Ok, so I walked the last tenth...

And now I have a bit of a respite.

We saw Dr. Cavalcant today - he asked how I was doing. I like to tell him that all is well, and today, for the most part, I felt good. But I told him that I felt like I was fighting harder. I couldn't help but to tear up. My white counts were down, for the first time since I started this back on August 1. Not way down, mind you (2.7) but down enough that he was still going to give me chemo, then have me come in for three days of Neupogen shots to boost the white blood cells. He said I'd been tolerating this so well - that this will just be a precaution, and that he'd lower the dosage a bit. The dosage has been at 65 mg/week. I've read that normal dosage is 60-100 mg/every 3 weeks. I think I was hoping he'd say that since my counts were down and since I hadn't skipped a week since the beginning, even though the original protoccol was 3 weeks on, one week off, that I could skip this week and it would be ok. I knew in my heart the one treatment wouldn't be the difference between whether or not the cancer would disappear, but as usual, I nodded, and smiled and said ok. Until he walked out of the room. Then the tears came, in disappointment, because I knew in my heart I was ready for a break, and already a couple of treatments ahead. I was torn, not knowing if I was giving up if I took the chemo, or giving up if I didn't. I didn't know if skipping the one, and letting my body heal, without having to mess with the Neupogen was best.

We went into the waiting room again, waiting to be called to the chemo suite. I went to the desk and told the receptionist that I had a question for Dr. C before I was given the infusion. And sat back down to wait.

We were called back, and as I wrestled with my choices, knowing he'd always told me that it's unusual for someone to not take a break, I knew I needed one. And that this last treatment wasn't going to make the difference in my wellness. And that maybe, just maybe, the healing of my mind would help towards the healing of my body. Debbie, the chemo nurse came over with the heating pad and I told her I had a question for Dr. C - I started to explain, and the tears came. Sue was there too - sweet Sue who gave me the first infusion of this all. They've never seen me cry back there. Never seen me break. Today, I broke a little. Sue said, "You've been such a trooper the whole time. You've never taken a week off. It's ok." Dalene, wonderful Dalene came over and said, "You need to let your mind heal, too, or your body won't be able to." Debbie, after making sure that they could use the Taxotere for someone else, talked to Dr. C who said it was ok. I cried, again, and asked Greg if I did the right thing. With tears in his eyes, he told me it was the best decision I had made in the past 21 weeks. That I took care of myself instead of pushing and pushing and pushing. And that the one treatment was not going to make a difference. So, it took two sticks. And I took the Benadryl. And I took the Herceptin. And I went on my way. For the next four weeks.

I don't know what's going to happen after that. I think it will all depend upon what they find in there at the time of surgery. I get the impression I'll need some type of extra treatments afterwards, although Dr. C has said that he wants to see the results of the surgery before recommending further protoccol. Maybe just maintenance. Maybe more chemo. Maybe simply Herceptin every three weeks. That is the great unknown at this point.

Right now, I know that I don't have to go back there until after the first of the year. And that the next few weeks will probably do me some good. I know that maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to hike a little in the canyon. And maybe my veins will get a rest. Maybe my eyes will start to go back to normal. Maybe the weight will start to slowly come off. Maybe I'll laugh a little more again.

So, I walked. But I crossed the first finish line. I have so much work to do, but for now, it's ok.
On Sunday we head up to the Grand Canyon, and I'll wake up on Christmas morning feeling better and stronger than if I had taken the infusion today.

I'm still a little tired, but I've still got this. One way or another.
Today is the last treatment, for a while. At least a month. I've been keeping on keeping on.Working,walking,doing, being...

Last night before I fell asleep, I cried. It's been happening too frequently lately, and I just realized I was scared. Scared of the unknown, scared of what they will find when they go in for surgery, scared that I’m not done with the treatments, scared that each tiny cough or ache or bloat (that DAMNED bloat) means something other than an annoying side effect, scared that I will never get my body or my looks back, and scared that if I get hit by a car tomorrow, I’ll go out like THIS…

What a mess.

"Hey pal,I'm not going to let you go through life scared all the time..."

And then I was reminded that I can’t be scared all my life. I know that I knew that, but for some reason I've been letting it get to me emotionally lately. And the thing is, I can’t let this win. I can't let it take over because whether or not it may affect every aspect of my life right now, it's such a small part of who I am.

