Today marked something of a milestone for me. I am now halfway done with my weekly Taxol infusions. I've got six under my belt, and only six more to go. So far, I've tolerated it very well. I get a little tired on Saturday nights and Sunday mornings, but, usually by Sunday evening I've perked back up and am ready for another week. My white blood cell and red blood cell counts have remained in, or very close, to normal range each week. If it stays that way, I have high hopes that I can maintain my energy and get through the last half without too much drama. Treatment will not end at that point, but at least the most toxic drug will be over.
Of course, chemo is not a picnic for me or my family. It's killing healthy cells in my body right and left even as I write this. I anticipate that, by the end of these 12 weeks, I will be experiencing some of the more difficult side effects. I've already lost the hair on my head, for the most part, and I'm OK with just wearing hats, scarves, and wigs. Although I confess that I had forgotten how truly miserable it is to wear a wig, so you won't see me in one much. I am not terribly vexed about being bald other than it's pretty darned cold in Minnesota in February. Much harder is losing eyebrows, and eyelashes. It's amazing how much they help to keep your eyes clear. And you really don't realize just how much your nose hair is of benefit to you until you don't have any.
The hair loss is really one of the more minimal side effects. I will also, likely, have tingling in my fingers by the end (neuropathy), and very sensitive fingernail beds. Taxol, and the Perjeta I get every three weeks are pretty rough on the GI tract as well. I have lost four pounds since diagnosis, which is pretty noticeable for a person of my small stature.
Still, there are some good things about chemotherapy days. First, I have some solid evidence with my tumor markers that the treatment is doing what it is supposed to do. I also feel quite a difference in my lungs and have found that my cough is tremendously diminished.
Another good thing is that one of my premeds is a steroid called Decadron. There is most definitely a reason why athletes try to cheat and use steroids to enhance performance. They really do provide a tremendous boost of energy. I generally feel great on chemo days because of my nice little packet of Decadron.
But probably the best good thing is that it gives me a little extra time each week with my husband. Just the simple pleasure of being able to have lunch together once a week is a welcome event, and I'm grateful for this as a side benefit of chemo days.
It is hard to be the person going through cancer treatment, but it is just as hard, if not harder, for the person who has to watch someone they love going through it. You wonder what you can do to help, but feel powerless. But perhaps you don't know that your presence is enough. Your expressed concern is enough. Your love is enough.
I am so fortunate to have so many supporters in my life. While I would never wish cancer on anyone, I would wish for everyone to experience even a small fraction of the love and kindness that I receive daily. Every simple kindness creates a ripple effect that extends out so much farther than we may ever realize. I may never be able to give back as much as I've been given, but I will do my very best to let all the ripples of kindness I have experienced continue to expand their reach. Clearly, I need to stick around for a long time. I've got a lot of ripples to make.