal. I can’t live my life in fear, but neither can I live my life in denial. That’s a hard reality to face when you’ve invested some serious time and thought in the idea that this is all about to be over.
Next week is my last taxol infusion. They have a big bell that you ring when you are done. There’s no school next week, so the whole family will be with me. My kids are pretty excited to ring that damn bell. Hopefully they don’t break it. That would be just like us, to over do it and crack the thing. Hopefully it feels like this is over for them, that the new normal just bleeds into their old normal and things get easier for them, lighter. This week has been all kinds of heavy, and maybe next week it doesn’t magically all go away, but at least I could (as my son would say) level up.
Thank you, cancer, I get it now. You can go away for good.