Two full weeks out from my final radiation treatment, I feel well. Still kind of tired at times. Lately I am in bed between 9 and 10 pm, where I have a standing date with Barnabus Collins via my little Kindle Fire (I still have not read one book on it and my pile(s) of hard covers continues to grow). I usually last through one or two episodes, then it’s lights out. I wake up feeling refreshed, no aches and pains until mid afternoon when I start to walk like I’m 90 years old. A cat nap fixes me right up. All in all, no complaints.
Yesterday we had a celebratory lunch at a restaurant owned by a close family friend. She and her daughter told me how good I looked. That I glowed. My response was “that’s the radiation!”. Later that evening I was blaming my “glow” on hot flashes. I imagine it’s a combination of the two. Or it could be that my new feeling of wellness actually does show on my face. In any event, it was nice to hear. Even if family and friends are contractually obligated to tell you how great you look at the end of cancer treatments.
I have been losing time again. As in I have to look at a calendar several times a week to remember the day of the week, date, etc. I don’t think it’s remnants of chemo brain so much as time this past year, particularly the last two months, has ceased to exist in any meaningful way other than how many more months, weeks, days to the end of treatment and how many days, weeks, and now months, it has been since my sister passed away. I’m trying really hard not to focus on how many years (!) until I can truly say I beat this and be certain.
I cannot believe you even opened this. Why would you want to read about that? It happened. The end.
In other news, life is slowly returning to some semblance of normal. Last week I had the above mentioned date with a man and his colonoscope, which took up more of my week than it should have. That was my first week post treatment and it just seemed like business as usual. This weekend we went out for dinner and a movie and had a great time with family and friends enjoying a lobster bake and being treated to an air show. I realized at some point over the last couple of days that next week I can actually make plans, do as I please, be spontaneous (hey! it could happen) or do nothing at all. I was asked to accompany my mother to the coast for a business appointment and I quickly did a mental inventory of what my week looked like and it was like this [ ] a blank canvas. No appointments. No one drawing blood, inspecting skin, zapping me, poking me, asking all sorts of intimate questions that are, quite frankly, none of their business. I’m not sure what to do with all of this new found freedom. There is a lot I should do, but once I fill that time up with busy work it’s no longer a lovely white space to do as I please in. I want to turn calendar pages that are clean and white with no appointments penciled in. Just rows of empty uniform little squares to fill however I like. I could get used to this.
oh! and my Bucket List is coming along nicely. With the help of Thing 1 and his lovely wife I will be a grandmother around tax day! I guess the rest of the list is up to me. Unless someone wants to get a tattoo for me? No? sigh
Today I wrapped up treatment for breast cancer after 9 long months. I still have to take Tamoxifen for 5 years and have regular followup visits with Oncology, but the biopsies, surgeries, chemo and radiation are behind me. I celebrated by reading and baking in the sun for 30 minutes until that tiresome little voice in my head (which sounds annoyingly like my med oncologist) reminded me that my skin had been damaged enough for one summer and I get more than enough Vit D in my supplements and diet. I will celebrate more this evening with a bottle of champagne and this weekend with the family at a concert. Then it’s back to more fun. Colonoscopy on Wed (btw, don’t ever mention rectal bleeding to an oncologist, even in an offhand … it only happened once, weeks ago.. kind of way or you WILL get your ass reamed sooner than you had planned), then catching up on routine health care that has kind of been sidelined, a physical, dental visit and eye doctor. By mid-October I should be all tuned up.
Cancer was actually evicted way back in November by my surgeon, but she didn’t get all of her shit out of my body until just now. Tenants have all the damn rights, don’t they? It occurred to me today that the last time my body was held hostage for 9 months, I gave birth to my first daughter (number two arrived slightly undercooked at 34 weeks). This time all I get for my trouble is some scars, gray hair and a little PTSD that I’m certain a weekly infusion of martinis will clear right up.
There were lot’s of congratulations and a few hugs from the staff today and even “we’ll miss you”. I had to say “no offense but I won’t miss you”. There is a Survivor’s Day planned on Sept 8. I receive notices of these events periodically. I have had zero interest up until now. I was told I should attend this next one and how nice it would be to see me in “happier” circumstances. Nice sentiment, but the idea of hanging out at the cancer center for anything now that I don’t have to has no appeal. Even if there is “really good food” and balloons. Maybe I will feel differently when there is a little time and distance between myself and the good folks at the center, but not yet.
Today was also bittersweet. My sister was looking forward to celebrating the end of treatments. I thought of her all day and missed her terribly. I was pretty sure at 1:12 p.m. I heard a big WOO HOO all the way from Heaven though.
