Update from the mountain

Last year this time, I was in the midst of chemo.

Last year this time, I was still sore from surgery.

Last year this time, I was still ‘looking forward’ to radiation. TakeBreaks

Well, it’s not last year this time. The time is now, and I’m declaring myself healthy and (in the charming cancer vernacular) ‘NED’, no evidence of disease.

So….I’m off the cancer merry-go-round, folks, and unless I have something to report, I’m so outta here!

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Penultimate Taxol

Tuesday was my 11th cycle of Taxol, which means I only have one more to go.

Am I excited? Well, I expected to be, but quite frankly, all I feel is relief.How_much_is_enough_logo

The "taxol 11 look". Thank god for sunglasses!

The “taxol 11 look”. Thank god for sunglasses!

A ‘cancer buddy’ and I were discussing this today. She only has one more cycle of Abraxane (another drug in the taxane drug family), and has had terrible, terrible side effects all the way through her chemo. And I mean all the way – she has been hospitalised, has developed a heart problem, has had dangerously low white blood cells throughout, and may have permanent eye damage. She is going through all this as a single mother, and is also in the middle of a divorce. It makes me humble.

We are both feeling the same about now – the closer we get to the end of chemo, the harder it is to make yourself finish.

What if I miss the last one, how bad can that be?

We just want to be done with it – right now! Well, of course we aren’t daft, we will finish the course. But still.

I haven’t had totally terrible side effects most of the time, and, in fact, I am continually told how lucky I’ve been throughout treatment. Yeah, I feel pretty lucky about now.

She also had something great to say about the ol’ pink ribbon thing.

What moron I, wonder, chose pink for breast cancer? It’s certainly not girlie and fluffy and sugar and spice. Pink ribbon? Rubbish – some sort of tough Lara Croft theme, I think, would have been better!

You go, girl!

Learning curve

You learn an awful lot about yourself and others when you have cancer – some good, some bad, but mostly somewhere in-between.

About yourself, you learn how you handle adversity. Sure, most of us ‘of a certain age’ have had to face adversity before, but it’s the usual devastating rounds of death, accidents, and other tragedies. It doesn’t usually involve having to face the possibility of one’s own (possibly imminent) death.

So that’s one fun thing for you.

You learn how little really, really does matter in life. Not the things one accumulates, for sure. Not where you live, what you do, how you look. Not if you have hair, or don’t. Not if you have two breasts, or don’t.

You learn things about others, too, some of which might surprise you. Who can still look you in the eye, and touch you, even when they find out you are have this horrible disease. Which person doesn’t mind you sharing your fears, and which would rather pretend it doesn’t exist. (I understand both those feelings, but obviously it’s easier for me when I can talk to people about my cancer, and even laugh about it – but please don’t feel bad about yourself if you find yourself in latter category.

I have found that the little things people do for me can make me cry (but so many things do on a bad day!). How the most surprising people will offer a hand, and some you think will …. don’t.

A neighbour offers a hand dog-sitting on those long chemo days. A lady I’ve only met once sends me TV shows to while away my ‘chemo fug’ days. Another friend makes me some baldy head coverings, to keep my head warm. I’m offered homemade ginger biscuits to tempt my appetite, and an offer to do my ironing or clean my house – if only she knew how seldom I do either of those things! 🙂

It reminds me that at the start of this journey, I was told that cancer changes you in many ways. Even though I’m only part-way through this, I can see that that is right – and that the change can be very enlightening.

My normal week – almost over!

I think I have said before that my 3 week chemo cycle follows a definite course each time:

  • week 1 post chemo – not terrific, don’t feel well, very tired, rather zombie like
  • week 2 post chemo – a bit manic, as the relief at feeling better sets in. Immunity is compromised, so play ‘hermit on the mountain’
  • week 3 post chemo – the ‘normal me’ returns! Although I tire more easily, I can eat anything now, and want to get outside and work. Can even go to lunch, or see friends if they are healthy – heaven!

So this is my ‘normal me’ week, and it has been lovely. The weather has been cold, but nice, so we have been down to the forest to cut firewood. Although I need frequent rests, it’s lovely – I like it, Kenton likes it, and the dogs adore it! me

I’ve felt like cooking again, too, so have made a nice, spicy dinner of enchiladas. This is fantastic, because my normal love of spicy food has deserted me for the past 2 weeks.

Kenton is also happy, because I’m the ‘me’ he knows and loves again. The sparkle is back in my eyes, the shadows under my eyes disappear, and I don’t need naps anymore.

All too soon, I’ll be back in that blasted infusion room, however, starting the cycle all over again. Sigh.

Emotions

Doncha just love ’em? Here I am, 4 days post chemo cycle 1, and generally not feeling too bad. OK, I’m a bit queasy and dizzy, and have a killer headache, but I am grateful that it is not worse!

I was talking to a friend today, and mentioned that I was feeling a bit teary today, for no real reason. I expected to feel this way during my infusion…and didn’t. So hey, I’m thinking, I’m such a big, brave lady that I can take all this in my stride!

Well, right. I guess not. Today, I’m feeling sorry for myself. A good friend in the village brings me homemade ginger snaps, to settle my stomach. She doesn’t want to hug me in case I catch a ‘bug’ from her. I well up.

Hearing that I’m feeling a bit sad, my friend shows me funny hats online with fake hair. I laugh, then well up.

Thoughts run through your head, like

will I ever feel like me again?

I ask my friend that, as she has come through cancer herself. She said she still wonders that! She also said that after a big thing in your life like this, you can’t help but change – and you should embrace that, not expect to be exactly the same person you were.

Wise words, my cancer guru! I’ll try to do just that.