Now that chemo is finally over, and I’m feeling better, I want to share how my story all began on Facebook, and why I decided to share and be honest with my journey. I was just too fragile in the beginning to process the events, but this is how you all came to know about me in one day:
The day after I was diagnosed with breast cancer, my dear friend Kellie surprised me with a Go Fund Me campaign to help with the medical expenses that I was about to endure. I went to bed that night knowing she had sent it to a few email addresses as she is not on Facebook. To be honest, I thought this might be a good way to let some of my friends know as I didn’t have it in me to keep telling my story over and over. But, somewhere in the night, someone shared this campaign on Facebook. I woke up the next morning to countless voice and text messages. I didn’t even know what had happened until I started reading the texts. Then, I got on Facebook and realized what had happened and how many times the campaign had been shared. Everyone knew. Holy crud. I was so overwhelmed. At first, I wanted to hide. I hadn’t even had time to process the news myself. I was still hysterical, and the cat was really out of the bag. Big time.
Then throughout the day, as the messages came in, I read and listened to each and everyone of them over and over again. My tears stopped. My hysteria dissipated. My heart beat regulated. My breath calmed. I could not believe all of the love that was being bestowed upon me. It was such a gift. A gift that I did not know I needed. With the click of a button, Facebook told everyone my story. And everyone swooped in to tell me how much they loved me. So, in a very bizarre way, I have to give credit to Facebook for mounting my soldiers. In one day, I had an army standing behind me. And this army got me through chemo. My army, I thank you.
First, I have to say, it’s only 9 days after my last chemo. I’m so not ready to get out of the house, but I scheduled this consultation with a highly recommended plastic surgeon over 5 weeks ago. What was I thinking? I didn’t realize chemo #6 was going to hit me so hard. I need to pick my plastic surgeon asap so I dress myself anyway, and my husband helps me into the car. In all honesty, I’m mostly worried about the “D” word. Please leave me alone today. Please. Pretty please.
We make the long drive to Beverly Hills which stinks by the way if you live in the valley, but I have told myself I cannot let geography dictate my breasts. Obviously, I don’t want to be lopsided or come out with three of anything. I want the best so we make the drive.
The office is beautiful. It’s very Beverly Hills in every way even down to the fact that it is in the penthouse suite. After filling out my information in the waiting room on an iPad, we are taken back to a room. I put on a robe and am told the doctor will be in shortly. Chris and I laugh at how ridiculous this is that I am here to discuss implants. Something that never interested me. After a few moments, in walks the doctor. Ummm. Wow. I was not prepared for this. He’s hot. Like really hot. I can feel my cheeks turn red. Wow. I am really ill-prepared. I feel like I should have had a little warning. Right? Perhaps just a whisper from the nurse. Nope. Nothing. So, we talk for a bit about my options, and he discusses what he can do for me. Then he says he just hired a new colleague and wants me to meet him too as they will both be doing their part of my surgery. So, he walks in and wouldn’t you know it? He’s hot too. Really? Now I’m sweating. It’s dripping off my face. I’m sure I look cute. Then, they ask to “take a look.” Great. With my husband sitting in the corner snickering, I open my robe so these two hot doctors can look at my breasts. I think I giggled. I’m not sure. It’s kind of a blur. I don’t remember much except I tried to suck in my stomach and mentioned about five times that I have three kids. They are both just talking about what they could do, and the main doctor is poking, prodding, pushing, smushing, squeezing and measuring. He’s envisioning and already plotting what he is going to do during my surgery. I like him. Yep, I’m going to go with him. I promise it’s not because he’s hot. I mean a little handsome. I promise.
On our way home, we pick up our kids from my friend Belen’s house. I literally make it to her door when the “D” word gives me it’s 60 second warning. Thank goodness she answers her door, and thank goodness the “D” word has held off until after my appointment. I would have been mortified. And bless my Belen, she does what any good friend would do. She gives me a towel for the ride home, just in case. After all that’s what friends are for right? Don’t worry. I made it home “D” free. Thank goodness. And I got an amazing plastic surgeon out of it. It has turned out to be a good day.
