On Thursday before I left the house for my infusion appointment, I checked my email. My inbox was glorious. It contained a birth announcement, sent in the wee hours of the morning, from a friend who received her breast cancer diagnosis the same week I did. Yep–you got that right–she’s been pregnant and going through treatment. She had a little boy. I couldn’t have been more thrilled. There were more celebrations ahead. Spoiler: no more chemo.
Soooooo, a few caveats to this part:
- You should take ownership of your health.
- You should be very knowledgeable about your medical treatment plans.
- Trusting your doctor and being well-informed are not mutually exclusive.
- People have described me as “detail-oriented” and “very thorough.”
- Toward the end of December, I had holiday brain, mom brain, and chemo brain all going on at once.
Alright. I thought my last chemo day was going to be January 5. Wrong. Here’s the deal: the original plan, put together late in June/early July, had me doing 16 total chemotherapy infusions. However, if you’ve followed my story here and there, you know I’ve had some delays because of low platelet counts and low white blood cell counts.
There are times doctors choose to delay infusions, and there are times doctors choose to skip infusions. They look at the big picture: standard of care (which includes how dosing cycles and schedules work), patient progress, patient response, toxicity concerns, etc.
I skipped a week during one of my treatment cycles, so I should have been anticipating 15 total infusions rather than 16. (Because of how the cycles work, if you skip a week, you don’t necessarily tack on an extra one at the end.) I’m confident my team explained this to me, but apparently it went in one ear and out the other. When I drew it out in a chart on Thursday evening, it made sense.
So again, when I went to my infusion appointment on Thursday, I thought it was my second to last, because I was still tracking toward a 16th infusion on January 5. Holiday brain, mom brain, chemo brain. There is even a patient portal with my appointment calendar on it, but it’s been funky at times so I just thought my January 5 appointment wasn’t showing up. It’s happened once before. But you know where this is going. In actuality, December 29 was supposed to be my last chemo appointment.
If I had “known” December 29 was my last chemo appointment, I would have:
- Considered wearing my pink party dress.
- Invited more people. For example, my husband!
- Made a really cool sign to hold up when I was ringing the bell. It would have had scripture or something funny or some kind of “Chemotherapy by the Numbers” retrospective.
But, hey! It’s okay. My dear friend Christy was with me. I am so glad she was with me. Although we were not wearing pink and had no poster board signs, Christy has been my friend since 7th grade. We’ve done some serious life together. She loves Lincoln and Hyatt. We became friends because she invited me to the slumber party she was having after a school dance. Christy is beautiful inside and out, down-to-earth, wise, and works in a hospital system, which makes her helpful to have at appointments. Before we drove to the hospital, we sat and had breakfast at WPA Bakery. We caught up on other aspects of life–the holidays, funny memories, and tea vs. coffee.
We checked in for my appointment at 10 a.m. My nurse was one I’ve had several times. I like her a lot; she takes her job seriously and knows her stuff. I could tell, right away, that based on my counts last week she didn’t think I was going to make the cut this week. “But hey, who knows, we’ll run the labs and see.” She flushed my port, set up my IV access, and then sent us upstairs to check in with my doctor.
Long story short, I did not make the chemo cut on Thursday. And, after assessing that big picture I mentioned (my lab trends, my type of chemotherapy, my progress, my staging and tumor size, my planned surgery, etc.), my doctor recommended we end chemotherapy rather than delay to the following week.
Obviously I asked a lot of questions. And re-asked them. The bottom line is that my body is tired, my labs are trending down, and my doctor wants to put my safety first. Chemo is, ya know, strong stuff. I cannot argue with safety.
So, much to my surprise (even though I shouldn’t have been surprised), I got to ring the bell to celebrate the end of this most recent (and hopefully last ever) chemo regimen!
And instead of taking my usual groggy-faced, Benadryl-induced nap, pretty soon I was sippin’ tea at Sen in Carytown.
Well, and then I still took a nap.
This chemo journey was a long one–and yet, in many ways, it flew by. It flew by because of all the help. The prayers, the blankets, the water bottles, the Tupperware containers of delicious food, the friend time, the hats, the funny videos.
As I get ready for surgery and continue to check in with my docs, I’ll be doing a lot of processing and unpacking of the last few months. I know there are more celebrations ahead, and also plenty of challenges. I mean, surgery, sheesh. It’s still a road, and we’re still in the middle miles of treatment.
Let’s call it Mile 17. Out of 26.2, right? Check my math.
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place,
when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body;
all the days ordained for me were written in your book
before one of them came to be.