Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Trust me, I won't always only blog about cancer, but...

I'm in a weird place. I've received hugs and congratulations and even gifts to mark the end of my chemotherapy. Universally, people ask if I'm glad it's over. And I am, except it doesn't feel quite over for me yet. Bell or no bell, my body doesn't know that was the last infusion. My body only knows that it was poisoned again. At Day 13 of this last cycle, the chemo agents are still coursing through my body, on a search and destroy mission for cancer cells. And healthy cells. So although I don't go back for another round, I feel at least as wrung out as I did after previous infusions. My taste buds aren't still fully on-line, my skin is sloughing off, my hair is still detaching itself, and I'm foggy-brained and tired and tearful for no discernable reason. Beginning after the third round and intensifying this time, I have post-chemo muscle fatigue, common with docetaxel. What this translates into is thigh muscles that feel like they've been filled with cement. Even walking across a room leaves me wobbly. My on-line research tells me it's due to elevated oxidants and reductions in myosin expression, mitochondrial loss and increased reactive oxygen species production. But I'm sure you knew that, right? Apparently it will last for months.

The chemo agents themselves should clear themselves from my system in 28 days, but it will take much, much longer for me to return to something approaching normal. In fact, there are side effects that won't even occur for another couple of months or more. So it's hard for me to muster up the celebratory mood everyone seems to expect from me. I'm trying, but I'm just not there yet. Someone asked me if they'd be doing tests to see if the chemo was effective and when I said they wouldn't, he wanted to know how I'd know it worked. Without thinking, I said, "If the cancer doesn't come back, it worked, if it does, then it didn't work." Judging from his expression, that was a little unsettling to hear. But it's my reality and I don't have it in me to sugarcoat it. I think the enormity of the healing ahead of me - body, mind, and spirit - is really just starting to register for me.

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