I finished Phase 1 of my chemotherapy treatment two weeks ago! My friend Lauren and my mom were there, and I got to “ring the bell!” (There is actually a real bell you get to ring when you finish a treatment. The infusion center staff comes and cheers. It is cute.)
Post-chemo infusion, I felt about the same as I did after Round 3 (of 4). Pretty sleepy on Days 3, 4, and 5. One new development is that my eyes were super-dry and I couldn’t wear contacts for a couple of weeks. Other than that, I am super-thankful to be finished with AC. Yay! Chemo was starting to get old, you know what I’m saying? And ugh, I was having to get the essential oils and aromatherapy out because anything that reminded me of chemo-related smells (think rubber gloves, rubbing alcohol, and saline) was giving me the heeby-jeebies. Ugh. Some people talk about chemotherapy being their friend. I’m not there yet.
Throughout the course of treatment so far, my doctor and I have hoped to see a noticeable shrinking of the tumor, which would give us assurance of the chemo’s efficacy. But, we couldn’t quite tell if that was happening. Ever since the biopsy back in late June, the mass has felt a little different. (During the biopsy, it was disturbed.)
So, I got an MRI last Wednesday to check things out. And…the interpretation of the MRI was “No change despite neoadjuvant chemotherapy.” In other words, no visible change–positive or negative. Thinking about it now, I’m like, I’m not hearin’ that. Why you gotta be so negative, MRI report? DESPITE?
Anyways, there is some obvious good news: the cancer hasn’t spread and shows no signs of being in the nodes. We should absolutely celebrate that.
It’s also possible there is a lot of scar tissue in there, and the tumor has indeed shrunk. We can’t learn everything from the MRI. Wouldn’t it be cool to find out the tumor is actually teeny-tiny or nonexistent??
Long story short, we’ve agreed the wise move is to go to surgery next. During surgery, the docs will remove the mass and then conduct another round of pathology. The size of the tumor and its pathology will help us decide the best next steps. More chemo, no more chemo, etc. This is a change in plan. The original plan was to start Phase 2 of chemo on September 22.
I don’t have a surgery date yet. I haven’t even met with my surgeon yet (I will, I will–very soon). So, let’s call this halftime, a pause, a catch-my-breath, a recovery lap. It’s a good time to stop and give thanks.
In the hours of pain and sorrow, When the world brings no relief
When the eye is dim and heavy, And the heart oppressed with grief
While blessings flee, Savior Lord we trust in Thee!
While blessings flee, Savior Lord we trust in Thee!
-From In The Hours by Helen L. Parmlee and Kevin Twit
O Joy that seekest me through pain,
I cannot close my heart to thee;
I trace the rainbow through the rain,
And feel the promise is not vain,
That morn shall tearless be.
-From O Love That Will Not Let Me Go by George Matheson
Things We’re Thankful For
Finding THE LUMP.
Finding the lump early.
That the first doctor I saw took it seriously enough to send me to an imaging facility known for being very thorough. Since being diagnosed, I’ve heard stories from women who weren’t diagnosed when they should have been–and by the time they were diagnosed, they were Stage 3 or 4. I’ve heard this happens especially with younger women. Listen to your bodies, people!
The kindness of the staff who gave me the news. I mean, sheesh, they really were so kind, and they were good at having hard conversations. I don’t take that for granted.
Early on, before treatment started, I was very anxious. A college friend who went through treatment came over and talked with me about her experience. What she shared–specifically about her faith and how she approaches life now–became a bit of a turning point for me.
Co-workers who gave me–and still give me–the time I need to schedule appointments, go to appointments, and recover. One sweet woman I met who is undergoing treatment joked, “Cancer patients have busy schedules.” It’s true! Especially in the early days of figuring things out.
Co-workers who make me laugh until I cry.
There are some great doctors out there whose bedside manners are so excellent that oddly, some of my appointments are fun. They’ve been willing to slow down, answer my 800 questions, and make jokes.
Meals. Thank you for the meals. Huge.
Busy boxes. Thank you for the busy boxes! We have tried to introduce them with subtlety. We have tried not to spoil our children. We use the busy boxes in a pinch. During surgery season, I have an inkling they will be especially helpful. Thank you.
I met a woman my age through mutual friends–on Facebook of all places–who was diagnosed the same week as me. Same type of breast cancer. She is incredibly lovely and strong, and her attitude has really encouraged me.
I met another woman my age who lives within walking distance and was just finishing her treatment when we were connected. She came over and brought me some things that were helpful to her, and we talked while her kids played with my kids in the background. So fun. Again, this woman is amazing!
Ummm, I am glad I still have eyebrows and eyelashes. Yes. Good.
Friends and family members who are not too squeamish to take me to chemotherapy infusions.
Friends and family members who come over and play with the boys so we can get some other things done, sleep, or just enjoy having company.
There’s this one oncology nurse I LOVE.
There’s this other oncology nurse who is very knowledgeable and is always singing. Good job keeping it upbeat in there.
Last week my work teammates and I shot footage for a short video. When we took a break for dinner, our lead actor mentioned his wife had recently finished treatment for breast cancer. He gave me her number and said she’d be willing to talk if I ever had questions. I reached out this week, and she was lovely. It turns out we have some other things in common. For example, they listen to Slugs & Bugs with their daughter, like we do with our boys. Very fun.
We’ve been able to go to the beach twice!
Treadmills and good walking weather.
iTunes. Have you listened to Sturgill Simpson’s A Sailor’s Guide To Earth? Breakers Roar–wow. I also have a lot of Andrew Peterson on repeat because it’s soothing and reminds me of the good stuff in life.
Overall, the boys have been awesome this summer. Pretty darn well-behaved, really funny, sweet, and go-with-the-flow considering all of the comings and goings we’ve had. They’ve adjusted to short hair, no hair, wigs, and hats, and minus a few brief confused moments just want to get on with the show and jump on the trampoline.
I don’t think the treatment has really affected the boys (???)
All of the encouraging notes, blog recs, music recs, and scripture verses we’ve received. Sometimes they come at just the right time.
Friends who know a thing or two about plant-based diets, because, yeah, I’ll probably be into that.
I went to a support group on the Northside one time. We sat on a beautiful front porch while it rained and we painted. When are we doing that again?
If I wasn’t so sleepy, I would keep listing things we count as blessings. I look forward to recounting all of them and accepting more of them!
Heading into the weeks ahead, I’ve asked for prayer for these three things:
- That the cancer cells would indeed be responsive to treatment. I hope even as I’m typing this, they are taking their last breath.
- That the Holy Spirit would be an ever-present comfort to Bryce throughout the surgery process. He will have a lot to do, and our boys can be pretty demanding.
- That our hearts will be softened rather than hardened. It’s been good to be still and remember God’s promises.