today was my very last chemotherapy, after four months of adriamycin/cytoxan and taxol drugs and neulasta shots every two weeks. eight chemo sessions. a total of 37 hours of infusion. eight neulasta shots. and about 60 netflix videos. and too much skinny cow ice cream to mention.
every single time i went to chemo, except once when he was on his one-year anniversary trip to costa rica, my son matt has been with me. each time he has held my hand when the IV was inserted. he has helped me in every way possible for four solid months. he has made lunch for me at his house countless number of times and watched movies with me to keep me company when i felt awful. his wonderful wife, molly, has brought lunch to me at chemo, baked quiche for me at home, and checked on me after each chemo. i am so very glad that i live down the street from them and that we are so close. they have helped me get through chemo in the best possible ways.
chemo and the neulasta shots have been really rough, i've felt very toxic and awful, sometimes in a lot of pain, but it was not as bad as i imagined. i never spent an entire day in bed feeling sick. i never got behind in work. i never threw up from the chemo. but it's been very strange to be so aware of every inch of my body every single day - every two weeks new and bizarre side effects. i have felt trapped in my body, and watched myself become more and more unfamiliar every day in the mirror. it's just plain weird.
it's been so very, very odd to lose all my hair, eyelashes, eyebrows, fingernails. losing my breasts was no big deal to me because i always wanted a flat chest and i love my new body. but all my hair, even nose hair????? that's just so wrong. and it won't grow back for quite a while. but hopefully after all this and the upcoming 36 radiation treatments, the cancer won't come back at all.
this is what cancer has taught me:
i've learned that our bodies are stronger and more complicated than we can possibly imagine, and sooooo worth taking care of. if you want to try to prevent cancer, start here.
i've learned that the message that wine is good for our heart is most definitely overshadowed by this recent information that all alcohol raises the risk of breast cancer, even one glass/day.
i have definitely learned that i had more free time than i ever dreamed possible. if you are diagnosed with cancer, prepare to give up entire months of your life. i think of all the times i've been "too busy" with work to take a road trip or go on a spontaneous vacation or a month-long vacation, or even go to a movie - never again!
i've learned how to navigate through the unbelievable insanity of health insurance. there were days when dealing with my insurance company was worse than the chemo. make sure you have the best health insurance you can get - and make sure it covers 100% of the cost of chemo ($8,000 each treatment) and neulasta ($7,000 each shot) and 100% of prescription cost (my anti-nausea pills were $80 each), not to mention the other incredibly high costs associated with cancer care.
i've learned that doctors are most definitely regular people, some magnificent and caring and brilliant, some inept and condescending idiots and not up to date in their field. (if you get cancer, i recommend going to UCSF or a major cancer care facility, absolutely, if not for your treatment, then for a second opinion on every aspect of your care.)
i've learned to finally no longer be afraid of needles.
i've learned what real love is, with my sons and daughter-in-law and other family and friends--friends i've had for years and new friends on flickr and on my blog, nearby and around the world who have made comments, sent emails, gifts, cards, and have called. i cannot thank you enough for your friendship and warmth. you have helped me in my healing process every day. i have saved all the cards and emails and gifts - i will treasure them--and you--always.
please spread the word about the importance of early detection of breast cancer through mammography. this is what saved my life. i had a very aggressive triple negative, grade 3 cancer, but because of early detection, it was stage 1, 8mm. if i had gone even one year without having my annual mammogram, the tumor could have been stage 3 or 4, and my prognosis could have been much different.
i'm glad cancer got me. it shook me (hard) out of my rut and has taught me how to live completely in the moment, not worry about the past or future, enjoy my beloved family and true friends, and appreciate my body and my health in a way i never imagined. and it brought so many new friends into my life that i would never have met otherwise. i'm grateful.
now on to 36 radiation treatments, and by mid-july i will be free and ready to travel and have my holgas and polaroids back in my hands!