Yeah, her. Remember her? The person that stood atop Mt.Whitney on August 10. The person that people did news stories about because she could be an inspiration to others.The person that walked 60 miles after over three months of weekly chemo. The person that continues to go to work each day and walk with her dogs each morning, and tell her husband how much she loves him every night. Her. The person that got lost in the fog the last couple of weeks from time to time. Remember her? The one that wakes up in the middle of the night and seeing that she still has hours before the alarm goes off, lets out an audible "YAY!" before snuggling back in. The one that lays in bed listening to Vince Guaraldi's Charlie Brown Christmas on Sunday morning, dancing and smiling. The one that's going to kick the shit out of anything that dares invade her body and dampen her spirit.

I can’t continue to read until I can’t read anymore about the stories and the ‘might be situations’. I can’t lose my focus on the fact that SOMETHING has been working - whatver the heck that means - and even with all the little annoyances that seem insurmountable at times, at the end of the day, I still feel pretty damn good. At least I do today.

I sniffled a few times, dried my tears and said, "I'll feel better tomorrow."

And I went to bed determined to feel better emotionally today. And I do. And I will. And I will continue to.

Before that, I softly whispered, "I made it." I know I have so much more more work ahead of me, and I know I have so many unknowns to deal with, but I can see that 13 mile mark, finally. I’ve GOT this. And I'm not (really) ashamed to say that I'm ready for a break.
But I've GOT this.
I’m still going to win, you know.

But you already knew that…

The one-stick wonder...

Yes, it seems I have become the one-stick wonder in the chemo suite these past few weeks. Thank god for small favors. It's a good thing, as the chemo nurses don't run in terror when I walk into the room these days. One more treatment behind me, and one more to go before the BREAK.

Twenty weeks. Twenty freakin' weeks of Taxotere.

All I have to say to that is "oy vey iz mir". Either that, or WTF? In capital letters, of course.

But, I'm here. And I'm thriving. Or at least, moving along at the speed of whatever is acceptable at the time. I know it will be a little while before I return to my true self again, but at least I'm on the path. Then again, maybe I've always been on the path and just got a little lost at a couple of bends in the road.

It was a rough week, or a least, a rough few days thrown in there over the past week. The treatments and the side effects have really beat up on me physically and emotionally at times. I probably said that already though. The upside of it all is that if it's doing this to the healthy parts, imagine what it's doing to the cancerous ones.

I guess it's back to Yoshimi...

Those evil-natured robots
they're programmed to destroy us
she's gotta be strong to fight them
so she's taking lots of vitamins

'Cause she knows that it'd be tragic
if those evil robots win
I know she can beat them

Oh Yoshimi, they don't believe me
but you won't let those robots defeat me
Yoshimi, they don't believe me
but you won't let those robots eat me

We were walking this morning, and I forgot what I asked, but Greg said to me, "This is ridiculous, this cancer." It really is. It's simply ridiculous. It's absurd that I have to deal with it, it's absurd that he has to deal with it, and perhaps you had to be there to appreciate the comment in context, but it simply is ridiculous. It's hard to deal with, it's hard to watch, it's hard to comprehend at times.

What I need to remember, even in the times that I feel a little beat up, is what I will NOT let this damn disease take from me. I won't let it take love, or life, or hope. It may temporarily take my looks, and my body, but I'll get them back, and I'll be even better than before. I won't let it take my friends, or my family, or my dreams. I won't let it take my strength, at least my mental strength, and once I'm through these treatments, my physical strength will be even better than it was before. I think I'm determined to come back with a vengeance. And I can't ever let it take my courage.

In the words of Jimmy V:
Cancer can take away all my physical abilities. It cannot touch my mind, it cannot touch my heart and it cannot touch my soul. And those three things are going to carry on forever.

Time to lace them tighter...

Snippets of randomness flit through my mind on a daily basis. I'm not sure if they can be attributed to chemo brain or just the fact that I have always been a little random with my thought processes. The phrase "the incredible lightness of being" has been stuck in my head, and upon Googling it (I find myself amused that "to Google" is an action, and a proper one at that) I realized I was actually thinking of the Unbearable Lightness of Being, which in and of itself would be a bit more apropos, if I was actually feeling "lightness of being". Unbearable seems to fit the bill at times, but I digress. I noticed, however, that Amazon says that those who bought the previously mentioned book also liked One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I read that book years ago when it was given to me by a friend back in Boston. Jen Clark. I lent it to a friend of a friend of a friend here in Phoenix about 5 years ago and never saw hair nor hide of it again. That's my randomness of the day.

Randomness, it seems, is potentially better than the alternative commentary that might be found here...