I’m on my fifth day after my last chemo. I feel so utterly depleted. I wonder if this is why with many breast cancer patients, they only give you six treatments. That’s all our bodies can handle. I’m not as sick as I usually am, but I am the weakest I have ever been in my entire life, and I’m so tired. So so tired. I’m too tired to talk, too tired to be with my kids. I could sleep for 48 hours, get up for a snack and then sleep for another 48, but I can’t. The steroids keep me up. My body is limp, but my brain won’t stop moving. My eyes won’t close. I look like a horrid Halloween character. Perhaps someone will dress up as me next year. I will take it as a compliment after all I have endured. My legs don’t want to move either. The muscles in them ache as if I’ve done way too many reps at the gym though I’ve done none. They are so tight that I can’t even touch my toes. I just can’t seem to get going. I don’t want to move. The only time I do is when I have to make my usual run to the bathroom a million times a day. My body has had enough. It’s done.
The day is finally here. I never thought it would be, but here I am at the chemo ward for my last chemo. Number 6. Chris and I have showed up with bags of goodies from Trader Joe’s for all of the nurses. They devour them pretty quickly which makes us feel good. They really deserve so much more as they are beyond caring in every way. I wish I could just package them up and take them home with me, but then that would be weird so I don’t.
Emma has made me a special sign to signify the moment. It is just the most beautiful thing I have ever seen. She is beaming with pride to give it to me, and I am beaming with pride that she is my daughter.
Our 6 hour chemo date, as Chris and I have come to call them comes and goes. There is nothing exciting to report about this one except that I did scare myself awake one time from snoring. Yes, I snored. I’m going to blame it on the drugs. I’m not sure yet if I’m happy with Chris that he let me sleep even though I was snoring or if I’m upset with him that he didn’t wake me so that I didn’t embarrass myself. Again, I will blame these thoughts on my drugs, because in all truth, he simply is amazing. And he did take me to see Jason Bourne last night, and I imagine Matt Damon snores too. So perhaps, I am really just that cool.
The nurses clap on our way out even though they know I have 7 more months of that lovely life saving medicine Herceptin to be put in to my port. They know they will be seeing me again in three weeks, but this medicine is not chemo and will not make me sick so they really are clapping because I’m done. I’m done. I really am done. We walk out. I almost feel like it’s a dream. In the elevator, time seems to stand still. I feel as though I’m in some alternate reality that can’t possibly be mine. It was so so far away, and the time passed so slowly. And yet, it did pass. It is my reality. I did it. I am done with chemo. As we head home, I know the sickness is coming, but I’m ready for it, because the light at the end of the tunnel is so close, it has hit my face, and I need sunglasses.
So it’s the night before my last chemo, and my husband has surprised me with a private screening to the new Jason Bourne movie that is not even out yet. I cannot tell you how much this excites me. I love action movies. I believe I owe this to my dad as I grew up watching them. Thank you Dad for introducing me. I am beyond thrilled. I have been obsessed with all of the Bourne movies, and I adore Matt Damon too. He is my Hollywood crush, and my cool hubby is taking me to see him. Who does that? Ummmmmm. My husband does.
We have a nice dinner before, but I can’t taste a thing. Not a darn thing. I don’t tell Chris. He has tried so hard, and I don’t want him to know that all I taste is cardboard. I lie and tell him it is wonderful. I hope I am forgiven someday.
Afterward, we head over to see the movie. I can’t wait to see it, and I cannot think of a better movie to put me in fight mode for tomorrow. The movie it turns out is not as good as I had hoped. I wish there were as many hand to hand fight scenes as there were car chase scenes. But Matt Damon is in all of them so I still give it an A. And more importantly, it did it’s job. I am ready to battle. So bring it on cancer. Tomorrow, I will be fighting Jason Bourne style!
