I sometimes struggle writing this blog. Cancer is a ride that takes me through many twists and turns, ups and downs, highs and lows. Part of me wants to always be positive, look at the good and downplay the bad. At the same time, it wouldn’t be honest to do that. It would feel like a betrayal to myself and all other cancer patients to hide the real cancer experience. So, I’m not going to do that. But, I am going to start with the positive.
In April, I went to South Africa. It was a trip of a lifetime. There are simply no words to describe what it’s like to see animals in the wild. To be so close and observe their magnificence in their natural habitat is simply awe inspiring. I will never be able to enjoy a trip to the zoo ever again. I was never a zoo fan to begin with, but this sealed the deal. Not only did we do the safaris, but we spent time in Capetown and went to Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. I had only dreamed of visiting such exotic locations and to actually do it…….sometimes I feel like it must have been a dream.
After I returned from Africa, it was time to face the music and figure out what was happening with the cancer. I was scanned on April 30th and the news was not good. Definite progression this time. Three new vertebrae and a spot on my left arm. At least there was no question that it was time to move on. But, moving on was a real slap of reality. IV chemo once a week, every week, indefinitely. I had another trip coming, so they wanted to get things started and get a few treatments under my belt before I left. In a matter of three weeks, I had three IV chemo treatments, lost my hair, had a port surgically placed, and prepared for another major trip.
Chemo 1, some pretty major fatigue, followed by some major back pain. Pain as in can’t sleep, taking the narcotics, lying in the fetal position waiting for it to kick in kind of pain. I was x-rayed and no source of the pain was discovered. It did slowly improve….thank goodness.
Chemo 2, muscle aches. I felt flu like and again, pretty lethargic.
Chemo 3, nausea and stomach upset, along with hair loss. I was also quite upset when after having my port placed, they decided it couldn’t be accessed because of possible infection. I was so looking forward to NOT being stuck and having the IV, only to be told it was “on hold” until I complete a course of anti-biotics.
And then it was time for my trip to the Baltics. I know I said chemo would be once a week, every week, indefinitely, and it will be…..except when I travel. My doctor knows I have some pretty lofty travel goals and that those will always come first, as long as I’m well enough to fulfill them. She is in complete agreement. So now I know a sure way out of chemo is to plan a trip!
My trip was incredible! I absolutely loved the Baltics. St. Petersburg, Russia is by far, the most beautiful city I have ever seen in my entire life. It was unreal. Everywhere I looked there was unbelievable architecture, picturesque scenery, and unrivaled history and culture. I was in awe. We also visited Tallinn, Estonia, Stockholm, Helsinki, and Copenhagen. Not to mention our days in Amsterdam and Belgium prior to the cruise. The weather was wonderful and I saw and experienced so much! I consider myself so lucky!
I returned on June 13th and it was back to chemo just a few days later. As I write this, chemo was three days ago. Today has not been a great day. I’m tired and for whatever reason, my leg hurts. That’s the fun thing about cancer in your bones, pain seems to randomly come and go in weird places. The good news is they were able to access my port this time. On Monday I go in for blood work and Tuesday I get another treatment.
My doctor asked me how I was doing and I told her that I feel like this cancer stuff is “for real.” It’s harder to ignore or bask in denial when I’m being treated every week, dealing with chronic pain, and managing a new slew of side effects. It’s also hard to look when I pass a mirror and see Uncle Fester staring back at me. I’m not a vain person, and I know I should feel lucky to be here…..with or without hair, but sometimes I just look at myself and want to cry. I had to have a new passport photo taken today and it just kind of broke my heart to compare it to my picture from 10 years ago. I’m pretty much unrecognizable, and truth be told….it hurts. Who knows if I will ever have hair again.
My next scan will be around September. Hopefully we will see some improvement, or at least stability. Hopefully my body will adjust to the new chemo and side effects. Hopefully I will get to continue traveling and spending time with my family and friends. While I feel it getting harder, I don’t think it’s time to throw in the towel just yet. I’ve got a lot more to see and do. I try to set small goals and big goals. When I was first diagnosed terminal, I just wanted to live to see my son graduate high school. Now, with a little luck, I may actually see him graduate college! It’s not too far away. And in a few weeks, guess what……..another trip. Just a short one this time, to New York City. But, I’ve never been and I’m very excited to see it. I think my travel plans really help to keep me going through the treatments.