I had another round of chemo last Friday. That’s my eighth so far. I’m still struggling a bit with some side effects that are hanging on, but nothing too terrible. It’s par for the course, these days. I just try to push through and, as they say, fake it ’till I make it. I feel like my whole life is mind over matter. And speaking of my mind, chemo brain is real. I can’t remember anything these days! I just bought Nolan new shoes yesterday because his old ones got ruined at school. Then today I’m putting clothes away in his closet and see that he already had a brand new pair of shoes from Christmas that he’s never even worn. And I see those shoes almost every day; I just totally forgot. And not long ago I was looking at a book with Sutton and he pointed to a bird and called it a penguin. It was actually a peacock but I literally could not find the word. I kept telling him it wasn’t a penguin but I could not tell him what it was because the word had been erased from my brain. It is wild. So, if you tell me something and then later I act like I have no clue what you’re talking about, be nice to me. Because I don’t. And tell me again.
Some things I do actually remember are what my Oncologist and I talked about at my last appointment. First, I’m only going to have one more round of chemo. Then I’ll have another set of scans to see how everything is looking. Even if things are still shrinking considerably (fingers crossed) it is unlikely that I will have more than one round of chemo right now. My body needs a break. The standard of care is 6 to 10 rounds of what I am getting. Since I will be having scans done after nine rounds, it wouldn’t make much sense to go ahead and do just one more before more scans. And I’m ready to stop. I was anxious about stopping after six rounds, but these three that we tacked on is enough for me. I feel like I’ve done what I need to do. And my options after I’m done may be opening up a little. Before, my Oncologist had said that surgeries or radiation was likely not in the cards for me since the cancer had already spread. However, there is now new research suggesting that having a lumpectomy (removing cancer tissue/tumor from the breast) could be beneficial for even Stage IV patients. And radiation may also be a possibility. That’s big news for me! After we get the results from my scans my Oncologist and I will discuss further and decide what is right for me. I’m trying not to get my hopes up, but it is hard. I so badly want to cling to anything that feels like it could mean more time.
My bloodwork is still looking good. The numbers aren’t drastically changing anymore, but everything is still in normal ranges and some are slightly decreasing. My liver numbers are about the same as they were the last time I had bloodwork and my bone number went down from 71 to 66 with normal range being 39 – 125. As long as no numbers are on the rise then I think I’m still in good shape and can safely assume the treatment is working. And, for the first time in months, my white blood cell count was actually in normal range, too! That’s huge because mine is almost always lower than average which makes me more susceptible to getting sick because my immune system is compromised. I’ll take the win and I hope my white blood cell count can hang in there even with this last round of chemo.
I hope my emotions can hang in there, too. I’ve been doing so well lately and, like I’ve said before, can sometimes even forget about the fact that I have cancer. But its been creeping back in and I’ve had some emotional moments. My mom was staying with us over the weekend to help out with the boys since I had treatment. And when she left I was laying in bed with Nolan (my 5-year old) and he asked me about my port. Its more noticeable now that its getting warm outside and I’m wearing tank tops instead of sweatshirts. I just reminded him that my port is where I get my medicine. And I could see it click for him. He said “Oh yeah. Your medicine makes you not feel good and makes you really tired so Bebe (that’s what my boys call my mom) has to come take care of you.” I held it together in front of him, but it tore me up. It was like all of a sudden I’m talking to my grown son who understands what’s going on instead of my little boy who is more concerned with the toy of the moment. I’ve been asked about how I communicate my having cancer to my kids and it honestly hasn’t been that hard because I didn’t really think either of them understood. Now I know Nolan is starting to understand. And I’m terrified. I’m afraid that he will start to be afraid. I’m afraid that another kid will ask him if I’m going to die. And I don’t know how to handle it anymore other than being honest with him. And its brought everything that I’d shoved to the back of my mind right to the forefront. I’m scared again. Nobody knows when their time will come. I don’t either. But I don’t get to live in the ignorant bliss anymore and I want to go back there so bad. I want to not have to deal with this anymore but that will never happen for me. It will never happen for my kids or any of my family. Its scary that one conversation with my son can slam me into a wall, but it did. So now I’m left to regroup and to try to push the fear back down and to find my strength and my courage and my smile. I read this recently and it made total sense:
Imagine you’re going about your day, minding your own business, when someone sneaks up behind you…
You feel something press up against the back of your head, as someone whispers in your ear.
“Sssshhhh…don’t turn around. Just listen. I am holding a gun against the back of your head. I’m going to keep it there. I’m going to follow you around like this every day, for the rest of your life.
“I’m going to press a bit harder, every so often, just to remind you I’m here, but you need to try your best to ignore me, to move on with your life. Act like I’m not here, but don’t you ever forget…one day I may just pull the trigger…or maybe I won’t. Isn’t this going to be a fun game?”
This is what it is like to be diagnosed with cancer.
So that’s where I am right now. And I know I’ll pick myself up again and keep moving forward because that is the only choice I have. It is the only choice anybody has. I can’t wallow in what is and what might be. I have to live. I have to learn to live without fear. That may very well be impossible. But I have family to love and things to look forward to and more prayer warriors than I can count. And all of that is so positive. I’m gonna dry my tears and keep facing the day. And keep faking it ’till I make it.