I’m at the pointy end of my chemotherapy.
Looking back, the three rounds of FEC were much harder work that my 12 weekly doses of paclitaxel. It’s really just that treatment takes such a long time. I was diagnosed in July and now it’s December. I’ve got two more cycles to go and then surgery in January and radiation for six weeks once I recover from that.
The FEC was three rounds of being hit by a bus. For the first week after treatment I’d be tired and flat and then I’d have two weeks of feeling comparatively well.
The paclitaxel is cumulative. The first six weeks were great and I’ve been accumulating side effects since then. I’ve developed peripheral neuropathy in my hands and feet. It’s the kind of numbness you feel if you’ve been exposed to the cold, that odd sensation where the surface nerve endings have switched off but the underlying ones are still registering. This may or may not be permanent and it’s concerning enough that my oncologist has reduced my dose by 25% for my last two treatments.
My face and my body are puffy and the night sweats have given me a chill to the shoulder that doesn’t seem to want to budge. My mouth tastes like metal and if someone can invent a way to recycle human methane I’m pretty sure I can halve our power bill.
On the upside, my oncologist is feeling confident that we’ll get a full pathological response. That means I don’t have cancer any more. If she’s right, then the chemotherapy has wiped out those nasty tumours and my survival rate is as good as other breast cancers. So a bit of numbness is fine with me. She adds the caveat that we need to keep in mind I had four tumours and a cancer site over 5cm so ‘even if there IS some cancer left it’s still a good result’.
I’m holding out for a full pathological response.
Looks like we’ve got this.
So why am I feeling so tired and flat?
I suspect some of it is just that this is a long haul, the drugs are accumulating and I really need to take the next few weeks to just rest and rest and rest. At the same time, everyone else is hearing the good news and assuming I’m on the mend and don’t need any help. Friends that know warn me that stopping chemotherapy includes coming off the steroids that have helped me to feel so well throughout treatment. It’s likely I’ll have several weeks of feeling like I’ve just run a marathon.
Also it’s nearly Christmas, and my birthday, and I’m expecting to spend most of both on the couch.
Why is it human nature to pull at the finish line? I know that what I need to do now is to look past the final chemotherapy treatment; it’s a milestone and not a destination. Then I need to look past surgery, past the pathology results and all the way out the other side of radiation treatment.
What I really need is a good laugh.
I need to play, and be ridiculous, and spend time around people that love to do the same. Laughter is as good as meditation for putting me in the here and now.
This week I had two friends share posts with me on Facebook that lifted my spirits. If you’re feeling a bit flat they might help you too.
This first one requires a box of tissues and the time to have a good cry, but it will also make you laugh. Wonderful.
I found this second one hilarious. You might recall me writing about the Look Good Feel Better program where wonderful volunteers help those of us with cancer to feel better by helping us with makeup and wigs. Imagine if this happened at a workshop!
When all of this started we spent several weeks watching the our collection of Big Bang Theory DVDs. It’s time to find something else funny.
It’s time to accept that I’ve finally reached the point where I can’t look after the house, the garden, the shopping or anything else.
This too shall pass.