Week 8 – Halfway through chemo and hesitant
Chemo round 4, 2nd week of recovery.
I’m officially halfway through my chemo treatments today. I begin the next phase and the new drug, Taxol, tomorrow. I don’t feel ready. Honestly, I don’t want to go. I scared to put more and new side effects on top of what I already have. I did not recover as well from this last round as I have previously. I did not have four good days at the end of 10 days this time. I’m hopefully for this last 24 hours. Although I know 2 more months and then another month of recovery before surgery will seem like nothing in terms of the scope of my life, each day feels very long right now. 3 more months of chemo side effects feels like forever. And yet, the alternative is far worse so I, like all the others before me, will celebrate this half way mark and march back into chemo tomorrow. Hook me up to the IV and pump the poison in again to make me feel worse so that my lovely oncologist, Dr, Alison Conlin, will use the phrase “curable cancer” again as she did for the first time during my last treatment. I wonder what it feels like for those who don’t have curable cancer and are faced with yet another round of chemo that will make them feel like hell knowing they won’t ever recover. Would I do that to extend my life, but within the context of a lower quality of life?
Truthfully, though I’ve always loved a good party, or in the case this afternoon a sailboat ride if possible after an ‘emergency’ IV for dehydration (I didn’t end up going sailing), I don’t feel much like celebrating my midway victory. I don’t feel like it’s all downhill from here. I imagine I would if I felt better. Instead I feel the side effects. The fatigue, the continuing nausea, the craziness, tears and anger from the massive dosed of steroids and, worse of all, the new side effect of terribly painful mouth sores. Perhaps they are 3cm mouth sores from steroids. I can’t eat or drink without crying from the pain. I can’t talk or smile without pain, so I don’t talk or smile. I numb them with a mouth rinse before I try to do any of the before mentioned necessities but the numbness lasts just minutes before the pain takes over. I’ve disliked other side effects, the worst being the steroid craziness, but this pain is worse than that. It’s 7:37AM and I’m counting down the minutes to 8:00 to call the doctor again.
The past two weeks were more like how I envisioned going through chemo might be before I did it. I expected I would be very ill, in bed most of the time, disinterested in food… I started this projected “Finding Beauty in Cancer” thinking I would use the idea to find the little things that were meaningful and beautiful in my life in the midst of this. Not beauty in myself, but in what and who was around me. I was able to practice this original concept over the past two weeks, but found it much harder than expected when I simply felt terrible. However, there was plenty of beauty. A three-night trip to Rockaway Beach with an ocean-front hotel room where I watched the ocean waves through my bedroom window. My mother’s favorite place next is at the seaside and I enjoyed watching her happy as a child despite her concern for me. We swam in the pool there and she fluttered around like an 8 year old not a 78 year old. We go to the same seaside knick-knack shop we did when I was a small child and look for seashells to buy. I want starfish for an upcoming “Under the Sea” photo shoot that is planned where I’ll have an octopus temporarily tattooed around the right side of my body like I envisioned while laying in the MRI machine two months ago. However, all of the starfish are little, not like the ones I used to buy here. The owners says he can’t get them any longer. I wonder if that’s a factor of the starfish getting smaller or demand for exports taking them big ones out of our local market. I wonder about how the ocean has changed since I was a child. How there are no full shells on the sand during the low tide. Only hollowed out crab shells and broken bits of clams. No whole perfect sand dollars like when I was small child. We tuck them in our sweatshirt pockets and carry them home as treasures or break the chipped one open fully to find the three little seagulls hiding inside.
Mom and I sit outside of our hotel room, a towel protecting my fragile skin from the sun and watch 3 whales blowing spray. At first they are close to the shore, directly in front us. The setting sun shimmers off their skin as they breach slightly beyond the surface. Every few minutes we see them blow and follow their path as they move quickly to the south and out to see. It’s amazing how long we can still see the spray. Blow one, then two, then finally three.
This post to be continued…