Saturday, June 8, 2019. It’s a beautiful morning here on the mountain. Steve has gone to Photo Club, and I have the house all to myself. I have Joni Mitchell Radio playing on Pandora with a steaming cup of coffee in my hand. The cats are outside lying on the front deck, enjoying the sunshine. It’s peaceful. It’s restorative. Perfect for reflecting on the past several weeks and months and counting my blessings.
We were lucky to have Mom here for three weeks. She came ahead of my surgery and stayed until June 1. It was hard to watch her leave, but we are oh so grateful for the time we shared. Mom is 85 years young and inspires me every day with her energy and zest for life. She lives her life with love in her heart and kindness in her soul. Not only do we miss having her here, but her biscuits and gravy were heaven to our mouths.
What to do. What to do. Both Mom and Steve were patient as I contemplated my choices for doing any post-surgery therapy. They promised to support me no matter which way I decided to go. It was such a struggle. I did a lot of research. I looked at a lot of data. I listened to the recording of our last visit with Dr. Rugo, and her recommendations. I felt like my head was going to explode.
More chemo just seems overwhelming. It means being sick for most of the summer. It’s hard to face when I finally have enough hair that I’m not self-conscious in public. I’ve gained four pounds. My taste buds are back, and I’m feeling good. It’s wonderful to enjoy a bit of normal.
However, doing nothing seems like too much of a gamble.
High-grade triple-negative cancer is nasty. If my lymph nodes had been cancer-free, there would be nothing to consider. But that isn’t how it played out. In as little as three years, odds are not in my favor for a cancer-free future or even surviving for five should I do nothing. Like less than a 50/50 chance. With additional treatment, my odds of a cancer-free future increase to 90%. Unlike other cancers, if I get past the five-year mark without a recurrence, it’s likely I will never have cancer again.
My mind is made up. One of the hardest things I’ve done since this whole thing started was clicking on “send” when I messaged Dr. Rugo on Sunday, May 28 letting her know I’d decided to do the Adriamycin—every other week for 4 treatments. I sat there frozen in place for several minutes with my finger hovering over the mouse, hesitant to actually click the damn thing. When my finger finally touched the mouse and the message was gone, I had a bit of a cry but was relieved a decision and a commitment had been made.
No regrets. If the cancer does come back, I need to know I did everything I could to prevent it from happening. No looking back thinking, “I wish I would have.”
On Monday, May 29, I received a reply informing me that I needed to get an echocardiogram since in a small number of cases this treatment can weaken the heart. There would also be an over-the-phone chemo teach with a nurse practitioner to let me know what to expect this time around.
And then nothing happened. No echo or chemo teach appointment. No chemotherapy start date. Each day that passed found me getting more and more frustrated. It’s hard to be a patient patient. So on June 5th I sent the following message to Dr. Rugo.
I’m wondering what the anticipated start date and/or schedule might be for my next course of treatment?
I’d rather not get to used to having hair before it all falls out again, except for my facial hair, of course.
That got their attention.
Yesterday it all came together. I had the echo—the condition of my heart is great. I had my chemo teach and learned that Adriamycin causes sun-sensitivity, so I’m supposed to keep my head and skin covered when I’m outside. I will lose my hair. I will suffer from fatigue and will likely be nauseous for at least five days each time. I learned that it also attacks the white blood cells, so when I get infused they will put a Neulasta patch on my arm that will automatically infuse me the next day.
My first chemo treatment is on Tuesday, June 11. My last on July 23.
The summer of 2019 is going to suck.
But it’s only two months out of the rest of my life. So, here we go again, my friends. Here we go again.
It isn’t the mountains ahead that wear you out, it’s the grain of sand in your shoe. —Proverb