On March 10th (a week and a half ago) I went in for my fourth and final AC treatment. My mom and Aunt Vicky were there to support me. This is somewhat of a crowning moment (if there is such a thing) during one’s breast cancer fight. Having your last AC treatment means the worst is about to be over. But first, you have to get through the next 2-3 weeks of the worst and that brings me to today. My doctor explains it like this….”Say I give you 10 pounds for your first treatment. At the end you give me 5 pounds back. Then for your second I give you another 10 but you still have 5 left over. At the end of your second you give me 5 pounds back but you have 10 left over….and so on”. So I’m going into this last AC treatment with 15 pounds of cumulative garbage.
I remember when I first started my treatment. My blood counts looked great. I was a healthy 32 year old despite the fact that I had a big tumor hanging out in my left breast. Now I look at my counts and I have low and high markers riddled over the page. For example, the reason my muscles ache immediately when I try to exercise is that my hemoglobin is low and that’s what carries the oxygen to them. Chemo attacks my bad cells that are trying to overtake my body but it also kills off my good fast-growing cells. That of course is why I lose my hair and as of recent, my eyelashes and eyebrows (something that I find even harder to deal with than the hair…my eyelashes used to be one of my favorite attributes).The lining of your stomach and intestines is also made up of fast reproducing cells and therefore, they are no fight for chemo…you lose a lot of the protective lining in your gut as well. This is why patients have problems with constipation and nausea. I’ve been lucky to not feel these effects but in the past 5 weeks my resulting symptom came on as a numbing ulcer. This being the worst of my treatment, I’ve also had terrible heartburn which makes my ulcer flare up even worse. The pain is constant, always nagging me on my upper left side. Last week they wanted to rule out any other more severe causes of the pain before they provided a diagnosis. They ran a D-dimer blood test to see if the culprit was a possible blood clot moving to my lung. The test came back elevated and I ended up hanging out at the doctor’s office all day going through ultrasounds to ensure there were no clots in my legs. Lucky me, it turned out to be a false positive and by process of elimination they ruled my pain as an ulcer. In the past week this nagging pain has moved on to an excruciating, piercing pain moments after I eat. Historically, days 7-14 of my treatment cycle have been the worst; I hold on to the fact that I am at day 10…this is almost over!
I’m still experiencing terrible dry mouth. This may sound like nothing but it is actually quite annoying because when I try to sleep my mouth literally dries shut and my nose becomes very congested, making it hard to breath. This results in a terrible sleeping pattern of constantly getting up to drink water and then waking up 30 minutes later to go to the bathroom. I pray that God blesses me with a baby that sleeps well. I think it would be quite a deserving consolation prize!
Understand now why my blog isn’t a focus of my health updates? It would be rather depressing. The good news is that I have yet to get “sick”. Everyone I know, including my dog even, has had a cold this winter. I, on the other hand, have managed to stay clear of the winter cold this year despite my compromised immune system. Could this be a product of all your prayers? Also, I'm happy to report that my tumor has shrunk substantially. It's about the size of a pencil eraser!
We’ve all heard of the mid-life crisis but could there be such a thing as the “mid-treatment crisis”? If so, I think I had it this weekend. Last Sunday I had a meltdown after I experienced a wig malfunction. Of course, it was the wig that triggered what I believe was just a need to let all the bottled emotion out. While trying to remain strong through all of this I have continually pushed the bad stuff deep down inside me. That now 25 pound garbage bag finally became too heavy to carry and I lost it. In the end, the wig problem worked itself out (they are replacing my defective one) and that moment of crisis played well into another chapter of my love story with my husband. He was there to comfort me and worked on helping me untangle my wig for over an hour. Where would I be without him through this?While typing this post I’m reminded of a life lesson. I sit here telling my stories of minor problems that I face today and in the background I listen to the news of a girl who was kidnapped, molested, and murdered and a women whose husband is missing because he was on Flight 370 and a lady with no face who was mauled by her pet chimpanzee. Little girl: I’m sure there will be a moment in your life when you feel the world is coming to an end. Maybe your boyfriend has cheated on you with another more popular girl or one of your friends was talking behind your back or your team lost an important game…Life is filled with sad, difficult, and even tragic moments but remember somewhere out there, there is someone who is experiencing something even worse than you. I believe God uses difficult moments in our lives to teach us, make us stronger, and draw us closer to Him. Most importantly we need these moments to appreciate the beauty in life. We say in Minnesota that we appreciate the summers more because we endure the harsh winters. Would the sun be so great if we didn’t experience a cloudy day? I look back to our honeymoon and remember feeling absolute bliss as we took a ferry to tour the French Riviera. We ended up at one of the most beautiful white beaches in San Tropez where Ben and I wrestled each other in the water. I remember walking the streets of Paris with our friends. I cherish these moments even more now and I look forward to more moments like this in the future. While at our Childbirth Prep class this weekend many were complaining about not receiving a voucher for parking. Ben and I laughed as we talked about how we have to pay $10 for parking each time we come to the hospital- some weeks it’s been every day. My sweet baby: remember to keep your life in perspective. And while I am not trying to downplay what you are experiencing or push away your emotions I want you to remember that in the end the good always outweighs the bad. You will look back at these moments and laugh that you worried so much.