Drama At Chemo

I approached my most recent round of chemo (Round 8 of 12) with some trepidation because I knew that my CEA was going to be tested, my blood pressure had been elevated based on my readings at home (a common side effect of Avastin) and I was feeling some strange pain in my left leg that I feared was a clot (a less common side effect of Avastin).  Plus, I’d been hacking and suffering from a cold for weeks, thanks to my four-year-old daughter who spends her days surrounded by germ-carrying little humans who hate to wash their hands, and I was nervous that my cold might for some reason have a negative impact on my blood counts such that I wouldn’t be able to receive treatment.  Three people accompanied me to chemo – Josh (who usually shows up halfway through but was able to go with me from the start that day), my friend L (a newbie to chemo since he’s been traveling to cool places like Myamar and Thailand for work – so jealous) and Josh’s friend J, who is also a newbie and who was visiting us from San Diego and had been staying with us over the weekend.  I have to clarify that J is really a friend of Josh’s although I’ve gotten to know her over the years.  They met years ago when they were young lawyers in New York; Josh stayed in New York while J moved to San Diego, where she is still a lawyer, but spends most of her time swimming, surfing and rock climbing.  In my own defense – and you’ll understand why I say this once you hear the whole story – I’d told J that morning that she didn’t have to come to chemo with me, that Josh and L would also be there.  Being in the infusion center can be a sobering and distinctly un-fun place for some and I was giving J the opportunity to walk in Central Park instead of sitting around watching me get treatment.  But J insisted…  J was supposed to fly to Ohio that evening to see her mother, so she would be leaving for the airport early directly from the cancer center.

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Hiking, A Metaphor

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After I made the decision to add Avastin to my treatment (as I wrote about in my previous post), I went into an even lower period, during which I retreated into myself, trying, but failing, to find peace with this latest setback.  Instead, I worried and fretted.  I worried about the Avastin and what havoc it would wreak on my body.  I sat around wondering how much time I had left on this planet.  I worried about dying, not because I was afraid of the afterlife (because I am not), but because I felt like I had so much more to teach my girls and that Josh wasn’t yet ready for a life without me.  I mourned once again the dreams I’d lost, particularly the third child I will never have.  Whenever my stomach felt unsettled, I relived with the fear and anxiety that comes with hindsight those weeks before I was diagnosed when I naively thought the symptoms of my cancer was nothing more than IBS.  I worried about the growth of other cancers in other parts of my body, wondering if the pain in my leg meant some kind of bone cancer or if my vague sense of bloatedness meant peritoneal spread.  In much the same way that so many, including myself, felt their sense of safety was shattered after 9/11, I now felt the same once again, except this time, it was my own body that had betrayed me, my own body that had launched an attack against me.  These are the kind of thoughts that torment me in this prison that is my cancer, thoughts from which I can never escape in my waking hours and that only become louder, more insistent and more disturbing during my low moments when the future seems bleakest and the prison is as inescapable as Alcatraz.

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The First Defeat

Three weeks ago today I got my MRI results.  They were not what I wanted to hear.  I wrote about them in CEA, PET, MRI…  At nine o’clock that evening, Josh and I called my oncologist, Dr. C. on his cell phone to discuss next steps.  He identified three options:    More

Filial Love (Part 2)

In Filial Love (Part 1), I provided some cultural context for filial love and filial piety because, unlike the emotions vis-à-vis my husband and children that I have as a result of being diagnosed with advanced colon cancer (which I think can be understood across cultures), the emotions I have vis-à-vis my parents are impacted by a cultural context that may be foreign to some of you, and so it may be difficult to fully appreciate the heartbreak I feel when I think about what my cancer has done and is doing to my parents.

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Filial Love (Part 1)

I have devoted some space on this blog to talk about the fear and anxiety that has arisen out of my cancer diagnosis.  Very little of that fear and anxiety is focused on me (for the reasons I described in Death, I’m Not Afraid of You).   Rather, I worry most about my husband and children.  To some degree, my worry circles around how they would fare without me, about how crippling their grief might be in the face of loss.  Even so, I have faith, given their youth and the inherent resilience as well as the promise of time (with all of its miraculous healing powers) that comes with youth  and given the support of family and friends, that my husband and children would move on with their lives and even thrive.  So, much of my worry revolves around harm to them.  Because I understand very well that Numbers Mean Squat, because I am, despite all the overwhelming statistical odds that were in my favor, living with advanced colon cancer at age 37, I am petrified of all the statistically unlikely horrors that may befall these three individuals who stand at the very heart of my present universe and at the core of whatever future I have left in this world, horrors that might prematurely cut short their time.  Therefore, I repeatedly make my pleas with God to leave my children and husband the fuck alone, to inflict on me instead whatever bad that must be inflicted as part of the universal order of things.

The problem is that such a deal with God, while it might protect my husband and children, might shatter the lives of the two individuals who stand at the center of my past, who more than anyone else has made me the woman I am today, who unlike my husband and children no longer have the benefit of youth and the strength that it brings.  Even though my parents make me crazy, especially my mother, I love them so very much and I am so afraid of what my illness and passing would do to them.  I am a parent now.  I understand as I could have never otherwise what the potential loss of a child means and the terror that it instills in me and must instill in my parents.    And so, I wanted to devote this particular post to my mother and father, who are often forgotten or taken for granted by me in this all-consuming war against cancer.

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