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!


Jenny said...

Hooray!!! Congrats on your last treatment! You're a warrior. Love you!

wilma said...

I am so happy for you! The Sunday School Lesson materials you have posted on your blog have been a tremendous help to unbelievably tremendous help. Without them, my lessons would not have been interesting at all, but with them, I think the kids actually are learning and perhaps, even enjoying class time. Thank you so much for the material and for your comments. I hope things continue to go well for you.

Grammy said...

So very happy for you! My sister (OLDER than me) is a cancer survivor. She has shared with me some of the horrors of her treatments, and then says to me, "I would rather do cancer than a divorce!" Yes, I got divorced during her cancer episode almost 14 years ago. My heart is full of love for you, thought I don't know you. Your Sunday School lesson helps have been my mainstay as I have taught the 16-18 year-olds in my ward the last 2.5 years. It has been the most challenging calling I have had, including RS President. Thank you for your incredible lesson helps. Thank you for sharing your personal stories. Someday, I will be able to hug you and thank you personally - most likely that will be in the hereafter. :) That's because you're in Oregon and I'm in Arizona! I also have a blog - but have seriously fallen by the wayside in posting - like FOUR years! It was really my way of keeping a journal, photos and all. I stopped because my Picassa (the one they put all your photos on, even though you don't ask them to) account was full and they wanted me to PAY to keep blogging. What a crock! I'm going to have to see what I can do about that. You have inspired me to pick it up again. Here is my blog link:
Wishing you the best as you begin life without treatment! You are an amazing woman!

Millie Hayes said...

I remember Castle Dracula! IFHS Class of 1995!

ashli said...

i just really love your writing and sense of humor and your honesty! sure grateful i found your blog via sugar doodle and sunday school helps... it always leaves me good food for thought and gratitude! you are an inspiration! thanks a bazillion!

Jeff Macfarlane said...

I've been a huge fan of your lesson plans, (which I think is awesome of you to give all of us non-teachy types help) but I am an even bigger fan of the fact that your cancer is gone! Yay!! My mom went through cancer several years ago, and what I watched her go through I wouldn't wish on anyone. Luckily she has been cancer-free for 8 years now.
Anyways, I'm so glad for you to get to be through that hell!

lanni said...

I obviously don't know you in real life, but I've used your blog for a lot of Sunday school lesson helps (your lesson plans are awesome! thank you!) and I really enjoy your blog. I just wanted to tell you thank you for all the time you put into your lesson plans and also that I think about you and what you're going through often -- you are an inspiration! And congrats on finishing your treatments :)

Marielle Weaver said...

I love your Sunday School ideas! Thank you so much! Congrats on finishing treatment. I know Bend is an expensive place to live, but man it is so beautiful there! We used to live in McMinnville, OR and would spend a week in Bend every year. Loved it.

Kathy Greer said...

I love your Sunday School ideas! I'm so happy you are doing well, and done with your treatments. I want to thank you so much for the help you have given me. I have been teaching Sunday School for about a year. It has been very hard for me. I live in Florida. I found your site a few months ago, and you have been an answer to prayer! You have helped me make my lessons better!



Kathy Greer said...

I don't know if you got my other comment. I want to thank you so much for the help you have given me. I have been teaching Sunday School for a year and a few months ago I found your site and it has made such a difference in my lessons! I can't thank you enough! Congratulations on feeling better and being done with the treatments too! You are very unselfish to share your great ideas with others.


chanel said...

I am subbing in Sunday School tomorrow and as if that isn't enough of a blessing in and of itself (I have taught Primary for the last like 10 years!) I came across your lesson helps and was just so taken by your humor, insights, and awesomeness that I started reading more about you. (Hi, I'm your new stalker, nice to meet you!) WOW! THANK YOU! I am even more excited to teach now!!
Congratu-FREAKIN-lation!!!!! What a HAPPY time to find you. That's me, the fair weather friend(...or stalker in this case), come in when all the bad stuff has gone down. You are a true rock star. I LOVE knowing there are such incredible people in this church, not only becasue you totally beat cancer like a boss, but becasue you have such incredible optimism and humor along the way. Very happy for you! Best wishes!!!

