Fear is such a powerful thing.
Before cancer, my biggest fears were based on my husband being at war. What if he didn't come home? What if I ended up being a single parent? On my "bad days" during his deployment, I would cry just thinking about what it would be like to raise my son without my husband. Or how I would react if those 2 soldiers showed up at my front door to tell me my husband wasn't coming home. There were days that I just didn't want to go home... because I was SURE they would be there waiting for me.
It never ever occurred to me that I might be the one making an early exit and that Chris might end up being the single parent. Not once.
Then I heard the words, "I'm sorry, you have cancer."
And BAM! My mortality hit me in the face and knocked me on my ass.
And suddenly that's all I could think about. What if I died? What would Caleb do without me? How can my little boy grow up without his Mama?
Eventually I put those fears aside. But that fear was a huge motivator during my fight. I NEEDED to live.
Now the immediate battle is over. I won. I have been declared cancer free... a survivor.
I won, right? No more cancer! But... my mind keeps telling me there is the chance. The chance of recurrance.
Did you know that on average about 80% of women diagnosed with my subtype of cancer are alive after 5 years? That means 20% die. Not all of them die of cancer, but many do. Because the cancer comes back.
That is the fear now. What if it comes back?
I'm doing everything I can to keep cancer at bay. I'm eating right (most of the time). I'm exercising at least 3-4 days every week. I'm trying to keep my weight down. I've cut back severely on my alcohol intake. I'm trying to keep my stress levels low. All those magical things that decrease my chance of recurrance by up to half.
But... what if that's not enough? What if it comes back despite all of that?
This is life for a cancer survivor in the months after treatment. From the survivors I've talked to, these fears are totally normal. Get a headache? The fear yells "brain cancer!" PMS cramps? Must be uterine cancer! Any aches/pains? Bone cancer! Shortness of breath (I'm asthmatic too so this does happen alot)? Lung cancer!
I wish I was kidding or being sarcastic or overexaggerating. But this is a common thread on the support boards where I'm known to hang out. The fear that comes with survivorship.
So that is my new battle, conquering the fear. Because if I let this fear invade my mind and rule my life, cancer wins.
A few quotes recently caught my attention in regards to fear:
"Fear ends where faith begins." ~Unknown
"Feed your faith and your fears will starve to death." ~Unknown
These struck a chord with me. Because in the end, I cannot control recurrance. Nothing I can do will guarantee my long term survival.
So I have to have faith.
I have to have faith that everything I do to keep myself healthy will work. I have to have faith in my doctors and my treatment and that it WORKED. I have to have faith that I have done everything in my power to NEVER have to face this beast again. I HAVE to have faith that I will live. Because a life lived in fear isn't much of a life.
And, if cancer does return, I have to have faith in God. That He has a plan. That even with metastatic cancer, I can continue to survive for years to come. That if I do die, I will be with Him. And He will watch over my family and be there to help them survive.
I know these fears will never fully go away. But I pray that if I let my faith fill me up, there will be little room left for fear.
I pray that through faith, I can find some peace.
In honor of my 6th Taxol treatment (HALFWAY THERE!!!!!!!!) I thought I'd write a blog about some of the awesome side effects. I was going to try to write a funny poem... but I couldn't find anything that rhymed with "butthole" :)
If you think of anything to complete that rhyme, lemme know!
So instead of writing a poem, I'll use another analolgy for side effects. You ever watch drug commercials? And the voice comes on at the end and speed reads through a list of horrible sounding side effects? And you wonder who the heck would risk "anal leakage" just so they can lose a little weight?
Or am I the only one that considers that a head scratcher?
Well I kinda feel like my life is that little blurb at the end of the commercial. Only I generally feel like the side effects are worth taking a drug that could keep cancer at bay and keep me alive for many years to come. If you asked me to go through this for weight loss, I'd tell you to go sell your crazy somewhere else.
