I told you. I’m not perfect. So far from.
Thursday and Friday of this week were Theo’s Winter Break from school. I’ve always loved his days off, because we fill them with the most wonderful adventures, whether it’s an official outing to the Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, the Detroit Science Center, the Detroit Zoo (we never get past the Amphibian House), or, when the weather is nice, we’ll take a trip to the Nature Center at our local Metro Park, ride our bikes, play in sandbox, hunt for bugs, frogs and toads, race each other all over his favorite playscape at Ypsilanti’s Ford Heritage Park. (I’m so not one of those parents who sits on the park bench, watching from afar.)
But yesterday, I was too sick to do any of that. I missed out on some of his life the first go-round, Stage 1 in 2006, when Theo was just six months old. I try never to dwell on what I missed out on back then — being in surgery or sick from chemotherapy instead of with him, or restricted to lifting no more than five pounds for weeks at a time, which translated into not being able to lift my own baby.
I’ve long since moved on, accepted what was, truly grateful to be alive for the here and now. What made it easier to do that was knowing that that part of my life was done and over with; I was “cured.” Don’t look back — look forward, I’d tell myself. Look toward the future at all that is yet to be: Theo’s first day of school, DisneyWorld, family days, reading a book together before bed.
So, yesterday was a disappointment because I felt crummy from Tuesday’s chemotherapy treatments and instead of being able to plan wonderful Mommy-Theo Days (that’s what we call them at our house) for Theo’s Winter Break, I was achey and nauseous, too tired to be able to do what I truly wanted to do — spend the day with my kid.
Last evening, we were all sitting on the couch together when the waterworks began.
“I hate this,” I told Don. “I hate feeling this way. I hate having to go through chemo again.”
What I detest most about this second time around is that I’m not sure where the finish line is. Neither are my doctors.
How much chemo and for how long? No one can be sure.
On Monday, I met with a member of my oncologist’s team, Cynthia Kresge. She had quite a bit of good news, for which I am most grateful. She listened to my lungs and they sound clear. I was coughing a lot when I was first diagnosed, and no one was sure whether it was from the spots of cancer in my lungs — the biggest of which is the size of a blueberry in my right lung — or from the irritation of the lung biopsy itself. Whatever it was, it’s gone now. Praise the Lord for that.
Also, the lump in my left breast — the one that ridiculously formed between my implant and fake (reconstructed) nipple — seems to be shrinking. This is super-duper news.
Though we won’t have a “picture” of the battle’s progress for a few weeks yet (I’ll likely be scanned after I complete Round 3 of chemo), we do have some physical evidence that these treatments are already hard at work. Yay, God!
What’s difficult for me is that Cindy told me chemo may indeed be my lifestyle — long term. Like a forever thing, until breast cancer treatment advances to the point where there’s something better. That’s because, as a Stage 4 breast cancer, I will never be “cured,” at least, not in the current realm of scientific possibility. So, even when the body scans come back “clean,” there will be cancer cells lurking in my body. We will need to keep them at bay. Chemo is the way.
The thought of feeling like I have the flu for two or three days, two weeks on, one week off, indefinitely, well, yes, that was enough to make me cry last night. Sob, if you must know.
Even so, I am still grateful. Because given the alternative, I’ll do what I have to do. If two weeks on, one week off, indefinitely, is the path I must travel, I will do it. I will do it because I want to be here for my husband and my son. I will do it because I love life and want to stay on this planet for as long as possible. I will cherish all of the good days when I’m feeling well, and deal with the bad days as they come.
I’m just praying hard that another way to manage this disease, a better way, shows up. And very soon.
Copyright 2011, Amy Rauch Neilson