I might be done with chemo. And it’s not how I pictured it at all.
First of all, I expected to feel a lot worse at the point where my body gave out. I’ve seen up close how painful cancer treatment can be (and had some rough times myself). In most ways I’m feeling much better than I did in earlier phases of my cancer treatment.
But, as it turns out, neuropathy is a deal breaker. Without a doubt, my hands and feet aren’t working properly right now. My nerves have taken a real beating.
All they can do is stop the drugs – and hope that the damage isn’t permanent.
Next week, I’m going to check in with my oncologist. If my nerves have made a massive improvement, we’ll probably crack on with trying to do the last two doses of Taxol.
Otherwise, I’m done.
I feel like everyone around me is ready to celebrate.
My own feelings are really mixed.
It’s all a jumble in my mind.
I’m in shock. I’ve only just tipped past the halfway point of the regime we originally mapped out. I was supposed to be carrying on into October. The neuropathy came on so suddenly, I haven’t had a chance to adjust to the idea of finishing sooner.
I’m relieved. I won’t have to persist, risking losing even more function.
I’m excited. Already I’m feeling better and starting to take steps to rebuild my life.
I’m unimpressed. ‘Done’ with chemotherapy doesn’t actually feel very done. Even though the drugs that fall into the category of ‘chemotherapy’ will be stopped, I’ve still got to finish my year of Herceptin, which is administered in the chemo suite, using my port like my chemo drugs, and requiring the same sort of premedications, and having a whole risk of its own side effects that requires regular cardiac monitoring. Until that is finished, this era won’t really feel over.
I’m anxious. There is so much to do to try to put my life back together and figure out what this means, especially in the unsettling wake of a move.
I’m annoyed. Most people won’t understand this, but I feel like I finally just got good at this chemotherapy thing. I figured out a rhythm. We got the dosages right. I booked a schedule of friends and other support. I worked out how to calibrate my supportive medications just right to control the side effects. I was able to perform my injections without feeling stressed about it. I finally sorted out how to make it all doable, and it’s stopping before I even get to put it in action! (While obviously, I’d rather not have chemotherapy, it’s really frustrating that it’s only just as I’ve worked it out that its stopping.)
I’m worried. I can’t shake the fear that stopping chemo early will put me at higher risk for recurrence, even though my oncologist is clear that my outcomes should still be really good. The risk of permanent nerve damage outweighs the benefit of more chemotherapy.
I’m preparing. I feel like I have focused vision on on the next chapter, which will be hormone therapy. While it’s much less invasive, this journey has been full of unexpected surprises, and I have no idea how that will be.
I’m grateful. I have the option to stop and still be optimistic that my cancer has been cured. I know how lucky I am.
I’m embarrassed. Even though I know in every way that this is not the case, I feel like I’ve failed. The achiever mentality is to push till it hurts, then keep going. This is the approach I’ve taken in so many areas of my life. And here, it doesn’t even really hurt much (it’s just numb), and the answer is to stop. It feels somehow like I’m giving up or getting off easy. (While my rational mind knows that’s not the case, the feeling is still real.)
I’m racing ahead. I feel filled with energy to leap into the future I want so very badly, and to put all of this behind me.
But more than anything else – I’m in limbo.
While I am probably done, and I can hear the excitement in my family’s voices about this, it won’t feel real to me until we actually make the call next week with my oncologist.
So, I guess this is maybe how chemo ends?
Not with a bang, but with a whole lot of feelings that will take their own time to work out.