So here it is. If you were watching a commercial for chemo meds, the announcer would have to burn through this list of common side effects:
Nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, temporary alopecia (fancy word for baldness), constipation, diahrea, bruising, tiredness, mouth sores/ulcers, metallic taste in your mouth, heart damage, infertility, loss of period, neuropathy, general aches and pains, vaginal dryness, increased chance of infections, forgetfulness, chronic nosebleeds, and other more serious side effects.
Sounds like a picnic, right? I mean who doesn't enjoy feeling like you just pencil rolled down a hill that had lots of baseball sized rocks on it? (aka "general aches and pains") Or, you know, having crazy poop problems? And that whole forgetfulnes thing... wait... what was I going to say again?
When they tell you about these side effects up front, you think "that doesn't sound THAT bad." And to be totally truthful, I've lived through worse. I've woken up with hangovers that are worse than some of these side effects.
BUT (and this is a big but) a hangover lasts a day, maybe two if you really partied hard.
Chemo lasts for like 3-4 months.
And now that I'm on Taxol, the side effects aren't getting any better, they're becoming more cumulative. Don't get me wrong, A/C wasn't fun. However, things like the nausea and the loss of appetite got better with each infusion. So each infusion seemed to get a little easier.
Taxol is the reverse of that.
Taxol seemed all friendly at first. It was like "nice to meet you. See? I'm all gentle and don't kick your ass like that nasty, old A/C did."
And you think "Taxol, it sure is nice to meet you. I like you much better than A/C."
And then Taxol, being the two faced fiend that it is, turns out to be some sort of voo-doo priestess and you're the new target. Each treatment, Taxol sticks a new giant pin into your little voo-doo doll. And that's kind of how I feel, like a little doll with lots of pins in it.
Because Taxol can cause nerve damage. Hence the neuropathy and general aches and pains.
And by aches and pains, I mean really random sharp pains all over your body.
And by neuropathy, I mean numbness or tingling in the extremeties. Doesn't sound bad, but boy oh boy is it annoying. And can make it difficult to type (another reason for my lack of blogging).
Oh and then there's the chronic nose bleeds. Nothing like having a work conversation with a Kleenex stuffed up your nose. Seriously, that happened once. Luckily the person I was meeting with just took it in stride, but I can't say I'd consider it one of my finer professional moments.
So that's where I am. Halfway done with Taxol and ready for it to be over. I feel like I've gotten the side effects reasonably under control through use of various vitamin supplements and Tylenol. I'm still very positive. I'm still working and enjoying day to day life more than I did on AC.
BUT I'm ready to go back to feeling like me. I'm ready to have this be over and feel like my body is mine again.
So HURRAY for the half way point, but God please let this 2nd half go fast :)
I'm going to take a second to whine.
I don't do this often... or, like, ever... so hopefully you will humor me.
I hate chemo.
In an, "I wish I could make a chemo voodoo doll and stick pins in it", kind of way.
I know this seems very random considering all my usual peppy optimism, but today is just kicking my ass. This 3rd round of chemo is wearing me out. I had an awful cold all of the last 2 weeks and that exhausted me. Now I am over my cold (thank you Lord) but my energy levels are sooooooo low.
I seriously have day dreams that involve my bed. Wait... that sounds kinky. I WISH that my daydreams were that exciting.
But no, they're not even the good kind of kinky daydreams involving a bed. They're daydreams about laying IN bed, under the covers, and not moving. Possibly sleeping, but that isn't even a requirement. Just my bed and absolute stillness.
Does that sound completely glorious to anyone else?
Because it sounds like heaven to me. A big, empty, warm bed and some magical way of getting food into my tummy without eating. Because food SOUNDS awful, but if I don't eat, I feel worse.
UGH. Did I mention I hate chemo?
So there it is, my big, grumpy, unfunny blog about how chemo bites the big one.
Upside: I'm 3/4 of the way done with AC, which is supposed to be the sucky part of chemo.
Downside: I still have 1 more treatment to go. BOOOOOOOOO!
OK, whining done now. Well... for now. I'm not making any promises about later.