Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Anti-Climactic Milestone

Ay carUMBA, why am I blogging when I have dance lesson plans and choreography to work on??? And dishes and laundry to do?  And jogging to suffer through?  And a dear relative's book-in-progress to read and to provide thoughtful input upon?  Why am I blogging, with so much to do?

'Cause I miss writing.

I'm just going to have to schedule writing on my blog like I have to schedule my daily workouts. And my daily scripture study.  Which, strangely, is going swimmingly.  I've had a lifelong struggle keeping my scripture study consistent.  I think I subconsciously made a New Year's Resolution to do so.  (I refuse to make real live New Year's Resolutions.  Because, invariably, I fail, and then I feel crappy about myself.  Just trying to save myself the negative self-talk.  I have to be a good caretaker of my psyche, and this is one of the ways I can do that.)

So anyways, guess what?

I am DONE WITH ALL CANCER TREATMENTS FOREVER AND EVER AMEN!!!  It really is a huge deal.  I remember when I was in the throes of chemo, back in Idaho, more than a year ago.  I was sucking on ice chips during one of the medicines in my cocktail - was it taxotere?  Adriamycin? Cytoxin?  I had to suck on popsicles or ice chips during one, and I had to put  my fingertips on ice packs during one...  I honestly think I've mentally blocked a lot of that miserable time out of my mind.  As well I should.  It was THE worst thing I've ever gone through.

Anyways, back to my story.  I was sucking ice chips, and a really cute gal with very short but curly hair came in.  She sat in the recliner next to me, and we got to talking.  She was there for one of her herceptin treatments.  She had the same exact cancer as me - HER2+.  She had gone through chemo for four months, just like me, and radiation for two months, just like I would, and had a couple of herceptin treatments left.  I remember looking at her hair and thinking, "In a year, my hair might be that long!!"

As she got situated in her chair, a nurse and her doc (who was also my doc) came into the infusion room, enormous smiles on their faces.

"Hey, Bonnie [I just picked this name because I can't remember her real name, and I just read an article in the Ensign that quoted a lady named Bonnie], guess what?" Doctor Who Doesn't Really Care if You're Dying of Dysentery-Related Dehydration said.  [I picked this name because, well, the name really explains itself.  The dysentery-related dehydration hadn't happened yet, because I was only halfway into my treatments.  The fun was soon to come.  I'm still a little pissed at DWDRCIYDODRD for the not-caring stuff.  My oncologist here actually gives a rat's arse about me. Mainly.  I'll get to that in a second.]

"What?" responded Bonnie.

"We miscalculated!  You don't have to do any more treatments!  You're done!  You've done a year of herceptin!  You're outta here!!" crowed DWDRCIYDODRD.

And sweet Bonnie burst into happy tears.

I yelled, "Get over here and give me a hug!"  Because I couldn't go to her, since I was all hooked up to tubes and might have even had my hands on these ice pack thingeys.  She obliged.  (We had only spoken for a few moments, but we had bonded, as all cancer sufferers and survivors immediately do.) And I might have shed a tear or two for her.

I remember thinking, "Man, when I'm done with my last herceptin infusion, I am going to be so emotional!!!  I'll cry and cry and cry!!"

So,  yesterday, when almost the exact same scenario happened to me (I found out after my treatment yesterday), all these months later, I was surprised that not a tear was shed. (By me.  My cute chemo nurse cried.).  I blame it on my anti-depressants.  Those things are strong.  I still feel extreme joy and extreme sadness, but you won't see one tear dripping from this eye.  That's just how it is.
I often think (because I think really weird thoughts), Man, if I was an actress, I'd have to go off anti-depressants.  Because you gotta be able to cry when you're an actress.  Nobody would hire me. Haha! Like I could ever be an actress!  Even when I wasn't on anti-depressants, in high school drama, I had a hard time conjuring up any kind of tears.  Of course, the only serious play we did was written by my drama teacher, and boy, was it crappy.  It was called Castle Dracula.  The dialogue, plot....heck, everything, was really ridiculous.  A sample of a line I had to scream:  "Stop killing my FRIENDS!!!" With such crappy material, I had no choice but to use the old vicks-vapo-rub-on-the-fingertips trick. Oh, you don't know that trick?  Weird!  Kay. So, you dip your pointer finger and your thumb in Vicks before you go on stage for the scene in which you'll have to cry.  And then, when it's time to cry, first, you put your finger and thumb into where your tear ducts are, like you're pinching the bridge of your nose in frustration and angst.  Or, you cover your eyes while your mouth starts fake trembling, and really, you're smearing Vicks all up in your eyes.  And then you can cry like a baybay.

Tricks of the trade, dude.

