Every story has a beginning, middle, and end. There is a plot culminating into a climax … followed by an anti-climax to the end … and then the epilogue. Today – as I completed 16 chemo infusions in 5 months (23 weeks), interrupted by 5 trips to Emergency and 2 hospital stays totalling 10 days (in isolation) – I felt like this was the climax. Today I got to ring the bell to announce my completion! The beast in my breast is no longer beating. I won. I won with surgery and chemo, grit, grace and a wicked sense of humour.
2 hospital stays in isolation.
3 dependents for this single Mom.
4 nodes removed.
5 trips to Emergency.
6 friends on my A-Team.
7 wigs. Wait … not it’s 8!
And 16 chemo treatments over 5 months DONE!
Next up … 21 days of radiation.
I look back to the beginning of the year when an unknown murderer was lurking in my shadow. It caught up with me and we wrestled for control. Some days it won. Some days I won. Karen*, my first and favourite nurse, wouldn’t allow me to call the AC chemo “the Red Devil”. It was more like a Superhero dressed in red, courageously battling the mutant cells within. I nodded and followed her positive train of thought … wondering at the miracle that chemo really is. It takes you to the brink of cellular death, then you reboot and are reborn … repeatedly. When someone in my Triple Negative Breast Cancer survivor group comments on the Red Devil I recall Karen’s words and bring them forward. It’s an ally … not the enemy.
After 4 rounds of AC and 12 rounds of Taxol, I am finally finished my chemotherapy treatment. I will take a month to allow my body to recover from the brutalities of chemo, then begin radiation for 21 days to tie up lose ends and zap stray cells. It feels almost anticlimactic.
Then, after a long pause and recovery, I will have reconstruction done on my right breast to make it the same size and shape as the left. They will both get a lift in the process.
As these doors to the Chemo Lounge close for me, others quickly open. No time to stop and take a long, deep breath. My son Matthew starts college next week so we are busy catching up on finances, new credit cards for him, schedules, supplies and laptops, bus routes and lunches. My priority as a single Mom has to shift back to him for a short time.
I am a sentimental fool and it’s the little things than make me cry … like this video I shot of the Chemo Lounge doors closing. I wanted it to be a segment in my One Second Everyday video for August. It felt like the final curtain call. Bittersweet.
While under the watchful care of my oncologist Dr. F, the oncology nurses and that Red Devil, my cancer had very little chance of coming back. What now? Life after Cancer Care will be another blog post for another day.
Finally … my story will roll to the end. There will be a celebration on Friday, November 3rd, 2017 so I can thank everyone who has cheered me on, held my hair, shook my hand, fed me, cried with me, drove me to appointments, picked me up off the floor, or dared to step inside the circle to muzzle me when my ‘roid rage frothed out angry words.
I hope my epilogue is happy. I hope I get to tell you what a wonderful life it is after cancer treatment … as I readjust my sails and priorities again. I hope my eyebrows and eyelashes come in fast and furious. I want to say that one year from now my hair magically grew back in long, straight honey brown with blonde highlights and I met the man of my dreams. That will be quite a wish come true since I am a short, curly dark chocolate brunette! Time will tell. Five years out, I pray that I am still a survivor.
And I hope there will be guest books and chapters. My farewell gift to the Chemo Lounge was their own notebook for Messages and Memories from the Chemo Lounge.
August 30, 2017
There is a book of message and memories like this in RADIATION. I had the pleasure of reading it while waiting to be admitted to the Oncology Unit on the 6th Floor.
I wanted to add this book to what I have affectionately named the “CHEMO LOUNGE” … that’s better than Systemic Therapy, right?! Many of us begin our journey with chemotherapy. and it’s nice to know the brave souls who walked through those double doors before us to sit in “the chair”.
Today is my last chemo treatment and I ring the bell. This journey hasn’t been all bad. I’ve found so much goodness along the way. I am thankful to be Canadian.
And grateful for the nurses and doctors who guided the way.
May your journey be as wonderful – good memories in the most unexpected places.
Best wishes to all!
What’s next for me? 22 days of nothing. Funny how that Number 22 keeps reappeaing. I will be good to myself, paint, heal, fast to reboot my immune system, and rescue dogs. I may start a new role as a Patient Experience Advisor with the DRCC.
For today … I am just celebrating reaching the top of the cancer hill. I can see the light on the other side and it’s beautiful. I only have only a few chapter’s left to go.
I’m so glad you could join me as I rang the bell with family and close friends, the nurses, volunteers and patients of the DRCC. I hope they have fond memories of me and say “Remember that crazy patient who came in dressed in red hair and fishnet stockings? And named all her wigs … Heather, Storm, Sophie … Man she was fun!” I cried tears of happiness, tears of fear, tears of sadness. Tears of triumph. But I rang the hell out of that bell.
And yes … I am still a rebel. My PICC line was pulled out immediately after my final chemo and saline flush. I was supposed to leave the new bandaging on for 24-48 hours … but it lasted for two. I put on a simple and subtle bandage. That arm – and the vein to my heart – have contained the PICC line for 5 months. I had to put a shower cap on that arm … but not tonight! Tonight I have the simple pleasure of showering all of me. That arm will get a gentle scrub. It’s the simple things that make us sigh with happiness.
I’m humbled that I got this far. Yes … I still have far to go. But I feel like I just qualified for preliminary games of the Kick Cancer’s Ass-olympics! My spirit animals will smile and watch over me. Thanks Terri! XO
*Name(s) changed to protect the innocent!
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