Wednesday was a very emotional day, it was my last treatment for breast cancer. It started in April 2014 with 6 lots of chemotherapy and 18 doses of Herceptin. What should have felt like elation, felt more like finally feeling the weight of all that had happened to me. Now all that is left is to get my ‘port’ removed and take a pill each day for the next 10 years or so. I think I can handle that.
I always felt confident that it would all be OK in the end, I just had to survive the treatment. Now I can return to my normal sense of what normal is, being healthy, active and living life. That was the hardest thing to adjust to, after each test or appointment or treatment, there was a new reality to confront. At first it was, “OK, we need to find out what is happening here”, with an ultrasound, then a biopsy and mammogram and ultrasound on the other breast. That bad news meant a trip to see the surgeon and a whole battery of tests to make sure it had not spread. All the time you just keep absorbing all of this bad news and big words and decisions you are trying to make by becoming as informed as possible. Each step brought about the same process of questioning, anger, grief then acceptance and shit, this is becoming my new ‘normal’. It was so hard to tell some people. There is no easy way to say those words, “I have breast cancer” and everyone has their own experiences that they need to cope with first.
In the meantime, I had booked a 6 day hike in Tasmania after an epiphany one night, I was lying in bed thinking about all the things I wanted to do, when, “lightbulb moment!”, I should just do that during the Uni break and use my Time in Lieu I had accrued by working Sundays, ‘cause you just cannot wait to do these things. Yes! So when Paula agreed, we booked with our guides and flights and got excited. I was still in the “I can’t have cancer, I feel so fit and strong and healthy” frame of mind. The hospital rang with my booking for surgery two days before we flew to Tassie, it would be the week after returning from our trek. I did really need a big hug a few times while I was away, but the incredible scenery and doing something I REALLY love kept me inspired.
The surgery took a few days to get over, the huge, gaping wound needed to drain before I could go home. It did really look better than I thought it would though the lymph nodes they removed were causing more discomfort than anything else.
The next lot of bad news came from the pathology report from the surgeon. There was cancer in one of the lymph nodes so the best thing to do was chemotherapy first, then radiation and some more surgery as the margins around the tumour were not all clear.
That was a lot to take on.
I do think though that it is harder for those around you to accept all this, as they have the worry of wondering how it will turn out. Me, I was just trying to get my head around all of this crap that was about to go down in my life and how the rest of 2014 was just going to disappear.
Suffice to say, here I am today and so glad to have all that behind me. I couldn’t have survived it anywhere near as well without all the love and support of all my family and friends and lots of other people who are just so generous. But most of all Kevin, my darling. Our two daughters organised a ‘shave off’ on Mother’s day and raised $2000 for McGrath Foundation. That was very brave of everyone, especially heading into winter with no hair. I knitted lots of beanies, people knitted beanies for me and I got to finally indulge my love of hats.
In between treatments I could do somethings, just much, much slower. Most of the time, I laid on the couch and did lots a knitting. I managed a bike ride with some girlfriends and went to the movies but gardening was a bit hard, the vegie garden was SO FAR away. Some weeks I could hardly stand up let alone driving or walking. Get some exercise they say, it will make you feel better and recover quicker they say. The first time I went for a walk, Kevin made me take my mobile and I only walked about 300 metres, that was the limit.
So this afternoon, after my treatment, I was off to the hairdresser as my hair is growing back in a really bizarre fashion and I am sick of the gollywog look. That was a great improvement. My yoga class was next, then out to dinner. That helped me to forget all about it.