Even when I had heard that this type of cancer journey takes a year to a year-and-half to go through, it didn’t truly register what would mean. 125 medical appointments later --I do consider it a “journey” – certainly I am not the same person I was prior to my diagnosis.
It has been on my mind for a while to update this blog, if only to put a sense of closure to it. Life is as busy as ever, maybe more so.
While the first two cycles of chemo hadn’t been too bad, the last two really knocked me out. In the first two, Day One was about the 6-hour infusion (hydration and chemo drugs), Day Two was 3-4 hours of more hydration and the Neulasta shot to goose white blood cell production. Day Three started the nausea from chemo and bone/joint pain from the Neulasta shot. Followed by a few days of flu symptoms, and then gradual recovery so that by the end of 21 days, I was back to “normal” and then the next round of chemo started.
The effects of chemo tend to be cumulative and so by the time I started rounds three and four, I wasn’t returning to normal in between. I went from feeling sick to feeling sicker. I had all the usual symptoms (nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, chills, etc.); plus exhaustion. I didn’t have enough energy to walk to the end of the block or up the stairs to our second-floor apartment. Even walking from the bedroom to the living room was a chore. I mostly didn’t go out, Jess managed everything. Everything seemed to take more energy than I had, and we were trying to minimize my exposure to infections like cold and flu. At one point, I was sleeping 16 to 18 hours a day – I was that exhausted. And although I continued to work from home, the last 3 weeks of chemo I worked only on those projects and tasks that absolutely couldn’t wait, in between naps.
Chemo drugs are tough on the body, after all, their purpose is to kill off the quickly multiplying cancer cells. Those drugs impact all the fast-growing cells in the body (hair, nails, inside of the nose and mouth, GI tract, etc.), and then the drugs taken for side-effects such as nausea and pain, contribute to constipation, heartburn and sleeplessness, requiring laxatives, stool softener, antacids, and sleeping pills. Every day was a balancing act between symptoms and remedies. It’s really quite a lot to put the body through; and the body is truly an amazing thing.
Hair loss in all the places you’d think, and while I didn’t miss shaving my legs, losing the little hairs inside my nose was a surprise. The lack of those hairs meant there was nothing to slow down or dry out the mucus, which resulted in a fairly constant runny nose. My eyebrows and eyelashes lasted almost until the end of radiation, which I started a few weeks after finishing chemo. After radiation, I started the anti-hormone drug, Aromasin, which I will be on for at least 5 years. I have occasionally wished I could have delayed the start of that drug until my eyebrows came back in, I found that I missed them more than the hair on my head, which is still filling in.
I'm learning more about my art, and from my art, every day. It's not so much a matter of skill or practice... mostly it's a shift in perspective, a way of shaping how I look at and exist in the world.
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