I have endured 3/4 of the chemotheraphies assigned to me. I have 1 infusion left, in 2 weeks.
I am starting to hear lots of chatter about being almost done!
Can you guess how I feel about this statement? Excited? Hopeful? Joyous?
You are wrong.
I think it’s total honky.
Yea, I have one more chemo infusion, but the moment those drugs are done slithering into my bloodstream I will still be so far from ‘done’ that it seems laughable.
Chemo starts when the infusion ends. I have 3 weeks in between chemos because that is the amount of time I need to recover enough to be blasted again.
This shizz is cumulative, so with every round, it becomes harder and harder to bounce back. I am on day 5 after my last infusion and I have been awake and in an upright position for only approx 3/24 hours.
I want to ask all of you to think about it this way: after I have my final infusion in 2 weeks, I am actually just starting.
Stick with me here.
I will have had 4 rounds of dose-dense poison pumped into my body over the course of a summer. This poison will hopefully have killed any remaining cancer cells, but will have caused a great deal of collateral damage along with it, too.
When I am done having chemo, the clock starts for me to inch my way back from base camp to (hopefully) somewhere near the bottom of the hill.
After the final chemo I will have the standard three weeks of rough recovery. After that, what will I be left with? I will be at my lowest. I will be alive, but demolished down to the studs.
I will be weak, depleted of all kinds of key nutrients. I will be very bald and very tired. I will be covered in scars and my body will be limited by all of the surgical wounds, both literal and figurative. The woman I saw in the mirror at the start of the summer will be a ghost of my past.
Done? It almost seems laughable.
Of course I will want to celebrate my last chemotherapy in some significant way, but it would be completely fictitious to frame this as the end.
Up until the last chemo, all of the treatments will have been done to me. After chemo, I am the one who has to rebuild. The burden to get back to anywhere near the Grace I was before, falls squarely on my shoulders. For it to be suggested that I am done seems almost cruel.
Now listen, I know that when people say, ‘yeah! you are done,’ they have nothing but the absolute best intentions. But I want to urge you to think about this process from my perspective.
So many of you have reached out to me to say that my blog has helped you understand your friend, mother, sister, colleague’s cancer battle. I ask you all to redefine done.
Finishing chemo is not done. Having your last surgery is not done. These are beginnings. Your friend/mother/sister/colleague hasn’t even started rebuilding herself.
Allow us to remain broken for a while. Sometimes even a long while. Grant us the longevity of your empathy. Cheer for us as we start building a new sense of self along with a new physical body.
Just because we aren’t going to the cancer center multiple times a week doesn’t mean we won’t still be incredibly grateful for your offers of continued help. Keep the meals, offers of companionship, and errand-running, coming.
Because to me, from behind my tired eyes, I haven’t even started yet.