I’ve been staring at the screen for quite a while now, asking myself and wondering if I will be able to find the proper words to put into perspective the emotions that I have now that my 12th and final chemo treatment is behind me.
Twelve. XII. 12. However you choose to write out the figure, it always looks like a large and looming one, especially when put into context of the last 6 months. There are things that I have gone through that no one should ever have to be subjected to. Endless needles, daily uncertainly of “is it working?”, extreme bouts of nausea and fatigue coupled with more bouts of restlessness and anxiety and questioning than I ever thought I’d have to deal with, especially at the young age of 33 into 34. It has been during this journey that I’ve learned more about myself than I ever knew I had in me. My respect level for others that are similarly situated to me is through the roof – you are all fighters and sources of inspiration.
In looking back to the time that I was diagnosed via a whirlwind of various doctor appointments, through to the steps that were needed to take leading up to my first chemo followed by the total unknown of how I would come about to understand what my body is able to handle, it has been quite a trip.
You ride a roller-coaster of emotions. Some emotions that continued to bubble as the ride continued.
Can I persevere? Can I stay positive and laugh? Will I be able to come out of this a better person with a richer perspective as to what it is to enjoy the healthy days that are given to me during my treatment, and then once it is all behind me what will happen?
Perseverance: This is an area that through all of the valleys that I have traveled through on my journey I knew was never in doubt. For better (in this case) or for worse, I have been told that one of the qualities that I have in life is stubbornness. Not to the extent that it is detrimental, but more in the sense that I don’t give up. I like to absorb as much information as I can and when I’ve come to a conclusion in my mind, I feel confident that it is the right one. I’m not going to lose. I’m so hyper-competitive with myself that it doesn’t become an option. That is what I kept telling myself over and over and over. Even in my deepest doldrums of feeling like total shit. Losing wasn’t a word that was allowed to enter my subconscious. I persevere.
Positivity & Humor: Within minutes of being officially diagnosed, I looked my doctor in the eye and said to him “how are we beating this and how quickly can we start?” I always felt that if I never let myself feel bad about my situation, I would be able to make it through it in a manner that could serve to inspire myself and at the same time hopefully others. I was cautious when it came to the types of people that I wanted to be around. I chose to do my best to stay in arenas where the conversation was positive. I promised myself that I would laugh every day and that I would get something positive out of every day. This promise was built on the foundation of no matter how crappy or good I would feel so that I knew the next day, or hour would be easier than the last. Making sure that laughter played a role was important to me. It is an emotion that should be experienced by everyone, every day, no matter what they are going through and I promised myself that I would always find time to laugh.
Having cancer, no matter how old you are is something that people just should not have to go through. It is a physical war that invades your body without notice and it is there to kill you. There is no other way to say it. You become the medium for a full- scale war to be fought. I think I made the analogy early on in this process that chemo is like an atomic bomb, it arrives uninvited, destroys all of the evil, but because it is so potent it has an unfortunate radius of collateral damage ie your healthy blood cells, leaving your immune system compromised. You have to arm yourself with the best type of mindset to stay positive and ensure that you are going to make it through each day and that the next will be better than the last.
Looking back at what transpired over the course of the day, I had this nagging sense that no matter how happy I was going to be to walk out of the chemo ward with the 12th and final treatment behind me, that I was going to have to work for it — more so than the previous 11.
It started with the printer breaking when they were making the labels that affix to the vials of blood that they take prior to my appointment with my doc. I ended up having to wait for a solid 35min for things to get worked out. I should have known then that the day would be full of some hiccups. The quicker I wanted to get out of the hospital, the longer it would take. The appointment with my doctor went very well and he is as anxious to see the results of my scan as I am, but we have to wait until 9/7 to get them back (he will call me that day) and I have a formal appointment with him on 9/10 where we are all praying that he tells me that we have officially moved into the observation stage and that the chemo did its job.
My family and I head down to the ward to wait for my name to be called and for the last treatment to begin. Off the bat, things seem a bit slow. The good news is that I got my favorite nurse, Rose, for my final treatment – so in that capacity, I know that I’m in great hands. The needle really is painful today. I’m so glad that this the final round because my veins really need a break. They are so sensitive to needles and the push of the treatment at this point that they hurt more and more as the needles are pushed in. We are moving along, but have had to slow the drip of the “D” (longest med push – takes about an hour) because my veins are not happy about being the vehicle for the meds to travel…I’m tired, but not able to rest my eyes. Today, the treatment just drags. It can easily be analogous to when you are on a flight, one that you’ve been on many times before, and one that isn’t long, but feels so long because you just want to get there already. That is my today.
My Dad and sister are standing up by the machine that counts you down so they can capture the final read of 0 and then Rose can patch me up and we can walk out. There is emotion passing through me, part of me wants to cry from the joy of it being over. Part of me just wants to run from that emotion. Part of me just wants to run (cause I really really miss running!). In the end, I close my eyes, take a deep breath, stand up, give Rose a hug to thank her, hug my Dad and sis and walk on out of the hospital knowing that if everything goes well, I do not have to go back to the chemo ward again.
At home, laying down on the couch and doing my best to relax. My Mom is back from running errands, so she gets a big hug as well…going to try to eat something even though my taste buds are shot today…my Mom made me mac & cheese which was quite good…Andre is heading over to watch the EPL kickoff of Man U v Everton so that will be fun to watch with him…just good to have good people around as always to smile and keep the positivity up….Linds came by for a quick visit as well and we got to hear all about her and Andre’s trip to Peru (sounded amazing)…they are off and my Mom is making dinner….I’m eating, but again, nothing really has much taste…
Starting to get very tired and hoping that I’ll be able to get a good night sleep tonight…before I sign off for the evening, I wanted to just say one more thing…
There are countless of you out there that have supported me in so many different capacities – none of which need to be rehashed here. The point that I’m trying to make is that each and every person, whether it be a simple text, IM, email, call or quick chat in passing has had a positive impact on how I have made it this far. I know that I can’t properly express what your support has meant to me, but I do hope that you all know that you have been a huge component of me making it through my daily war. Love you all.
With that, the final chemo score will be read and I will head to sleep…