Anyways, so yesterday, when I found out I was totally done with cancer treatment, I was just mainly...joyful.  Smiley.  Giving hugs to all my chemo nurses.  Joking around.  Partially because I can't cry, but also because herceptin was a cakewalk.  I had zero side effects from it.  I've felt fantastic, really, since fall or so.  I had my ups and downs last spring and summer, but I think that was just my body trying to climb out of this hole that chemo and radiation had thrown me into.  But since September or so, I'm gooood.

I think that, if the end of chemo had been the end of my cancer-treatment journey, I would have been very emotional.  Because it was so horrendous.  Also, my journey isn't quite over just yet.  I have to tackle the enormous Reconstructive Surgery Beast this summer.  Maybe when I'm done with that, I'll cry those tears of joy.

So, yesterday, though I didn't give an Oscar-worthy crying performance, I still wanted to celebrate. Because it really IS a big deal!  No more cancer treatments, ever!  You know, unless it comes back. But I don't like to think that way.  And you know me - I like to partay.  So I put up a general announcement up on facebook yesterday - "Yay!  I'm done!!  Someone should throw me a party!"  I didn't mean that someone should actually throw me a party. 

But wouldn't you know it?  My good friend Sara saw that post and threw me a fantastic, impromptu dinner party at her house.  We had barbecue chicken sandwiches, intoxicatingly yummy strawberries, and adorable pink mini-cupcakes.  She also got me some pink tulips and a balloon.
Such a cool surprise!  Thanks a million billion, Sara!!

Oh, and we can't forget the small celebration my kids and I had after school yesterday.  My nurses had given me a bottle of Martinelli's sparkling apple cider (and a little certificate), so I left it on the table so that the kids and I could celebrate together.
When they got home, Sadie yelled, "Mom!!  What are you doing with WINE in our house?!?"  I can't figure out why on earth she would automatically think that I had decided to start drinking, despite her ten years of experience with her teetotaler parents.  What in our experience together makes you think I would start drinking now?  And put a bottle of wine on the table to trumpet my announcement to all the world??

After I assured the ninos that I had, in fact, NOT decided to start drinking, and that this was just fancy apple cider, the kids were eager to try it.  "Look, Mom!  I'm drinking WINE!" said Sadie, holding the bottle up to her mouth.  I chuckled, then popped the lid off and poured each kid a glass.  Gage drank his quickly, then said, "Mommy, I want some more bee-yah!" [Gage's pronunciation of "beer," apparently.]  Haha!  It was funny.

He even wanted to clink cups with Sadie and say, "Cheers!"
I don't know where he gets this stuff, I swear!

Anyways, reaching this milestone really made me want to throw caution to the wind and get my reconstructive surgery done ASAP.  I mean, physically, I can do it the second I want to, now.  But after talking to my mom about it, I've realized that this DIEP Flap thing is going to be a huge, hairy beastmaster of a surgery.  I will be down for the count for a solid two months.  I can't do it right now. I have dances to choreograph and dancers to teach.  I'll just have to be patient for five more months. Sigh.  And THEN I can feel like I'm done and can move on with my life.

I'm planning on getting my port out when they do my surgery, so until June or so, they have to flush my port every six weeks to prevent blood clots.  Yikes.  Bikes.

When's my first scan, you ask?  Oh, um, NEVER.  Which is where the my-new-oncologist-may-not-give-a-rat's-about-me-either comment from above comes in.

Sooo, um, I guess most oncology practices don't do scans anymore, unless there's a reason to do a scan.  They assume that all the crap you just put your body through for a year and a half did its job. If you get new pain, or a new lump, or weird blood lab results, then they do a scan.  Until then, you just...hope that this nasty thing that was killing you is...gone??  I don't know.  My doc, GLIHYDGIA [Good luck!  I hope you don't get it again!], said that studies have shown that getting scans every three months is equally as effective as paying attention to new pain, new lumps, weird lab results.  So why do it?  is what they're saying.  I gave him a good answer to that question:  Um, so that a gal can get peace of mind. So that she has scientific proof that the cancer is gone.  He said, "We KNOW your cancer is gone.  Your scan after your mastectomy showed that!"  Then I said, "Um, then why did I just go through all this HELL??"

As you can see, we had a very frank conversation, and basically, he gently and kindly said that his practice doesn't do that.  That he's had a few women go to a different doc so that they can get that peace-giving scan can be performed.  I know how my parents feel about it - they want scans.  I don't know.  I mean, I'm not the oncologist, you know?  I trust that he knows his stuff.  He has been a fantastic doctor.  He gives his patients his cell number so that, if, for instance, you think you might be dying of dysentery, he can help you.  I really do trust him.  But.... I don't know.  So for now, I'm going to maybe do some research and see what I can find out about this new way of thinking about post-cancer care.  I don't know.  What do you guys think?

Kay, I have to take off and make a lesson plan for tonight's beginning ballet class.  Ciao!
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