All in all this past year has pretty much been a shit storm but I made it.
After a 9 month whirlwind of mammogram, ultrasounds, biopsies, surgeries, heart scan, bone scan, chemotherapy, radiation, uncertainty, fear and exhaustion I am cutting you loose after my last dose of radiation on Friday. I am giving you more notice than you gave me, btw. You’re welcome.
Obviously this relationship was doomed to fail from the beginning. I never even respected you enough to call you by your favorite title.. “the Big C”. You’re nothing but a little c to me.
I’m over you. I’m not taking your calls. Oh sure, our mutual friends at the Cancer Center will want to get together periodically and reminisce about our relationship. I’ll humor them. It’s the least I can do after how hard they fought to get me away from you. Eventually they will grow bored and our visits will be fewer and further between until you will be nothing but a footnote in my book of life.
So long, c. It’s not me, it’s you.
I have been working on a bucket list since long before my cancer diagnosis and, I imagine like all cancer patients, decided I had better get serious about the thing. What follows is a work in progress. The items that are crossed off were not realized, but simply thought better of since it is apparent I will, in fact, live.
Get a tattoo before I turn 50 (I still have 2 months, get off my back)
Last 2.7 seconds on a bull named Fu Man Chu (that’s a stupid song anyway)
Get a red mustang convertible. (I didn’t really want one that badly until my husband bought himself a sporty little BMW this summer. Someone clearly lost sight of who has cancer in this family. Yeah, yeah, he says I can drive it whenever I want but he always checks when he gets home to see if I did. I caught him chalking the tires the other night)
Have more patience. (a work in progress)
Get published (does this count?)
Get arrested See above. I figure a good writer has to have something interesting to write about. I hadn’t worked out the details of my arrest, but I know it would involve much hilarity (and liquor). I bet at least one of my cousins (Ann :)) would have taken one for the team and joined me.
Become a grandmother. (Kids? I can’t do this myself)
Clearly the list needs work, but I’m in no hurry to finish it. The only thing my bucket is going to be used for this next week is ice to chill the champagne.
I’m going to start keeping track of the more insensitive comments around my cancer care. I know that sounds petty, but like I give a shit.
This week’s winner… I was asked to let a man go ahead of me for treatment on Thursday. Poor guy needed a full bladder for radiation and he did not time things very well. Of course I had no problem with it. A nurse who does patient education (and whom I have never seen before) was waiting for him and decided to sit down and chat with me. She asked how I was doing and commented on my hair growth. Then she said “as far as we ( btw.. who is we? are you speaking in the royal sense or is there is a mouse in your pocket?) are concerned you can dye it anytime”. I felt a horrified giggle bubble up in my throat. I have been on auto pilot for a few weeks now and as long as I stay in neutral I can keep my shit together. I managed a weak smile and offered that I hadn’t decided yet and may just keep it as is. She got this frozen smile on her face and sputtered something about how I could probably get away with that, after all I had a young face. She must have missed a few classes on sensitivity. Not that I expect (or want) to be treated with kid gloves, but between the doctor who treated me like an inanimate object on Monday and now this I’m starting to wonder if this is commonplace. I have been so lucky in my interactions up until now that I was kind of unprepared. Or maybe now that I’m nearing the end of my cancer treatments my head is a little clearer and there have been assholes all along but I just didn’t notice.
I’m not nominating the next one for anything because I can’t think of one funny or sarcastic thing to say and this is supposed to be for fun. It actually left me kind of stunned. I saw my medical oncologist for the first time since finishing up with chemotherapy. I had (wrongly) assumed that my doctors all shared information about my treatment especially something like a major change in my family medical history. I missed a full week of radiation when my sister passed away. Yet, apparently there was no mention of it so I had to tell the nurse when she asked brightly how my summer was going. Believe me when I say it doesn’t get easier with each telling. She passed on the info to my doctor who expressed her sympathy as soon as she entered the exam room. After asking a few questions she said she had a patient who just lost a daughter and that was probably worse. I just said yeah, it’s been pretty hard on my parents. What I wanted to say is.. of course it’s worse for a mother to lose a child, but it’s also pretty fucking horrible for a child to lose his mother and a sister to lose her only sibling. Not to mention for a man to lose the woman he loved who he hadn’t had nearly enough time with, three little boys to lose a loving presence in their life, and for their mother to lose a trusted confidant. But I just sat there. Because I didn’t want to make her feel bad.
Honestly, the hospital really wants to stop sending me those questionnaires. I may start filling them out.