Yesterday, June 3, marks exactly one year from my final chemo infusion. Life is full of strange anniversaries after cancer treatment, some good, some less good, but each anniversary is a cause for celebration in its own way. I find myself in a strange transition between moving past everything, but knowing that everything can turn itself upside down unexpectedly. I have been putting my life back together even though it never truly fell apart. Bits and pieces just had to go on pause for awhile. We all cope with life and its ups and its downs in our own little unique ways.
I didn’t realize it would take as much energy as it has to recover emotionally from the improbable possibility that I had metastatic breast cancer to my spine and the relief that comes with the news that something isn’t cancer. I guess I didn’t realize how truly afraid I was deep down inside – life in active fear is not a good life. So you learn to tuck that fear back down, put one foot in front of the other and go on.
Recently I was thinking about how much I love my husband and how we have planned to get old and gray together. We have random plans about where we are going to live and what we will do when we retire together (the typically involve the ocean, a boat and a beach house). Today I was able to visualize myself there again, sitting on that porch, watching the waves in ocean, breeze blowing my gray hair about, sipping a beverage that several of my loving relatives wouldn’t approve of and just being together. Cancer has a way of strengthening a relationship or destroying it, and I was lucky enough that ours really did result in the life lesson to not “sweat the small stuff.”
So, I love my husband tons, my family is amazing, and I love my job (and my four-legged children Zack and Dante). My friends are awesome, I miss some of them as I see some less because life is a bit busier again. Life is good.
I am a different person than than I was two years ago. I am o.k. with that. I have always been in a hurry in life, I needed things to happen NOW. Patience is a virtue, and when you learn to spend hours and hours jumping from an appointment, to a test, to a REALLY long chemo infusion you realize that sometimes you just can’t be in a hurry. Slow down, enjoy the moments and stop focusing on tomorrow. The day goes by too fast in my opinion. I want to savor more moments (yes, I am cheesy).
My back has improved. I imagine it is related to my decrease in stress, a doctor hasn’t poked it hard recently, more exercise, changing chairs at work (no new bed yet…). I can tell that it can easily be pulled/hurt/upset. I am pulling weeds by sitting down instead of bending over (which I think is a major improvement, weeds have been pulled!). Mike and I figured out that planting the garden is when I aggravated my back, so I am a bit more careful as I build up strength. I have not gone to physical therapy yet… the decrease in back pain has loosened my resolve to go, but if the pain comes back I promised myself I would go. I am tired of appointments (it took me four weeks to make a hair appointment to tame my wild mane – I go in Thursday for haircut number four).
With anniversaries come memories. Other items and situations also stir up memories. I was giving my mom some of my radiation burn medications/ointments/sprays today (I have handy dandy stuff if you ever get a sunburn or any kind of burn) and I told her it was stirring up memories of radiation (I guess I have most of that blocked out along with most of my chemo experience). I keep the good memories, good memories are good…
Here are some photos of my progression since diagnosis:
1/9/11 – Just before surgery at Mike’s work party. I called it one of “their” last evenings out on the town…
1/18/11 – During the testing phase, this is the day we found out that my breast cancer had moved to my lymph nodes.
2/10/11 – Two weeks after my bilateral mastectomy:
2/25/11 – First chemo infusion, Adriamycin and Cytoxan:
3/11/11 – Chemo infusion number two:
3/13/11 – My mohawk that barely stayed in place while we shaved my hair that was falling out rapidly:
3/25/11 – Third chemo infusion:
4/8/11 – Fourth chemo infusion, final Adriamycin:
4/22/11 – First Taxol, fifth chemo infusion:
5/6/11 – Sixth chemo infusion:
5/20/11 – Seventh chemo infusion:
6/3/11 – Eighth and final chemo infusion:
7/18/11 – My first signs of some serious hair and I finally returned to work after taking a couple of months off for surgeries and my final chemo treatments:
8/10/11 – My hair was long enough that I quit hats and scarves, prepped for radiation and EYELASHES!
10/18/11 – Starting to really feel like I have hair:
11/12/11 – After my first haircut and *cough cough* no more gray hair, not that I ever had any:
12/19/11 – After second haircut:
2/14/12 – Lunch with my hubby and apparently I have breast lumps, again… but not the cancerous kind:
5/5/12 – Visiting NYC:
I am completely amazed that it has been an entire year since my final chemo treatment. Life is so incredibly different this year than it was last year, and it will continue to be marked with strange anniversaries, which I will celebrate on the inside or the outside. Each new day is a blessing.
PS Today I found a Gatorade in the freezer and I asked Mike why he left a Gatorade in the freezer. He laughed and said I had stuck it in there on one of my “chemo days” (which means I was out of it) insisting that I needed my Gatorade really cold and I forgot about it (chemo brain). The Gatorade is thawing on the counter so that I can pour it out. One year later…