I was coming back home from the hospital with my mom. I’m on one type of medicine that can effect your heart. So, although I am still sick from chemo and shouldn’t be out of bed, I drag myself to the hospital for some heart testing.
As I open the door to my home, there stand my two best friends, Stacie and Kara, from Kansas City who have flown in to surprise me. I have know them since we were children, and we are like sisters. I am in utter shock. My jaw drops. Are they really here? My purse simply drops to the ground, and I begin to cry like a baby. I mean full on heaving bawling. I’m surprised the neighbors don’t think someone has been hurt. I can’t help myself. I can’t stop crying and hugging my dear friends over and over again. It is just the best and most unexpected surprise I have ever had. It is perfection.
My husband has been in on this by the way. He had me totally fooled, and had told me he had to go into work to do some employee reviews. In reality, he was picking them up from the airport. My little liar. My cute little liar. I have to give him a 10 though, because I didn’t even know he had that in him. Sneaky. Sneaky.
Once I settle down and stop sobbing , we end up having the best time. They truly are just what the doctor ordered. I have been feeling really down with this chemo. The bone pain has been immense, but they make me laugh and laugh and laugh. I even forget for a while that I have cancer and I’m bald. I am just a normal Midwestern girl with curly red hair having some fun. Of course, we can’t actually do anything because I’m too weak and can’t really move very much. But we do go out to eat and get a pedicure one day.
I think the best part is, we don’t need to do anything. We’ve had a lifetime of friendship. We just love chatting, reminiscing and catching up. I beam from ear to ear the whole time they are here. I feel so special. It is something I will never forget. They have honestly cured me from chemo #5. After they leave, I am ready for the gym again. Best friends can do that you know.
Here I am on day 8 after chemo #5. I’m still in bed. My bone pain is so bad this time, I want to scream. And yet, I can’t help but feel I have this dirty little secret about chemo. So, I’m letting it out, because no one talks about it. It sucks! It sucks, and it sucks a little more. So here it is bone pain and all. This is what is happening with my body right now, and I have no control over it:
- I’m bald. I don’t even recognize myself.
- I’ve lost enough eyelashes that my eyes water 24/7 and are crusted shut in the morning.
- I’ve lost all of my nose hairs. My nose drips like a faucet.
- My left eye won’t stop twitching.
- My hands shake and shake.
- After my blood cell booster shots the day after chemo, my skin burns and aches. It hurts to touch.
- My bones ache. Every bone in my body aches and throbs so badly that I want to cry. I know it’s my bone marrow making more white blood cells but I really want to cry. I really want to cry.
- I’m dizzy.
- I’m nauseated.
- I can’t taste a thing. Chemo kills your taste buds. Food tastes like metal and cardboard. I can’t even do wine. It tastes like a sour lemon.
- My legs are so weak. Some days, I can hardly walk.
- I have crazy hot flashes. Sweat drips off my head. My cheeks burn bright red.
- Diarrhea. Diarrhea. Diarrhea. And then more diarrhea for days. I hope to laugh and laugh at this someday.
- I have huge dark circles under my eyes from not being able to sleep because of the steroids.
- I can’t concentrate very long. I forget my thoughts and words. They call it “chemo brain.”
- My head hurts. I feel like I’m in a fog.
- I feel like I have the flu and am seasick at the same time.
- I have acne. Yep. Acne.
- My skin peels and peels after each chemo.
- My port still hurts especially when I try to sleep. When I lie on my side, I can feel it. It feels like it’s hanging like a necklace, but on the inside.
- My mouth is so dry it feels like it has been burned inside. I’m not writing this for pity. I’m writing this for honesty, because if I am not honest then I am nothing. Chemotherapy has taken a huge physical toll on my body. But, it has not taken my spirit. So, when you look at this picture of me(in all my chemo glory), I hope that you don’t see my baldness, my drippy nose, my port or my dark circles. I hope that what you see is the fire in my eyes, because I am still fighting. And right now, there is a raging wild fire inside of me killing every single last cancer cell one at a time. I will not quit. I will not give up. I fight, and I fight.