Gratefulness and Appreciation

This week my stoic, unemotional days with a sunny Southern California attitude about life are finally starting to return.

My forecast is now improving with only some spotty clouds and a slight chance of rain. The sort of rain that falls during those random showers that only last minutes while the sun is still shining. Like a happy rain.

I can finally see the finish line, and what a physical and emotional relief it is.

Though I have lost most of my naivete and sense of invulnerability over these last 9 months, I have seen a side of life and a group of people in a community that is bonded over one shared experience. Regardless of age or gender or color or creed, cancer does not discriminate. I think everyone reading this knows that.

You can all read my story and think "Glad it's not me!" But as soon as you dot that exclaimation point, you also remind yourself that it could be you tomorrow. That's how cancer works.

I've had this thing in my body and this experience treating it that could carry me anywhere in the world and instantly connect me with a complete stranger. We cancerous ones have all sat in a room and heard the very same news. We have all had that moment where our entire lives hit rock bottom with a single word.

And it's not just my own intimate relationship with cancer that has robbed me over and over again. It's walking into a building time after time that is stacked full of people connected by cancer. People that have it, people that had it, people that are clearly dying of it and people that are clearly living after it.

To see people day after day who are just grateful to have one more sunrise will put your life in a serious perspective real fast. 

At any given visit I can sit and wait and hear distant conversations that aren't about comparing or one-upping or out doing. In this world it's not a competition. It doesn't matter what stage you have, how long you've been treating it or how many rounds of chemo you've done. We are all equal simply over a shared experience. Cancer is cancer is cancer. It's not a pissing contest.

I may have lost so much of my innocense, but I have also gained a greater appreciation for life, for normal, for waking up and being able to get out of bed. I have a new sense of gratefulness and a greater desire to grab hold of every moment and live it even fuller.

I have had the ultimate attitude adjustment.

I know my sappiness is sounding cliche, but I can't help it when I'm sitting here enjoying my last fleeting day of normalcy before I reconnect to that IV and dive down for one last trip to the depths of misery.

In a weird way I'm grateful to cancer for what it has given me. For in the end, I think it will have given far more than it has taken from my life. It's odd to think of cancer as a giver in my life when it is such a taker in others.


The Home Stretch

It's Sunday morning and I'm not only out of bed, I'm sitting straight up with my eyes open and the sun shining in.

My infusion nurse could offer no explanation as to why some rounds are moderately miserable (like this round) and some rounds leave me in bed for days on end without food or daylight, whimpering my way through the hours. I'm not being dramatic. It is a sick like no other.

Round 11 wasn't that bad. I was up a little. I ate a little. I caught up on my BravoTV shows a little. I even wasted 5 minutes of my life that I'll never get back on the Kardashians. And here I am on a Sunday wondering if I might just venture out into the world today.

We met with my oncology PA on Wednesday before treatment and she went over the end-of-game plan. I easily volunteered to wait 3 weeks between treatments, not only because it was inevitable with the way my blood counts go, but better for my overall mental state. It's amazing what an extra week of normal can do for my anxiety levels and lowering my ability to burst into tears without much provocation.

So August 22nd is officially on the books. Round 12 is finally here after many delays and it's officially official. As I laid in bed at the beginning of February, I wondered how I was ever going to survive being this sick 11 more times. And to think I only have to do it once more is amazing. AMAZING! For once, I think I will look forward to treatment.

On Friday, August 24th I'll return to get disconnected from my pump. On that day, the chemo drugs will be pumped into my body for the very last time. THE VERY LAST TIME. FOREVER. AMEN.

We were surprised to find out that my PICC line will come out as soon as my pump comes off. No waiting for another clean CT scan. No waiting for a follow up with my oncologist. The pump comes off and the PICC comes out.

This is huge on a lot of levels beyond my obvious vanity, the weird tan line I'm going to be rocking on my left bicep and my incessant need to be mildly fashionable. The relief is mainly for me because I know it will be a relief for Merrick. For him, my noodles represent medicine and sickness. As long as they are in, mommy is sick. As long as they are in, mommy can't go swimming. As long as they are in, I will have to disappear for days at a time. They have been his visual reminder that all his not right and safe in his world.

With the PICC line out, I can return to being a regular ol' mommy, and I know this will be a huge load off his little shoulders.

The hole should be closed on within 24-hours and I promised him I'd be swimming in the deep end with him as soon as I felt well enough. Huge steps toward healing for a little boy.

I'll have a follow up appointment with my oncology team 3 weeks after my final treatment and at that time I'm sure they'll schedule my CT scan. They aren't expecting anything surprising, so this scan will be my baseline for which future scans will be compared.

I will then see them every 3 months for the first two years to check my tumor markers and get a scan every 6 months. As a reminder, if I can make it through the first two years with clean scans, I have an 80% chance of no recurrence. Then it will be on to the 5 year mark and a 99% chance of no recurrence.

I'm also making plans for my return to wellness, primarily through alternative and holistic measures. There will be plenty of whole food, exercise, detoxing and renewing to blog about. My most important focus being on getting this toxic CRAP out of my body. My understanding is it takes the chemo drugs 30 days to get out of my system, and I plan on helping them on their way. I'm all about expediting their journey. But more on that once I get past August 24th.