Last Thursday brought my last chemo treatment.
In the grand scheme of things, finishing chemo is not a big deal. Thousands of people go through chemo every year. I am not the first cancer patient, nor will I be the last. But to me, Thursday was one of the most important days of my life.
I feel so grateful today.
I am grateful that I had symptoms that were noticeable before it was too late. I am grateful to the strangers who gave me hugs and asked how I’m feeling. I am grateful to my oncologist, who didn’t laugh at me when I couldn’t find the right words or ways to phrase my questions. I am grateful to the great nurses I’ve gotten to know in the Kaiser oncology department.
In a futile attempt to show my appreciation, I brought them cookies. I know it wasn’t enough.
I whine at Ryan every day that I want to be up to full power and doing all the things I used to do, but I know that I am lucky. This week, I met an 84 year old woman who was diagnosed last year, underwent a mastectomy, and was diagnosed again in February. She lost her husband two years ago.
I have a great husband who has been with me through this.
While I still have six weeks of radiation ahead, I’m already thinking about the years of hormone therapy beyond.
My oncologist assured me during my last visit that Tamoxifen will be a breeze, but I’m still worried. Apparently Tamoxifen and Prozac do not play well together, so he advised me to switch to Effexor. I am afraid of the side effects of Tamoxifen, but I’m more afraid that Effexor won’t work as well as Prozac did. I am scared of entering another downward spiral of anxiety. Those few weeks in July were so scary and dark. I never want to feel that again.
I see the doctor again tomorrow. It’s been a busy week. Yesterday, I spent the morning with Alex’s class, learning about how his teachers are teaching math. I had yet to meet most of Alex’s class, and they all wanted to know why I have no hair, and by the way, what’s the deal with the thing on my chest? Apparently, one girl in Alex’s class has been asking about my hair since the summer.
Their questions made me think. I was matter-of-fact and blunt with my kids about my appearance and all of the changes, but what about everybody else? How do other patients handle the questions from their kids or their nieces and nephews?