And I’m Off and Running! (Chemo, the Day After)

2 02 2011

OK, maybe more like running, collapsing on the bed, sleeping, getting back up, running some more. Running just my natural state of being, so that’s actually good news. It’s my “normal.”

Yesterday’s round of chemo was, in keeping with the racing theme here, a trifecta. Gemzar and Carboplatin were first, followed by that magic elixir, the PARP Inhibitor BSI-201.

Tuesday is my longer day. It was about a 4 1/2 hour infusion. Friday I will get my second dose of the PARP Inhibitor, and that will take only about 1 1/2 hours. Chemo will continue on a Tuesday/Friday regimen, with labs drawn on Mondays, for two weeks. Then I’ll be off a week, repeat.

No one knows for how long I’ll be undergoing chemo. It’s different for everyone. Right now, it looks like it will be about four to six months. But, I will go through body scans at regular intervals to see how effective these medicines are. Hopefully, they will put me into remission very quickly.

I got the call about my lung biopsy results from my oncologist, Dr. Dana Zakalik, about 10:15 yesterday morning. I was scurrying about the house, trying to help my sister Julie get her luggage packed and grabbing my iPad and a blanket for chemo, when the phone rang.

My gut told me that the biopsy results would just confirm what we already suspected — that the breast cancer had spread to my lung. The results were positive; that IS indeed breast cancer in my lung. Looks right now like it’s just my right lung, and that it has affected two of the lobes. And yes, this takes me to a Stage 4.

My next step was to find my sister, who was in the shower, and tell her, “I need you now!”

She shut off the water, still covered in soap lather, wrapped herself in a towel, and threw her arms around me.

I couldn’t speak. My body was vibrating from the wracking sobs.

“Is it what we thought, baby?” she whispered as she rocked me back and forth.

I nodded. We moved to the edge of the bed in the guestroom and sat down. When I was able to compose myself well enough to speak, I said, “You can’t let people forget me when I’m gone. Pleeassseee don’t let people forget me. People always say they’ll never forget you, but then their lives get busy, and then…”

I told her my wish would be that she and our other sister Lisa, my nieces Natalie and Emily, all of our family and friends who wanted to, would find a way to use my name and my journey and battle to further the cause, to move ever closer to the day when this disease will be eradicated. When it would no longer be allowed to run about, pell-mell, wreaking havoc and wrecking lifes. I said, “Something like Susan G. Komen’s sister promised Susan — and then carried out.”

I never have been one to do anything in a small way. As my Dad always told me, “Shoot for the moon, Aim. And even if you don’t reach it, you’ll still be among the stars.”

Julie promised me. She promised me that they would work together to come up with the perfect idea — the one that would help the greatest number of people, in my name. So, I wouldn’t be forgotten, and I could contribute to this cause long after I’m gone.

But that is a conversation that can be tabled for a while. Months. Maybe even years. The PARP Inhibitor could not only melt away the cancer cells that are present, but would put and keep me in remission. And there’s a very good chance that this is exactly what’s going to happen. Maybe, in this best-case scenario, I’ll be around to lead this project, whatever it turns out to be, whenever it’s my turn to carry the torch for this cause.

So, how does yesterday’s news change things? It doesn’t. Not, at least, in terms of my treatment protocol. It did pull me down mentally for a little while, an hour, maybe two. But I picked myself back up and was off to my chemo treatment. Happy. Happy to have the chance to get the drugs that may save my life.

Does it change my prognosis? Probably not in any way that’s worth measuring. This new invader, afterall, announced its intentions from the get-go. Now, I’m voicing mine. I will live. For many, many, many years. I will be by my husband’s side to raise our five-year-old son into adulthood, and beyond. I will lobby for this cause from the depths of my very being, in every way that God asks me to, in every direction He leads me.

I made a new friend in the chemo chair next to me. Her name is Alicia, and like me, she is the mother of a young child. She’s brave and I know she’s going to make it. We’re now also on facebook together, and might I shamelessly add, she’s a new subscriber to my blog. PR for this cause, afterall, is a 24-7 job. Cancer never sleeps.

I feel OK today. A little nauseous, dizzy, fatigued. Not too bad for the day after chemo. I was just going to post a short update and here I am, 892 words later. I’m tired. Back to bed for me.

— Amy Rauch Neilson

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