36 Days Later
Yesterday I was officially discharged from the hospital in Calgary after completing my last day of the first round of treatment.
It’s a milestone in my treatment but there is still so much ahead. In a few weeks, I will undergo another bone marrow biopsy to test how it is responding to the chemo – to see if my white blood cells are developing as they ought to or if there are still some assholes in circulation. If less than 5% of them are assholes, then I will be declared to be in remission. If there are more than that, I don’t know what they call it or what happens as I haven’t wanted to ask those questions. I assume that it means my follow-up treatments will be more difficult. For now, I am choosing to just assume and hope that the worst is behind me.
In the meantime, I have a 3-4 week break from injecting any sort of poison into my veins. I have gone from taking two dozen pills a day to just 4. And, if all goes according to plan, we will soon be leaving Calgary for Lethbridge to resume my treatment there early in the new year. Lethbridge will be our home for as long as this takes to overcome, which will at least be the better part of 2017. This forced settling is of course not our first choice, but so be it, and I am at least very much looking forward to being close to my family (where my mom and my sister and her family live).
Throughout these 36 days of treatment, Pete has referred to me as strong quite often. I have to tell you, I don’t often feel that. I instead have been calling myself a “cancerous lump” who is mostly mute and cries all the time. Since I’ve been on overnight passes from the hospital for the last almost two weeks, I have just shuffled myself from bed to car to hospital bed to car to couch to bed to couch to bed. Some of those days I had debilitating headaches or nausea to deal with, but most others I just assumed my position as a crumpled ball on the corner of the couch, switching between the Food Network and HGTV while I dozed. My energy level increases by day but not by much – the treatment of arsenic zaps most of it.
I’ve turned totally inward. This is the first time I’ve picked up my laptop in over a week and I don’t even know where my phone is right now. And I can’t really explain why I’ve felt this need to disconnect. I think part of it is my tendency to just put-my-head-down-and-get-the-job-done, along with my lack of energy. I’ll also admit that I’m a bit shy and embarrassed by the generosity and love shown from friends, colleagues and readers from across the globe. And that it’s been a bit easier for me to ignore that for awhile; to turn off the constant reminders of I HAVE CANCER and just lose myself in mindless TV.
I feel like this lump is just getting through this disease – nothing more. I am not drop-kicking cancer’s doors down or poised to write any motivational prose on how to deal with it. These past 36 days have featured some of the hardest I’ve ever been through. And also accompanied by a lot more tears than I’ve ever been used to.
I cried at every episode of vomiting. And when I shit myself. I cried when I didn’t have the energy to take a shower or even feed myself ice chips. I cried when my mouth was so full of sores that I couldn’t talk. I cried in the middle of the night when the angle of the plugin lights on my IV stand reminded me of Prague Castle when it’s lit up in the evening.
I cry when I let my thoughts run away from me. As much as I try to stay positive with the knowledge that my prognosis is very good, I am still a human being with a human brain who thinks human thoughts about mortality.
I cry at dumb commercials. I cry nearly every time Pete reaches for my hand or when my mom kisses my forehead. I cried with joy when family members drove hours and hours to see me, and then with frustration when I could barely keep my eyes open for an hour of their time. I cry at every thoughtful card or gift I receive and usually can’t even read them entirely – I have to force Pete to read them to me. I cry thinking about kids who go through this, or single parents, or anyone who may not have the generous support system I do.
I am crying as I write this. I know that being emotional does not mean an absence of fortitude, but I just don’t feel it.
I realize how negative this may read. That was not my intention when I started to write this but these are the words have come out. I will try to end it on a more positive note (I do have positivity inside of me, I promise)!
Yesterday I was in a hospital bed with arsenic on tap, today I slept in. I will continue to get stronger in the coming days as the chemo leaves my body. I bought a kick-ass wig. I get to spend the holidays with my family and not doctors and nurses. I am spoiled and so well taken care of by Pete and my mom who have both been by my side since this started. I have amazing friends who I know are sending me messages daily whether I read them or not.
Everyday, in between the tears and naps, I am so thankful for all that I have.
This lump will get through it.
More on how I got here…