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Posts Tagged ‘chemo treatment’

I got the nod from Dr. Fekrazad yesterday – it’s OK to call it quits with chemo!!

AND - the first iris opened today!

I’ve been leaning in the direction of stopping for several weeks now.  I finished my 5th round last week – and I decided “enough is enough” when my hands were so bad that I couldn’t open the yogurt container, my feet kept me from being able to go to yoga, and my eyesight so blurry I couldn’t work at the computer.

I called the Cancer Center to make an appointment to discuss the decision with my oncologist. When I explained the reason, the front desk folks wanted me to speak to Dr. Fekrazad’s nurse practitioner, Cynthia, before scheduling anything. She picked up the phone, and before I could utter a word I heard, “I just want to applaud you for making it this far! You’ve done a great job!” She went on to affirm my choice to stop the Xeloda and said she’d be there for me when I told Dr. Fekrazad. Hearing her kind words brought me to tears! What a relief to know I wasn’t going to have to fight them over this.

So, I was grateful yesterday when Dr. Fekrazad was accepting and even supportive of my choice. One of the most encouraging things he said was that my attitude about the experience of cancer played a significant part in my return to health. He gave an interesting analogy: You’re walking along and all is well. Then, suddenly, you fall into a deep hole. Some folks will simply muck about in the hole and not really attempt to climb out; some will climb out, only to sit on the edge and stare back into it; some will climb out and limp away, occasionally glancing back and shaking their head; and some will climb out and walk away, putting the entire experience behind them. He said he felt my attitude put me in that last category – which is a good indicator of continued health in his opinion.

The newest addition to the garden - a lovely crabapple tree!

A few facts I learned yesterday: it should be about six weeks before my hands and feet begin to really clear up, but it will be about six months before the Xeloda is completely out of my system and I’m feeling 100% like myself again. The skin discoloration and all the new moles that have cropped up will probably fade over time (yay! perhaps one of these days I won’t have that shadowy mustache!). My eyesight should begin to correct in a few weeks, but I’ll need to get checked for cataracts (Dr. Fekrazad’s mother, who was on Xeloda much longer than I was eventually needed cataract surgery as a result).

Even though I’m done with the chemo, there are still a bunch of medical appointments to come:

➢  Tuesday, May 11 – Dr. Damara Kaplan, Urologist (for the bladder condition that’s arisen as a result of my surgery; with any luck, she’ll recommend physical therapy to try to correct the condition and NOT more surgery!)

➢  Wednesday, June 2 – Dr. Brown, the colorectal surgeon (for another follow-up visit)

➢  Wednesday, June 9 – Bloodwork, and office visit with Dr. Fekrazad to review labs

➢  June (to be scheduled) – Mammogram

➢  July (to be scheduled) – Colonoscopy

➢  August (to be scheduled) – CT Scan

A small aspen joins our little "grove" of aspen trees

The colonoscopy will be done through my stoma, which will be WEIRD, but if the results are good I may not need to have another for five years!  I’ll probably be scheduled for CT Scans annually for at least two or three years. And there will be regular bloodwork and office visits with Dr. Fekrazad (forever, he tells me!).

Last fall, my Dad gave me a very generous gift certificate to a local nursery. Back then, I was reluctant to get anything and plant it, as I knew I couldn’t care for it while I was ill. But, in honor of being done with my treatment, Tim & I went over to “Plants of the Southwest” and picked out two small trees: a beautiful crabapple and a tiny aspen. They were planted on May Day. I plan to see them grow tall and become strong over the coming years. I plan to grow and become strong along with them!

small today, tall tomorrow

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More and more, I’m finding that living with chemotherapy is really an elaborate form of endurance.

I’ve never been a runner, and I’ve never entered a race, but I’m going to use a running analogy here – so forgive me if you’re a runner and I get some of the details wrong…

Last fall, when I had six weeks of daily radiation, a weekly infusion of one type of chemo, and daily pills of another chemo, I eventually became extremely ill from the treatment load. But I managed to cope with it (mostly) by reminding myself from moment-to-moment that it was temporary. In a few short weeks I’d be through it. I now think of those days like running a fairly short race – maybe a 5K – when you haven’t prepared for it and you’re kind of out of shape, but you run it anyway. It probably won’t kill you, but if you’re not very fit, it will FEEL like it’s going to kill you! And, if you make it the distance, when it’s over you’ll collapse on the ground for a while before regaining enough energy to get up and have a beer to celebrate.

Since the beginning of this year, when I went back on Xeloda (an oral chemo I take daily for two weeks, then break for a week before going back on, with the goal of doing that for six months…), I’ve felt this round of treatment is more like running a full-scale 26.2 mile marathon after only half-heartedly preparing.  Again, it probably won’t kill you. And you can always slow down and walk the parts where you don’t have the energy to run. But – damn – it’s a long way. And some folks will have the experience of “hitting the wall” and not finish.

At the beginning of the race, there are tons of well-wishers around and lots of hugs and you-can-do-it’s. Even a few miles in, there will be people along the way to offer nourishment and encouragement. But inevitably there are those stretches where you’re alone – just you and your labored breathing and your wild mind trying to decide if you should continue on or stop…

Maybe that’s not how it is at all when you really do run a marathon. But that’s a pretty close description of what it’s starting to feel like as I approach mile 13 in this marathon of treatment.

That’s not to say I’ve been without support and encouragement and love and prayers. I surely have had all that and more. I think of the many “angels” who have been with me on this journey, who have whispered in my ear just when I was faltering, who’s wings beating around me have created enough wind to move me forward another few steps. The angels I know are often flesh and blood, occasionally made of wood and rusty bits, and sometimes merely ethereal.

I’ve tried to honor the angels in my life by creating my “artful” assemblage angels. Today, I’ve also created my own little Treasury gallery on Etsy called “Winging It” – to show off the work of other artists who appreciate angels and birds and other winged beings. (You can take a look until Friday at noon when the treasury expires: http://www.etsy.com/treasury_list.php?room_id=126124)

They are surrounding me now, moving the air around me, guiding me forward through the next few miles of this marathon called “cancer.”

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