Saturday, June 29, 2019. When I was going through chemo 19 years ago, Steve and I would often take long drives to get out of our heads a bit. We were living in Santa Rosa then, Rincon Valley, so we had lots of options when it came to which direction we might go. This one time we decided to go over the hill to Calistoga, grab some Mexican food and do a little window shopping. It was early spring and the day felt soft. So after we ate, it was a perfect time for a stroll around town. We ended up in a woman’s clothing store. Steve had found a sweater he wanted me to have, and while he was at the cash register, I admired jewelry in the display case nearby. When I looked up I saw this woman, and my first thought was, “Oh my, she looks seriously ill. Poor thing.” When I realized I was looking in a mirror, it felt like a sharp punch to the gut. It was shocking.
Last week I walked in the bathroom and glanced in the mirror and had a similar reaction. Only this time I heard myself say out loud, “Who are you?”
I’m not sure who I am anymore. I feel like a little like Syble. I’m weak and frail. I’m strong and a fighter. I’m tired and confused. I’m alive and grateful. I’m upbeat one minute, sad the next. I have a burst of energy, and then my head is bouncing back up because I’ve nodded off. Where’s Lana? Who is Lana? A lot of the time I just feel lost and trapped in a micro-world that I hate. It’s hard to be happy right now.
The Adriamycin is causing me extreme fatigue. The first time it was two bad days. This time it was three. I imagine the next time it will be four days and the last treatment will be 5 bad days, just as Dr. Rugo promised me in the beginning.
So far, I am not experiencing some of the annoying side effects I had with Taxol/Carboplatin. No neuropathy or mouth sores. My sense of taste and my digestion remain unaffected. No visual sensitivity to light, although the Adriamycin requires that I stay out of direct sunlight. My appetite is better this time, so I’m maintaining my weight.
This morning when I got out of bed, I reached for my sweatshirt and it looked like one of the cats had been sleeping on the hood. Then I realized that was my hair. Yes, I am losing my hair again, so I need to find a way to embrace my baldness. It’s not an easy thing to do, but what choice do I have.
I asked Dr. Rugo why four treatments, why not two. She rattled off some science-eze about body ratio to pounds per inch. Blah blah blah. But when we got down to the nuts and bolts of it, it is because I have/had triple-negative cancer. The chances of a recurrence are high. They want to do whatever they can to not have that happen. No guarantees, of course. But if I can just get through the next five years.
So. Two more treatments. That’s my mantra for the next week and a half. Then it will change to one more treatment. And then after that I’ll start looking really hard for Lana.
Courage is not the towering oak that sees storms come and go; it is the fragile blossom that opens in the snow. —Alice Mackenzie Swaim