Thursday, February 10, 2011

Hitting the Wall

Thank you Amy and Olivia! You made me cry, which is a good thing.

"If you had cancer in the sixteen hundreds, they would have bled you," J~ said to me a week or two ago. "They believed cancer was an excess of black bile." He was reading The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer.  His tone conveyed amusement, or perhaps relief that we're not in such barbaric times, but I felt none of that.

I felt, instead, the weight of the future, when new knowledge casts today's approach in a similar light. If I'm lucky enough to live a long life, I expected I'd have to contend with that.

I just didn't expect to have to contend with it now.

Two days ago it was all over the news: a new study shows that if breast cancer is in the lymph nodes, it doesn't necessarily support your future health to remove them. Lymph nodes are an important part of the immune system, after all.

This study points to a paradigm shift in cancer treatment: getting all the cancer out surgically is less important than once thought.

Hearing this latest development, I recalled how I imagined telling the surgeon, "Just take the cancerous nodes, leave the rest." I knew she would not have been okay with that. I pictured her shaking her head, smiling sadly at me. I would have felt foolish to even suggest it. If only we'd known. Though this study addresses cancers less advanced than mine, there could have at least been a conversation, a possibility... But what can be done? We all make the best decisions we can with the information we have at the time.

Anyway, it's chemo that's got my attention now, and these last few days, I would be dishonest if I didn't tell you, it's been really really hard. I feel twisted and squeezed from the inside. It's difficult to stand upright, a strain to focus my eyes. Everything in me, every cell says stop this poisoning. It's killing me. It's suffocating me. I cannot endure it.

The thought of another cycle leaves me whimpering.

From what I hear, many cancer patients describe their chemotherapy side effects as "manageable." What does that mean? I cannot fathom...

With the latest news, all my doubts rise to the surface. How long will it be until we know that chemotherapy is barbaric too? There must be a better way. There will be a better way.

J~ stayed home from work to be with me today. As I write, he is cleaning the kitchen. Next, I will shower and dress and we'll go out with the dog. As my friend K says about her daily run, "fresh air and forward motion." That's all there is. Get through today.


Chrissy S. said...

I don't think I have ever heard a more beautiful song. It takes some mightly fine talent to make you feel love, and Olivia nailed it!

Anonymous said...

I definitely see where you're coming from regarding chemo and how it may look to people in the future looking back *but* there is also a reason why you're here: there are many,many people whose lives have been saved by the process. That's why you chose it. You were smart to choose it.

But it's living effing hell. For sure.

You are 3/4 of the way through the worst of it. Is there also the option to discuss w/ your doc skipping the last treatment? I know it may sound "off" but I wonder what he or she would say? I remember reading something about Melissa Etheridge just saying "no" after a certain point. She is cancer free but she did cut her treatment short--she could not do it anymore.

Anonymous said...

I recall my friend Bev during her chemo treatments when I drove her a couple times to UMASS in Worcester. Normally a very talkative person, it was almost like she retreated inside herself--not to sleep (although it resembled sleepiness) or to hide but I imagined that she was tucking her head under her wing to heal. Or the way a hummingbird will virtually hibernate at night to survive until the next day. All the energy was concentrated into a small bright mass deep inside. Her body told her to shut down extraneous things and curl up and work on the inside. And this was temporary. But necessary.
Thinking about you! cris

Anonymous said...

Thinking of you.


Anonymous said...

I had my chemo treatments for bone cancer 26 years ago, and I still remember how hard the side effects were. After my initial chemo treatments and leg amputation, I developed lung mets. I was then given an even stronger regime - including the dreadful Adriamycine.

After 5 sessions, my Oncologist couldn't tell me how much more I would need, I couldn't continue living from one treament to the next, feeling like a guinea pig as the docs were to scared to stop the chemo.

I walked away, never went back, and amazingly I'm still around. I'm not saying it was a wise thing to do, but 26 years ago it seemed like the only way forward for me.

I never had checkups or anything, I just couldn't be a cancer patient anymore. I focused on living my life, of course always thinking that perhaps one day I would get sick again. I didn't plan to have more surgery or treatment if it did come back.

The years passed and my health was fine, those 5 sessions after the lung surgery must have been enough to kill any rougue cancer cells in my body. I think after about 10 years the fear that it would come back started to ease.

With my form of cancer, Osteosarcoma, the surgery was always amputation, nowadays its limb-salvage surgery, whereby they remove the diseased bone, replace it with artificial or donor bone, and save the limb. I always wonder how different things would hae been if I had got my cancer a few years later than I did.

Take care

Anonymous said...

Dearest Amy,
I heard Dr. Marrow speak of that study yesterday on the morning news and cringed. However, as you've said, it doesn't at all entail patients with your diagnosis, so try not to fret about it too much. You have made all the right choices. You're doing great! You're amazing!
I was hoping my package would have been there already...will probably arrive today for sure.
Always thinking of you.
Leave it to AC to send such a touching video of her daughters talent, love and light! Beautiful!
Love you tons~

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. I totally know that vulnerable feeling when you are at the hardest part (not of chemotherapy, but a challenge).

I wish I could make the clocks hands spin around fast right past your last treatments and to where you were getting your new old self back.

I'm sorry.

Delaney's Duds said...

Hello Lovely,
Just wanted you to know I found you. :o) You are very special. I knew it from the first moment I saw you. Thank you for the swimming conversation the other day. You are amazing and I am happy to know you. Thank you for your strength.

Grammie said...

After watching my close friend (diagnosed with Stage 3C Ovarian cancer) recently suffer through her intense chemo....I can understand how you are feeling.

After watching my baby sister suffer through all of the powerful chemos for her breast cancer, I heard her say many of the same things as you when she was going through it.

My baby sister just celebrated her 11th year cancer free....and my close girlfriend's CA-125 numbers continue to be extremely low (a good thing).

Please hang in there and know that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can hate what the chemo is doing to your body right now....but, try and focus on the fact that it is destroying the bad cells...unfortunately, it can't differentiate so the good cells are affected too.

Even today, it is still the most effective way of treating cancer. Because of chemo, the survival rates are growing higher and higher each year, thank God.

Just a thought...have you talked to your dr. about medical marijuana?

Take care...