The Critical Mom said...

I'm recently diagnosed--Stage 1b estrogen-positive Her-2 Score 2+ and about to start chemo. They'll insert a port Wednesday. In the event that I am not nauseous, is there any chance it will be possible for me to keep taking ballet class? All those ports-de-bras. All those changements. What if the thing pops out on the floor? Spark plug gore . . .

Kar said...

Hey, Critical Mom! ABSOLUTELY you'll be able to keep taking ballet class. I was teaching dance the day after they put my port in! I know there are different kinds of ports - my guess is that you have a SmartPort like mine - one that is surgically implanted, and not on the outside of the skin. I've been able to have normal range of motion and everything - port de bras was a little uncomfortable on the lymph node removal side, but not on my port side. And I kept doing port de bras until I was able to break down all of that cording scar tissue in that armpit. You'll be able to petit allegro to your heart's content, my dear! Bless you as you go through chemo - it's a beastmaster. But you'll be able to dance every now and then, I promise. It's all in the timing. If it's within the week of receiving chemo, you have to basically stay home to keep from getting any stray germs. But you may feel good enough to dance the second and third weeks after chemo, at first. Toward the end of your treatment, you'll be a little more sick and unable to do much but lie on the couch, but you will be able to bounce back (literally and figuratively [changements]) within a month or so of your last treatment. You'll be winded a lot more easily than you used to be, and get dizzy a lot more than you used to, but eventually you'll recover your stamina. I'll be praying for you.

The Critical Mom said...

Thanks, Kar. I've now had two chemos. After the first, believe it or not, I dragged my feeling-like-I-was-moving-through-jello body to ballet, where I did the barre in an un-concentrated fashion and staggered home. The next time I went for chemo they said not to do that--the first 24 hours should be quiet since the epirubicin is poisonous for heart. So I waited, then went to class, where I felt week, and could not get past the adagio. I'm now almost bald--gray stubble, the moth-eaten look--and have a blond haystack wig I've worn to work, apparently fooling some. Two more cycles of the really strong stuff and then twelve of the pac-somethingorother and then surgical lump-removal plus radiation. I am told the lump is supposed to shrink with the chemo, but have informed the docs it has not. Any experience with this?? Thanks so much--the Critical Mom

Kar said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kar said...

So, Critical Mom, we need to be facebook friends. Can you find me? Lemme know what to do. Hint: My real name is Karlenn. Which you probably already know. Oh jeez, one of the chemo drugs is poisonous for the heart? Not surprised. I've only just recently recovered full normalcy in my bladder and bowels - a year and a half after I finished chemo!! It almost kills you so that you can live. And for realsies, be careful about going out anywhere for the first week after each chemo. I was dumb and had to be hospitalized with neutropenia after my first treatment. I went to the state fair - dumbbbb!!And look at you, working!!! Wowwwwww!!! I hated wigs. I went bald to church, and I was good with it. Good on you for being able to deal with the itchiness! I don't have experience with doing chemo first, then surgery and radiation; they do it differently in different places. In Idaho, they did surgery, chemo, and radiation. Here in Oregon, they do chemo, surgery, radiation. Maybe you'll shrink more and more with the next two chemos. What's a pac-something or other? And yes, you do feel like you're moving through jello that first day after chemo. That is the perfect description! And it feels like... like you have a sunburn on the inside. It's kind of a blushing feeling, all over your body. Don't you HATE the neulasta shot the next day? That made my femur bones ache so badly... Hang in there!!! And find me on facebook. If you feel like it. I didn't feel like doing much of anything while on chemo - not reading, not watching TV... it was weird.

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