I remember when we ran my first half marathon. We had just crossed over the Mill Avenue bridge and I saw the 12 mile marker. I think it might have been the farthest I had run at that point, or at least pretty close to it. I let out a triumphant yell at that point. Greg was a bit in front of me, and turned around suddenly to see if I had fallen down or something. With an enormous smile on my face, I told him that no, I just realized how far I had come, and that I knew I could finish. And I ran on. I remember getting so tired after that point. It was almost as if I started to celebrate too soon, and still had more that I knew I needed to dig deep and find. I remember him telling me, " I only need 10 more minutes from you, then we're done. It won't even TAKE 10 minutes. You have got this..." I ran on, and although I remember that from 13 miles to 13.1 miles seemed momentarily endless (although if that's not an oxymoron, I'm not sure what is...) the finish line was finally in sight. Just before we crossed the sensors, he reached over and grabbed my hand. Triumphant, we finished together, and as I looked up at the clock, even though I knew that my actual chip time was even faster than the number I saw above me, I still saw that I had beat my goal by more than 5 minutes. Mission accomplished, over and above my expectations...

I can see the 12 mile marker ahead of me. Or, at least, I think I can. It still seems a bit far, particularly lately. Except this time the distance from, 12 miles to 13.1 equals two more weeks of treatments. I have to remember this. I need to lace up the gloves tighter, dig deeper than I think I can, take the deepest breath I can muster, smile through it all, and make it through to the morning of December 19. That will be my 13 mile mark. Treatment will be the last 1/10 mile. Then I can exhale. For a little while, at least.

I couldn't stop the tears, while writing the paragraph above about the half marathon, and I can't for the life of me realize why it's become so hard when I'm so close to the end. At least the end of this chapter. I so look forward to the break from treatments, and although I know there is a slim possibility that once January 10 has passed and the surgery is done, and all the offending ovaries and masses are once and for all out of my system, I won't need to have more chemo. However, it's such a slim chance that while it's in the back of my mind, I can't count on that being reality - if it happens, I'll be pleasantly surprised (read: ridiculously ecstatic). For now, the break is the finish line. The final peak, for now. I just need to get there...

So, ok. I'm approaching the 12 mile marker. Maybe I'm not quite ready for the triumphant yell. Maybe I don't quite realize at times, how far I've really come. Maybe the dark circles around my eyes and the alien I see in the mirror tends to cloud my vision. Maybe I need to remember that I have a very incredible husband who has sat with me through every week of treatment, who has continued to treat me like a person instead of a patient, and who has managed to look past the alien life form I see in the mirror and still see his beautiful wife somewhere in there up to this point, even though lately I don't even know how or if it's possible to see past this mess. Maybe I need to remember that six months is a small period of time in the big picture. And maybe I just need to suck it up even when I feel ugly and tired and fat and so ready for my life back that I can taste it.

Between now and then, I need to find as much laughter and love as I can, wherever I can. I need to focus on the fact that these treatments are working and that I'm one step closer to being re-acquainted with my elusive friend Ned (No Evidence of Disease). I need to remember that I'm alive and I'm strong and I'm able to get up every morning and walk a 10k. And that the poisons they are pumping into me, although they have really taken a toll on my physical and emotional self, will enable me to live as I am supposed to live for many years after this one. I may need a little extra push at times, and I don't always know how to ask for that. I think it comes with the territory of being stubborn and wanting to be self-sufficient. I'm supposed to be superwoman, don't you know? It's times like those that I have to remember my promise to myself and those that love me that I will not try and do this alone, this time. Even when it gets lonely.

"...only 10 more minutes from you, then we're done...You have got this..."

Small Price...

I could spend about an hour rattling off the side effects that this damn drug (or combination of drugs) has afflicted me with. I could list the ones that they list on the websites - the common ones and the uncommon ones and whether or not I have experienced them and to what degree. I could list the ones they tell you about on the message boards that they don't tell you on the websites, and whether or not I have experienced them and to what degree. I could list the ones that I never read about, but seem to experience anyhow - but who knows to what degree. I could even list the ones that I probably haven't even TOLD anyone about, because at a certain point, it becomes either too much information, or falls into the "who really cares" category.

Sure, I could do that. It might even be morbidly fascinating.

Here's the thing.

I could make a list, check it twice, wrap it around the living room, puree it and feed it to the dogs, and the bottom line is that the immediate result is still the same. It's tedious. It's exhausting. It's frustrating. It seems endless. At times, it's just plain awful.

At the end of the day? It's a beautiful miracle of modern technology compared to the alternative.

More importantly, it's such a small price to pay for 50 happy years...

Laced up. Still going...