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.
6 Comments Add yours
I love you.
I second the above comment.
Hello Grace–I encountered your breast cancer blog because my niece sometimes “likes” your blog entries on FB. ( I’m not sure how exactly she knows you. )
I so appreciate your wit, candor, and fine writing. Ordinarily I’m repelled by the sappy heroics of cancer journeys, but yours is different. Sardonic, sarcastic, REALLY funny. And TRUE.
And can I EVER relate , as my daughter was dx 10 yrs ago at age 33 as a newlywed. She endured a mastectomy, radiation, reconstruction, chemo, five years of tamoxifen, and several recent plastic surgery revisions. Her marriage didn’t survive and she cannot have children. (Do count your 3 beautiful blessings there. ).
But she’s a lot like you: a beauty, a fighter, smart and popular, into physical fitness. She actually snowboarded wearing a wig during her chemo months! And looked amazing.
10 years out is an interesting place to be : she is vital, beautiful, happy, yet always a bit shadowed by this thing. How could she/ we not be? It was an F- ing trauma, let’s be clear about that. But life IS good again and pretty darn , wonderfully, almost -normal.
I see where you are in your entry today—she was there too. It’s a low and dark place and you are diminished. Bone-weary. Full of toxic chemicals. It’s like science fiction and you’re the freakish experiment in the labORatory.
Just know it will get better. Perspective is so elusive when you’re living and fighting day- by-day .
Sending love, support, more courage.
You’re not called Grace for nothing.
All the best. Feel free to email me directly.
Thank you. Thank you for saying what most people that have a friend, loved one, colleague going through chemo and other cancer drugs, can never comprehend. God Bless you
Hey Grace, I totally get what you mean. Everyone is so kind and understanding and helpful and with your last treatment it can be like you are supposed to just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and carry on. The battle becomes a lot more private and internal. I get days where I feel very overwhelmed at how normal life is these days when inside I don’t always feel “normal” at all. Onward and upward..
It’s so true. I feel like when you are actually going on through it you are just surviving. You are not “living” it you are merely pushing through it. If I actually let my mind live through what I was feeling physically then I’m not sure I would have made it through. It is on those next six to twelve months that the processing actually begins, and with it is a whole different phase of healing. Those following months will be just as important to have your team right by your side as it was during chemo, maybe even more. But then, then things start to clear, your purpose in this life starts to shine through all of that darkness and haze, and you actually stop and thank whoever it is you thank for allowing you to see the world in a way that only those who have fought through it can see it. It’s so damn beautiful…and you will be there. Here’s to that last crappy round💜You so got this!