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Sep 17, 2019 12:51PM
Thanks, Scrafgal. It helped me, too. Also it helped me write to my kids. This is what I sent them:
"Today was my last radiation treatment. YAY!! It actually feels weird to say that. It's both a relief and hard to believe. After this comes monitoring with a schedule of mammograms, probably every 6 months for a while, and then back to an annual basis. It's possible I'll have MRIs, maybe ultrasounds, but no other scans or blood tests are expected.
Radiation side effects have been fairly minimal and pretty tolerable. My skin is tanned, speckled, and sensitive. The skin is expected to get worse for the next couple of weeks, possibly blistering, and then improve quickly. My chest is a little inflamed in general, and I may be a bit anemic, so I'm short of breath again. Generally I'm tired and wimpy.
So what now? Now it's time for some rest and recovery, and to regain some strength and stamina. It's time to look farther ahead than the next appointment.
Here are some other thoughts, just so you know where my brain is. There's a lot and it's hard to sort it all out.
First, I feel incredibly fortunate that my cancer was caught early. Because it was so aggressive, a few more months could have made a big bad difference in treatment and prognosis. Second, I'm also incredibly lucky to have your dad to help me through all of this. Luckiest day of my life was the day we met.
But life will not readily go back to "normal." And "new normal" is a phrase I reject. Physically, due to the chemo in particular as well as less activity, I've aged several years in the last 7 months. With recovery I can roll some of that back again, but I'll never get all the way. I feel defeated in some ways and as if I can't be as ambitious for the future. Among other things, some of the travel we've considered just seems unlikely now.
And the prospect of a recurrence will haunt me for a long time. The triple negative type has a higher rate of recurrence than other types. When it does recur, it's usually in the first 5 years. My tumor was small, the lymph nodes weren't involved, and my treatment was appropriately aggressive, giving me pretty good odds. But cancer is slippery, so I can't count on that.
I'm not saying this to make you worry. I'm saying this so you can understand why cancer is still part of me. I don't want to forget about it, and I don't want you to forget about it. Nor do I want it to continue to supersede every other part of my life. It needs to take its rightful place, but I don't really know what that means.
You also should know that these mixed emotions are very typical for those coming to the end of treatment. We've gone along for many months (and for some people, years) simply doing what we need to do. Someone else makes a plan; we nod and agree to do it; and then it's done. And then what? Now it's back to figuring it out for ourselves. Between being at loose ends all of a sudden and also having lower energy, stamina, and strength, it's hard to know what to do. It's confusing. It is oddly saddening.
Some people expect the cancer patient/survivor to put the experience behind them quickly. The visible, physical changes make that hard. Right now my hair is about 1/4" long, and believe me, I'm pretty excited about that. But it will be a long time until it looks like it did BC — before cancer. For me and others, that isn't the only visible change.
So if you think, some months from now, that I really should be "over it" by then, remember that I will probably never be over it. Remember that, as I said before, cancer is now part of me.
I am happy to be done, but "happy" isn't the only thing I feel.
Thanks for your love and support always and especially over the last 7 months. You all mean the world to me."
The rain comes and the rain goes, but the mountain remains. I am the mountain.