Sunday, August 28, 2016

It's All Too Much

I can't believe that over a month has gone by since my farewell to Nurse L.  Time has flown since that last chemotherapy infusion on July 19th.  I saw my beloved Struts again in Cincinnati and am already half-way through my radiation treatments.  Most knowing me would have thought I'd have popped up a "final chemo" blog post within a day or two of that treatment.

I mean, really. FINAL chemo. That's huge. One step closer to being finished with treatment. 

All I can say - what I keep coming back to in terms of a "why" I didn't is - it's all too much.

Chemotherapy is a bitch.  You start out all "I'm gonna kick cancer's ass" and, at the end, you crawl to the edge of that boxing ring and barely allow the ref to raise your hand in victory before falling indelicately over the side and passing out.

The side-effects of chemo are cumulative.  You start out with some nausea and fatigue.  Then you lose your hair (the one everyone recognizes).  Then your feet hurt, your nose bleeds, your mouth tastes awful and you have to use special rinses to curb mouth sores.  Your digestive system is just pissed, and your toenails decide to chuck it all and give up.  Each side effect builds on the one before it.  And throughout all of it, the fatigue increases.

Walking into that building on my final chemotherapy day was a bit surreal - as this entire experience has been surreal.  Honestly, I think that is how I've coped; I'm focused on getting through this year and every step is surreal.  My stepmom, Pam, had come up again and went with me one final time.

I hadn't been in my chair that day for long before a few of my coworkers showed up with balloons, donuts, a cake, an awesome gift certificate to one of my favorite restaurants, and champagne.  God bless them.  Dan, Bonnie, Kim and her girls, all surprised me.  And then, when I returned from a bathroom break, I found my sister Linda (who was supposed to be back at work in Ohio) and my Dad; they'd driven up to surprise me, too.  And just when I'd hugged those two, I turned to find my sister Jenny (who was supposed to be back at work in Indianapolis), my Mom, and my aunt Berb had made the trip as well - AND brought her Texas sheet cake with her.  Too much. 

The family also brought up a pink poster with their hands drawn on it, waving goodbye to cancer. 

The Original Wavers - #ByeCancer

I later took the poster to work and had more people sign it.  It represents just some of the people who have supported me in so many ways during these months. 

Too much.

My sister Glenda stopped by as well.  And one of my bosses, Jim.  Meanwhile, I just tried to take it all in - and failed miserably.  But, honestly, that was probably for the best.  Again ... it's surreal. 

It was a gathering that I wasn't expecting and it meant more than I can adequately describe.  Yet, leaving the infusion center that day felt somehow anti-climactic.  You expect to be overcome with emotion.  You anticipate a feeling of victory or satisfaction somehow.  But you've just had another chemotherapy infusion and what you feel is a combination of steroids and poison coursing through your veins meant to rid your body of any spare cancer cells.

Leaving the building isn't the end of chemotherapy.  Your fresh dose has yet to begin to wreak havoc with your body, to add its own side effects to the mountain that has been accumulating the past five months. 

To try to absorb and recognize at that moment the enormity of my last chemotherapy infusion was to potentially fracture my carefully constructed "let's get through this" fa├žade.  Nope. 

Too much.

I think that is why it has taken me over a month to finally sit down and write this post.  And, frankly, my body is far from recovered from the side effects of chemotherapy.  My feet hurt, some nails are clinging on stubbornly despite the fact that there is no saving them now, and that fatigue.  Oh, the fatigue. 

I'm beginning to believe that "Fatigue" is the very worst "F" word out there. 

But my cough is finally gone, my nose bleeds have stopped, I can take deep breaths once more, and my hair - or at least the "advance team" for my hair - is about half an inch long now. 

If you're in the midst of chemotherapy right now or getting ready to begin it, as I've said before, you'll get through it.  I did.  Take it one day at a time.  Address side effects as they come up.  And rest.  Hydrate and rest.  Accept help.  Trust. 

You'll get through it and, in about a month or so, you'll look back and wonder how you did.