Monday, July 6, 2015

Chemotherapy Complete!

I had my last EVER chemo treatment on Tuesday. Six rounds of intense chemotherapy, and my body is shot.

Everyone keeps telling me, nurses, doctors, and other patients, say that the drug regimen I am on is one of the most difficult. Physically and mentally I really struggled each round. After a few days in bed after each treatment I would get depressed, missing my life and missing the girls...feeling guilty that Mark and everyone else were doing so much and carrying me through this. A few days after treatment I get an injection to make my bone marrow boost blood cell production. After that shot I get body aches, a fever, and generally feel like I have the worst case of the flu that exists. About a week after treatment, the fog lifts a little and I am able to atleast come downstairs and be present, maybe even read the girls a few books or play on the couch some. Sometimes there were set backs and I would have a rough day again, but usually after days 8 or 9, I progressively improve and am able to be up and around more. Then by day 10, I get my blood counts checked to make sure my white count is high enough that I don't have to be as crazy about germs and isolation....and then usually its uphill from there. The stomach issues, fatigue, and body aches are constant....even all the way up to the next chemo treatment. But they are manageable after about day 10 and really just more annoying than debilitating. Other side effects that I've just come to know as my new "normal" are hot flashes, dry mouth and skin, and fatigue fatigue fatigue. Can't say enough about that one.

HOWEVER........with my last chemo treatment finished, I can now hope that all of these side effects, the pattern of my sickness and the hard days in bed....I can hope that they are over. I know some side effects from chemo stay with you for life. Especially the fatigue and achiness. But some people say they improve over time. I'll take it.

Knowing that I never have to feel that way again, is a huge victory. I've been really depressed and anxious lately about the surgery and if my lymph nodes are clear and if the cancer will come back and my prognosis and just everything cancer related.....but really....I just made it through six rounds of chemotherapy with NO delays, and really no complications other than side effects. My blood counts always rose, my kidneys and my liver handled everything well....and finishing chemo should be celebrated. I've allowed Satan to take my joy and fill me with fear and anxiety, but really I should be celebrating. It's a big deal. We've made it this far.

Chemo was the thing I was most afraid of, and the thing I knew the Lord was asking me to walk through, and I did it. Well....correction.....Mark, my mom, his mom, our entire family, friends, our church, and the Lord, THEY did it. They shoved me into each treatment and then pulled me out, patted me and took care of me and loved me until it was time to do it again. I was just a rag doll. An angry, moody, sick, opinionated and bald rag doll.

Let's just relish in the moment, and take in the victory....I went through chemo, my body responded well to it, and it's done! WOOO HOOO!!!!! Praise Jesus Hallelujah and all the Amens.

I felt like I needed to get that out. When you celebrate the little victories, it's harder to focus on the fear.

Side note: since my cancer is HER2+, I have to get one of the drugs infused for an entire year, still on the every 3 week schedule like chemo. This drug doesn't (apparently) carry any side effects when it's given alone, apart from the other meds, but I do still have to keep my port until I'm finished with that drug, which will be next March. So technically, I have to go sit in the chemo chair and get my port accessed and all that mess every 3 weeks, but the Herceptin only takes about 30 minutes to infuse so it's no biggie....and no side effects, so YAY! This could be another small joy-killer since people who are HER2- don't have to do this....but I'm counting it as a victory. Another year of this drug going through my veins keeping the cancer at bay. on the Suck It Cancer Agenda: SURGERY!!!! And then Radiation.
The surgery is a big deal for several reasons. First, because it will truly show how effective the chemotherapy was in killing the cancer. After surgery we will know if my margins are clear, and if any of my lymph nodes contain cancer. Second, it's a big deal because it reduces my chances of recurrence. I only have cancer in one breast, but, from the advice of two surgeons and my oncologist, I will be having a double mastectomy. I'm only 31, I have a lot of years to live Lord willing, and taking both breasts is the most aggressive way to treat and prevent this demon from returning. Lastly, surgery is a big deal because, well, it's surgery. I've heard recovery is really rough, and I'm expecting it to be hard. I'll spend several days in the hospital, go home with several drain tubes and be on very limited restrictions for atleast a few weeks. Then I can start lifting and light activity after 6 weeks. I'm hoping I will recover faster than that, because we all like to think we're the exception, not the rule....but honestly I expect it will be really difficult. More help with kids, more resting, and more relying on everyone else to do all the things that I'm supposed to be doing.

That being said, I've lost all shame on this journey. I've learned now that we DO need help. And I've learned that I have to ASK for the specific help I need. I have four kids. Two of which still sleep in cribs. I won't be able to lift them into and out of their cribs for....well I'm assuming several weeks. Also, have you ever been around a baby that sees her mama but can't be HELD by that mama? It's not a fun situation. We could really use your prayers and also your physical hands during this time. The grandparents will be doing most of the childcare, and a precious friend of the family is cleaning our house (Thank you Tammy!!! If you know her then lavish her with gifts). The areas we could really still use some help is with meals and groceries. If you are local and can bring us a meal, that would be uuuuhhhhhmazing. I love cooking and miss it so much, but after surgery it's going to be awhile before I can. And there are 6 mouths to feed around here. We have a website where you can sign up to bring a meal, and I have no shame in posting it here. Pass it along. If you aren't local, or if cooking isn't your thing, or if you don't want to bring a meal, we would also love grocery store gift cards or restaurant gift cards for takeout.

We have had SO many dinners delivered to us during the past few months, and I wish I could portray in words what a blessing it has been to us. I haven't been physically able to cook. I know it seems like "bringing dinner" is so the cliche thing we southerners do when something happens....someone has a baby, someone dies, someone gets hurt or sick, someones gets a job or loses a bring food. That's because food is always needed. Food heals. Food brings people together. If you have already brought us a meal, please don't feel obligated to do it again. I am SO grateful and I hope that one day I can bring a meal to you too. But if you do feel led to bring us some food, here's the link to the website to sign up

I have been so blessed by all of you. By your cards, packages in the mail, donations, and meals. It really is like getting water in a desert land. You guys are filling me up when I'm dry and empty. The encouraging texts and calls mean so much. I have been blown away by our community coming together during this time. I know there are so many people in need, and I'm humbled that you have chosen me to pray for and to lift up and bless.