As we go into my FAVORITE holiday weekend, I’m struggling to find the right way to talk about how different this year is. I am so excited because I’m actually feeling really great this week – being between my two parts of treatment. My energy is back and I can’t wait to soak in the warm weather, fireworks shows and family time.
The most popular question I’m asked by far right now is, how are you doing? That’s a no-brainer and makes sense to ask. The best part about that question is that it’s pretty easy to come up with an answer which might be the same or different from moment to moment of the day. Right now? I’m great. I could almost say I don’t feel like I am even sick at all. Last week? I was crying in the shower and deep in the throughs of the “lowest” part of my chemo cycle. I actually started this blog draft then and it was kind of a miracle I could look at the computer screen and get my fingers to move quickly enough to catch up to my brain and type these words. The low days as I’ve come to refer to them, are crazy….and honestly pretty unpredictable.
The second question is a little harder. How are you doing this? THIS being cancer. How are you doing: cancer? How are you doing: grief? How are you handling feelings of isolation? How are you possibly coping? Man… those questions are a LOT harder. For a while I would say what choice do I have? I’m doing this because I have to and I believe in myself that I can. But now, after “doing this” for almost 8 weeks… I can tell you that I’m literally just doing it. That’s it. I’m just going through the motions and following the steps to get to my final destination. It’s called “Go Mode”. I accept help, I “take the out” and I allow people to take care of me even though I’m a strong-willed and stubborn lady most of the time.
One of the best things (read: only good things) about my cancer diagnosis and treatment is that it is relatively cut and dry. The treatment plan I follow will not vary and will always be 22 weeks in total. It includes 4 treatments of A/C (doxorubicin (also known as Adriamycin) / cyclophosphamide) over 8 weeks and then 12 weeks of Taxol. No matter what happens over the course of my regimen, it will continue as planned. We talk as a family a lot about how helpful this is, because it differs so much from what we were use to in the cancer world. When we were living my dad’s cancer journey, it was incredibly difficult because we were constantly pivoting and guessing about what would be next for him, which made life a lot harder. It feels good to allow ourselves to trust in the process and melt into the “motions” of the day to day and treatment.
As I’m working through my fourth and LAST A/C cycle, I feel a whole bunch of emotions. I’m ecstatic the time has flown by as quickly as it has, and I’m also feeling really lucky. Typically, A/C is incredibly hard on people – common symptoms include nausea, vomiting, GI issues, extreme fatigue, change in appetite, mouth sores, the list goes on. In addition to all of the side effects from the actual drugs – throw in steroids, and anti-nausea medicine and it’s a recipe for disaster. Going in, I was so worried about what my list of ailments would be, not to mention the whole losing the hair thing… but I am happy to report that somehow, I’ve come away relatively unscathed.
Truth be told – I worked my ass off to avoid side effects so it’s not that I just “got lucky”. It would have been very easy for me to lay down and cry about my situation but I was determined that if I was going to do this – it’d be on my terms. Yes, part of it was genetics and the fact that I was in good physical shape prior to treatment. Yes, some would say I was somewhat lucky… but I also put in work. That means yoga 2-3 times per week, walking whenever I can around the neighborhood, eating healthful foods that keep my body strong, and most importantly – allowing myself to rest when I need it. This is not to say it’s been easy – it hasn’t. But I learned very quickly that in order to succeed – I had to help myself first.
As I’m nearing what I’ve come to consider my halfway point – though technically it’s not, I’m feeling confident but nervous. Everything that my oncologist has said about possible side effects of Taxol has given me hope that my time will be easier and the lows will be more tolerable. I’m praying for a few things: less fatigue – this is has been my number one hardship… less hot flashes – who knew a bald head could sweat so much?! Less “fog” – my head during chemo is often a bit fuzzy, making daily things like going out in the sun a bit of a challenge. I hope the next three months are less of these and more positives.
Enjoy your 4th of July weekend – live it up and soak in the good things in life. I will be missing my dad, who loved this holiday just like I do – but I know he’s enjoying the fireworks shows from the very best seat in the house.
Also, a quick thank you to everyone who’s been so supportive of me. It literally pushes me to keep fighting and smiling through it. Only 12 weeks to go!!