Sunday, June 12, 2011

Shock and Awe

On my second visit to the neurologist last week, she hooked metal loops over my fingers and, with what looked to me like a little cattle prod, shocked my hands and arms repeatedly, maybe thirty times on each arm. The first few shocks caused my entire body to jump, and reduced me to tears. I could feel my nerves aching, vibrating up my arms like over-twanged guitar strings.

It was, to say the least, unpleasant. It did get easier with subsequent shocks but by no means did it become comfortable. I felt like a lab rat, and once that image hit my mind, I was flooded with images of all the indignities I've suffered on this cancer journey, and the tears would not stop coming. (As I write this line, I find myself crying again. My dog, who was just moments ago resting comfortably on the couch downstairs, just trotted upstairs and has begun licking my feet.)

The test showed no evidence of nerve damage. But, the doctor said, it might be too soon to tell. She wanted to do the second test, which would be more definitive, involving needles inserted through the skin of my upper arm, all the way into my muscles, approximately six needles in a single arm. While the needles were in, I was to move my arm in prescribed ways.

The goal, in the neurologist's mind, was to determine if I had nerve damage. Though I would love to have that information, the goal, in my mind, was to determine whether or not I was getting my final chemo. So I asked some questions and came to the conclusion that she was expecting either to be telling me go ahead, no worries, or go ahead, with caution. She thought the chances were slim that she'd find damage so severe as to contraindicate chemo. After all, a little nerve damage is one thing, a little cancer is something else entirely. I agreed.

So I told her I'd like to skip any additional poking and prodding, if it's all right with her, and proceed directly to the part where I go ahead with chemo.  She called my oncologist, and the wheels were set in motion again.

I had my final (hopefully the last ever in my life) chemotherapy treatment on Friday. It's hard to believe that it's over.

I have appointments Monday and Tuesday, in preparation for radiation which will begin in three weeks.

And now my dog is barking and whining for me to play with her.

Life goes on.


Nancy said...

One step closer to shutting the door to purgatory and moving into your future. So happy and proud of you! xo

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on finishing chemotherapy Amy. Yahooooooooo! With radiation in your near future, I'd like to offer what I hope is a helpful hint. I used calendula cream twice a day during radiation. A nurse at the Gray Cancer Center told me of a recent study that identified calendula as an effective skin treatment. Many of my health care providers have commented on how well my skin survived radiation. I did have a rash under my bra strap up near my collarbone. However, I didn't apply cream in that area for the first couple of weeks of treatment. It took a while for me to accept how large the area being radiated was. Good luck with the next step of your treatment.


Anonymous said...

Congrats on your last chemo!!



Anonymous said...

Wow have you jumped through some hoops to get to the end of chemo. Phew. I like the way you keep moving forward. I would not have liked the nerve tests at all--it would have reduced me to tears too.

CK said...

You don't know me. I have read your blog off and on for a while.

I came across it originally when I was going through infertility treatments and trying to find some resolve about whether I would have babies or not.

I discovered the book the Infertility Cure by Randine Lewis on your blog, which I will be eternally grateful for, since I read it cover to cover and followed a lot of the information in there about East vs. West when it comes to medical approaches and the treatment of infertility.

Then in the middle of life and thinking about babies (or not), my husband was diagnosed with colo-rectal cancer. He was 40. And suddenly I lost track of lots of things, including blogs I was reading.

I put thoughts of fertility aside and focused intently on my husband and the battle he was about to face.

Life continued on, it was incredibly hard.

My husband kept his resolve about trying to have children, so we decided one last time to attempt IVF. It worked. We had twins in January of 2009.

Life continued on and my husband continued to fight valiantly. He lost his battle this past September. And as I write this, I am watching a dad and his daughter interact over a cup of ice cream and I am incredibly jealous and sad.

But this is not the point of my post.

I started using a new computer not long after my husband passed away and I was going through my old computer and looking at website addresses I wanted to transfer. I was so incredibly surprised (and angry) to hear about your battle with cancer. Angry that cancer seems to hit all the wrong people.

I have started following your blog again and there have been so many times where I have wanted to say something, but I am partly paralyzed because it's all so familiar and partly hesitant to say anything, because everybody's journey is different. (My husband also faced Neuropathy from his chemo and was unable to pursue some of his favorite pastimes, like playing his sax, but his feeling did recover quickly - so I just want you to know that people can recover from that side effect...)

I just want to tell you that you are amazing. You have gone through your surgery, chemo and treatment with amazing grace and determination and I believe that you are coming through to the other side, where you deserve to be, a place that is free of cancer and full of brighter days.

I wish the very best for you and your spouse. As I have thought often of him, simply because I know what it's like to be the spouse on the other side.

I know you have radiation ahead of you, which is another journey too - but you have all the positive and support energy I can muster and send your way.

Congrats on the last chemo and doing all you have done to FIGHT. Again, I wish you the very best and most of all, PEACE.

--CK Schultz
Grand Forks, ND

Amy said...

Thanks for all the congratulations, the good advice (Susan) and CK, for your story. I am honored that you took the time to share it, that you wrote so deeply and honestly, sharing your emotions without apology (Why would you feel anything else but "incredibly jealous and sad"?). I am amazed that you have room to still, so graciously wish me well. Congratulations on your babies, and though these words feel empty and useless, I mean them sincerely: I'm so so sorry for your, and their, tremendous loss.