I haven’t written in my blog for quite some time now. I am not that busy, but I am at a loss for words. I know, I know, hard to imagine.
My cancer returned a few months ago, rearing it’s ugly head in my liver again. Predictable? Yes! Shocking? Every. Single. Time.
While I have been battling stage IV Inflammatory Breast Cancer for nearly six years, the news that it is time to change up my treatment never gets any easier. In fact, it becomes increasingly harder to accept.
I get used to my life on a particular set of medications and the side effects I adjust my days around. Chemo fatigue throughout the day? I take a few short naps and keep on rolling. Stomach issues that force me to stay home? I do not eat anything until after all of the errands have been done. Blisters on my face? An excuse to go to Sephora and buy new makeup. You get the idea, adjust your sails and keep on sailing. Dare I say I begin to manage cancer rather than the other way around? That management doesn’t stick around for very long though when you have metastatic disease.
The medications change and so does my life. This last change forced me off of oral chemotherapy and set me back six years to chemo infusions. This was a difficult blow to my every day life. Every three weeks I have to go into the hospital and “plug” myself in for about six hours. You would think I would be used to this by now. Nope! You don’t get used to chemotherapy. Fortunately for me the fear is lessened considerably as I know exactly what is going to happen to me. Yet, it’s lonely thanks to Covid. They line us up, spread apart of course, plug us into the IV and walk away. No visitors, no chatting, just alone in your thoughts while the medicine drips…one….drip….at….a….time.
This time around I have decided to spare my hair from the evil side effects. I am wearing what they call a cooling cap during each infusion. This is supposed to save at least 50% of my hair during treatment. At this juncture, (3 of 6 treatments) last time I did chemo, I was completely bald. It comes with it’s own side effects, of course. The idea behind the cooling cap is to freeze the scalp during the infusion so that the chemotherapy cannot get to the scalp. Does the benefit outweigh the excruciating pain of a frozen head for hours? The jury is still deliberating…
Some have asked me, why save your hair this time around? Others are kind enough to share, “you rocked bald last time”. Well, it’s not about vanity at all. It is ALL about looking as healthy as I can. You see, when I look in the mirror I already see cancer. I do everything I know how to cover up, add color to, draw on, and hide my cancer scars. If I look in the mirror and see healthy then I act healthy. If I act healthy, then I become healthy. It’s a little trick us cancer patients play to keep the bad days at bay and the smiles on our faces.
My treatments are spaced three weeks apart which allows me to regain my strength in between each infusion. Week one starts off okay thanks to the steroids they infuse prior to the chemotherapy. While they keep me awake and make me look a little swollen, they literally trick my body into thinking I have energy for a few days. As the steroids leave my system so does my energy. I begin to slow down at the end of the week, knowing that the weekend ahead will be challenging.
The second week my body screams, “what the hell did you do to me last week?” Rejecting many of my favorite foods, my stomach creeps slowly up my throat and settles into a nice little blistering mess. My brain is cloudy, slow to respond, and while it’s taking information in, it holds onto and allows the words to swirl around in there for a bit before it sends a message to my mouth. And then the chemo fatigue settles in like my sweet dog Lucy does on a cold day, nuzzling under my blanket with no intention of leaving anytime soon. Food tastes like metal, the roof of my mouth is raw and just as I come to accept that the second week just, plain sucks…it is the third week.
I feel a lot better during the third week. This is the time to ask me to commit to stuff. I feel “normal” again and I think I can do just about what you can do. What I fail to accept monthly is that this only last 7 days and allllllllll of those lists, commitments and promises have to be fulfilled during those 7 days or we are back at week ONE. NOT WEEK ONE AGAIN….
So, this is it. This is where I am these days. Fair day for Jen for I am on the world’s largest roller coaster called life and I cannot seem to get off of it. The views are amazing, the laughter is contagious, the love is healing but the ride can be exhausting.