Surprisingly, perhaps, I am scared to be, for the first time in 14 months, possibly going off chemotherapy tomorrow. Scared? Possibly? Life as a cancer patient is never simple.
When I was diagnosed with Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) in October, 2017, my oncologist said, “Give us a year.” Actually, I hope it will be more like 26 months. That would mean I was placed in the medical arm of a clinical trial I am entering at the end of this year. I have a 50/50 chance of getting the medicine or of being in the “watchful waiting” group. So that’s the funny thing about tomorrow – I’ll be off chemo for at least a month, but may be on again in mid-January. I don’t know, and I won’t until the beginning of the year.
So – tomorrow may be my last day of chemo, and I am scared. As many with this disease have, I’ve experienced four different IV chemos given over five months, blood transfusions when my counts were too low, saline infusions because . . . who knows . . . a two-night hospital stay last December when my immune system crashed, loss of hair (you never know how much you like your eyelashes and eyebrows until they’re gone), and “hit the wall” fatigue when I wondered if I could reach the bed from the bathroom,
I’ve missed family, church and work events, couldn’t fly to Texas from Georgia to be with my brother when he died, and not been available in meaningful ways to too many people.
On the other hand, I have received the gift of caring and help from many amazing people, some completely unexpected. Unlike some, I also have the most supportive husband in the universe. Sorry, there’s simply no contest there. And I’m blessed with a good insurance plan and the money to pay the deductibles until it fully kicks in. I’ve had it easier than some.
But the thought of going off chemo after either being on it or only going off for a month to prepare for my double mastectomy, is frightening.
The cord will be cut. I will go three months between scans and doctor’s visits. I will be living life as a cancer survivor, all the while knowing that TNBC returns in 30% of cases. It’s an aggressive, evil thing. And I will try to live each day fully, with the insights that this year+ of treatments has given me. Rest: both mind and body. Give over to the stillness of meditation daily. Hold your loved ones in your heart and wrap them with love and energy. Know that you are a survivor, and the mind affects the body in ways we have yet to understand. Acknowledge what I’m missing but be grateful for each day. And especially for those who love me, who care for me.
If I can face TNBC, I can face living without treatment, knowing I have done all that I can. Oh, except increase exercise as my strength returns. That really affects my mental, spiritual and physical self. And cut down on calories. That, too. Really, my oncologist says that exercise and being at a good weight are about the only things I have left to “throw at it.” So I’ll do those.
For those of us who are survivors,