I think I finally feel at peace with this process. I’m still afraid, and I’m not looking forward to treatment, but I know now that whatever it throws at me, I can handle.
Part of this new inner calm comes from my support group. The first ever meeting of the first ever breast cancer support group at Kaiser was held on Monday. (They host events for the American Cancer Society, but this effort seemed internal.) I didn’t even know how to begin looking for one until I spotted a notice in Dr. Yee’s office. I didn’t know what to expect, and wasn’t sure I was going to go, but I am so glad I went. I didn’t know how much I needed a support group until now.
There were fewer than ten of us in the room, more hospital staff and volunteers than patients. One of them was a nurse; another a social worker. There were a few long-time survivors in attendance, but only two other recently treated women.
I truly hope to see more of these group sessions. I’m afraid of seeing the group flounder or end from lack of interest. I think Kaiser is offering an invaluable service. I hope I can get the word out and get more people to go… and not just patients, but also family members of patients. Family are often even more confused than the patients themselves, I imagine.
I learned a lot during the meeting. I think the most important thing I took away is that this process will be yucky and uncomfortable, and some days will be hard, but I know now that I can still live my life. I’d heard from friends before that their loved ones were still able to go to their jobs and work out while getting treatment, and the people in front of me were saying the same. I heard many stories, and came away feeling upbeat.
One of the nurses in attendance said she’d stop by during my treatment tomorrow. Almost everyone in the room gave me a phone number. I know that at any moment, I’ll have someone to turn to for advice, and that’s such a great comfort.
The main speaker at this particular meeting was the aforementioned social worker, and I was reminded of my late friend Ryan, who was also a social worker at Kaiser. Yesterday happened to be the anniversary of his passing. I thought about some of the advice he may have had for me… delivered with wry humor, of course. Ryan was a good friend, and I watch people around me miss him everyday. Chemo isn’t perfect, but it’ll help me live longer, and living longer is better than to have people have to miss me.
I also thought of the scary things I might face in the next few weeks. I know it’s the best medical science can do today. But I also know that someday, there will be a better way.
Yesterday was my port placement procedure. I was at the hospital from 8 am until 1 pm, but much of that time was spent waiting. The procedure itself was very simple. It lasted forty minutes, at the most. I barely remember it… though that may have been the anesthesia.
It was so simple that I thought, at the very end, “Is that it?” After it was over, I was wheeled back into the room, impatient to leave, but was told that I needed to wait several hours so that they could watch for bleeding.
When I was sent home, I was told to sleep partially elevated for the night, and that all the usual disclaimers about aspirin and showering applied. I settled myself onto the couch, thinking that the whole thing seemed pretty anticlimactic. Until I stood up. It HURT. The pain came on so fast, and was so ferocious, that I found myself calling my oncologist to ask for pain medication.
I had to remind myself that it was, technically, surgery, and that, naturally, it hurt after.
One thing I’m learning is to not ignore my body. Many of us have trouble letting go and heeding signals to rest or eat well or take care of ourselves. I end up paying the price big time if I’m not careful, especially now.
My first chemotherapy treatment is tomorrow. I swing wildly back and forth between bright-eyed optimism and abject terror. Even today, at my appointment with the pharmacist, the sheer volume of the information given to me was overwhelming, inducing embarrassing tears.
But right now, I am relaxed, again. Eager to just get it over with, again.
I’m so glad I had Ryan with me today. I needed him more than ever, and he was amazing. As the nurse spoke to me, he took pages of notes and asked questions, and while I wish he didn’t have to take charge, I’m glad he is.
After the appointment, we met Ryan’s coworkers for an appreciation luncheon, and I had yet more sushi.
It was perfect timing, as the sushi ban starts tomorrow. For tonight, Ryan’s squeezing in my other food vice: bloody as hell steak.