Yesterday was one of the most important days of my life, a day I will never forget as long as I live: it was my last day of chemotherapy, my last day of nine months of treatment. Last day of hell (for now). Before I get into the emotional aspects, I want to update you – my friends and family – on what is happening next:
I am getting a fully body PET scan in 2 weeks. It’s a routine scan, but scheduled sooner than expected, and for a reason. My oncologist is concerned about a swollen lymph node in my neck, and he’s also concerned about all of the consistent back, shoulder and neck pain I have been having. If it makes you feel better (because it sure as hell makes ME feel better) my lymph nodes have the symptoms of being infected and inflamed, not cancerous. And my back pain feels like muscle tension due to stress which goes away will relaxing, stretching and activity. However, in Cancer World the possibility of cancer always comes first. 2 weeks to wait for the scan will give enough time to let this round of chemo kick in, and even waking up this morning my lymph node is smaller and my back/shoulder/neck pain has gone down significantly. I was very stressed and very tense in the days leading up to my last treatment, so this reaction makes sense to me.
Ok, time for the emotional stuff! The whole reason why I blog. Please be prepared as this will be a little intense …
I was super excited and super pumped yesterday the morning. There was a slight chance that my last chemo treatment would be postponed if my blood levels were too low, but I was feeling energetic which usually means GOOD levels. And sure enough, they were good!! My platelets and white blood cells, which were scary low just last week, have made their way up just in time. I got settled into the chemo “lounge” and started treatment. I thought I would be dancing out of there in no time, but fast-forwarding five hours later into the day … I was still getting chemo, and I felt like crap. My skin was turning yellow because I am slightly anemic from treatment, and the fluorescent lights did not help my complexion!! I was incredibly tired (from barely sleeping the night before) but I couldn’t nap because of the steroids that were being injected into me. I was getting very weak and nauseous, which I normally don’t experience until 2+ days after chemo, but it was happening right away. After 9 months of treatment was taking its toll on my body. What I thought would be one of the happiest days of my life was turning into a nightmare. I barely had any energy to text back and forth with some friends and family, but keeping connected to the outside world was I all had to keep me going.
When I got home, my husband immediately put me to bed and I slept like a log. Sleeping felt great, but everything changed the moment I woke up. My shoulder and neck pain was at a 9 (0 being no pain, 10 being worse pain. Doctors always make you rate it.), and I was starting to have really bad bowl movements caused by treatment. I called out to my husband for help, but then I remembered that during my nap he woke me up to let me know that he was going out to bring home some dinner. I got out of bed and almost collapsed, having no energy to call anyone for help. I dragged myself to the bathroom where I spent probably the next thirty minutes being on and off the toilet, getting nauseous and laying on the cold, tile floor in pain. I cried and cried, but not really from my physical state (which I am sure would make anyone cry) but just from being scared and alone. Of course I new my husband would back any minute, but it didn’t help the situation NOW. The bad thing about going into a panic attack while being physically and emotionally weak is that it can easily just spiral out of control.
While I waited and lay on the shower mat, I realized that my left shoulder/arm pain was getting too much to bare, and my panic attack was setting in. My oncologist had told me earlier that he thought it was due to lack of movement and exercise on the left side of my body because I’m a right-handed. At that point, anything was worth a try, so I grabbed our “Bathroom Reader” big book sitting next to me, and just started lifting with my left arm. Here’s a photo I took while I was literally hoisting myself up with little strength I had (posted on Facebook):
Before treatment, I was working with a trainer to get in shape for my wedding and was used to doing rigorous work outs, especially on my arms (problem area!!). I tried to remember every arm and shoulder exercise my trainer taught me, and I just went for it. Despite being in so much pain, despite being nauseous, tired and weak, I told my myself, “Not today!!” and kept lifting that book up and down.
To my surprise, my body reacted very quickly and the pain subsided. Now having a small burst of energy I could hold myself up a little higher. A few minutes after that my husband walked in the door and came to my side. I was so happy to see him that I started crying uncontrollably – he mistook it for something being terribly wrong, but I was finally able to get out the words that I was going to be ok, that I was scared and just so happy that he was home.
Luckily I pulled myself together and got through the rest of the night ok. And like I mentioned above, I woke up this morning with very little shoulder and neck pain. I still feel like crap though, but that’s to be expected for the next few days.
Some of you may be wondering if I am nervous about my scan in 2 weeks. I was really nervous at first, and it was another thing that I let ruin my day after the affects of chemo really started taking over. My doctor said that based on the scan results, I could do more chemo. I thought I was DONE, and that my treatments were OVER. However I quickly came to the reality that I will having scans and exams for next two years, and this is just the beginning. I could have a routine scan a year from now and they could find something. I could have an exam 2 years from now and they could find something. Like my wonderful chemo nurse, Rob, explained to me yesterday, I can’t let the fear of cancer coming back take over or dictate my life. Including the scan that I have to get in 2 weeks. I need to move on and enjoy my life. Nurse Rob said that I will know that I have moved on when I can pass my oncology office and not look at it. Hard to imagine right now, but I know that day will come!
Well I am going to wrap up this post by saying thank you to every one for letting me share my pain, fears, hope and happiness with you. I’ll keep the updates coming as I start to feel better, and of course about the scan.
Take care and God Bless!