Well….it’s been two weeks since I last wrote. And I’ve spent the past
couple of weeks scuba diving in the deep waters. Did you know that “cancer” is Latin for “crab”? I heard a sermon the other day about deep sea creatures. I wanted to share it with you……..
It’s fairly common knowledge that submarines have to be made to withstand the pressure as they dive to deep depths of the sea. And even with the best technology, they can only go so deep before they are crushed like tin cans. So, did you ever wonder why, if the water pressure is that massive, tiny creatures can live on the bottom of the ocean floor and be completely unaffected? (I never wondered that until it was pointed out). The answer is simple: they are created with an equal amount of internal pressure that allows them to maintain “pressure homeostasis”. This internal pressure can be to their detriment if they are brought to the surface too quickly, as it can cause them to explode. Of course God didn’t design them to be rapidly brought to the water surface! The Pastor pointed out something that really ministered to me: the pressures from the outside cannot destroy us because we too are created in Christ with an equal internal pressure. “…..because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world” (1 John 4:4). So as I peruse the bottom depths of this great big sea, I am thankful that I can’t actually implode, and I’m not too quick to get back to the top because I might explode!
They were right- the second and third days after chemo were the hardest. I slept almost all day on Sunday (after returning home from church), and drug myself through half a day of work on Monday. The anti-nausea medication is nearly as bad as just being nauseous though. It lowers your blood pressure and makes you so lethargic you can’t even hold your head up! So I quit taking it…and prayed through the nausea. It gradually lessened and I’d say I have gone from being “on the edge” to being about 10 feet from it. Curiously, the worst of it is at night, and I couldn’t lay flat for several days.
Because chemotherapy agents don’t differentiate between healthy cells and malignant cells, they end up killing all rapidly dividing cells (hence the hair loss). Speaking of hair loss……..yes…you lose ALL hair on your body. I have started to notice some of mine falling out. About a week before I started chemo I shaved my head down to ¼ inch anyway. That way I could get used to wearing hats and when my hair actually began falling out it wouldn’t be these long ones (yuck!). I heard so many stories of women losing their hair out the window of the car, in the shower, or to the pillow at night. So, now that the hair issue is taken care of, I have to also have blood work once a week to check red/white blood cell counts, as they have a tendency to drop dangerously low (hence the tiredness). Last week my counts were still within normal range. I go tomorrow again for blood work and I suspect my levels will be lower this time, but still not at crisis point. Thank God! Once you hit crisis point it delays chemo that much longer, and as much as I don’t like the chemo, I’m certainly not hoping for a delay in treatment! I’ve been bulking up on immunotherapy agents and praying a LOT.
At this point there’s no real change in the clinical symptoms of the cancer. By the end of treatment they say there should be no apparent clinical (outside) sign of the cancer. I see Dr. Patel again on the 20th (Justin’s 14th birthday). I also will be getting my 2nd treatment of the “red stuff” on that day. Adriamycin is a kool-aid red anthracycline (chemo). They give it by “pushing” it slowly out a VERY LARGE syringe. The Cytoxan is dripped out a bag along with a steroid and fluids. Sounds like fun, huh?
You know, I recently changed jobs, and since late November have been working for Kern Regional Center. At first I was real unsure about the leap- it is hard to move out of the comfort zone, isn’t it? Well, I just passed “probation” last month, so not only am I in the clear, but the policies of the agency have blessed me beyond belief! Being new, I obviously have little time on the books as far as vacation and sick leave. A simple request for donations of sick time from the human resources manger led to me getting anonymous donations of over 55 days- yes DAYS- of sick time. God is so faithful to bless me through others like that. I was really wondering about the impending surgery and how I would manage the finances when I had to take off work.
The good thing is I am thinking about the surgery. That means I’m planning on living and not dying. Dr. Patel suggested a “sandwich” approach- surgery in between the two chemo treatment. But, new research seems to suggest that the outcome is better (statistically) if mastectomy is done after chemo rather than in the middle. So I am going to advocate for that, which means in 6 months I will have it rather than in three. We’ve also been throwing around ideas about reconstruction. That’s a real personal topic, and one you might not care to know about, but that’s why I share it- it is so personal. My roommate at work just completed chemotherapy for breast cancer and she tells me that the support groups have been a disappointment because even the cancer patients don’t want to talk about the deeper and more personal issues. I am not afraid to tell you that I don’t think I’m going to have my breast reconstructed. It’s a huge loss and one I am going to have to cry my way through. Losing a breast is better than dying….just like it’s better if your house burns down when you’re not in it… but it is still a loss. I’m exploring the idea of tattooing………
So, this past week has been mostly good with some minor side effects, but tolerable at this point. For the most part this has contributed to me living life as usual. Sometimes it’s hard to even realize that I have cancer, or for the kids to think of it. Except for my hair, everything is as usual. And after a week of carrying on as usual, I had to stop myself, look in the mirror, and ask if I was in denial. There are days when I hardly even thought of cancer. I guess that’s a blessing. It’s not that I expect or want to dwell on it, but I am fearful that this cancer is very nasty, and things could get worse, and I’ll be caught off guard. I recently subscribed to the IBC e-mail “support group” and many of the e-mails I got were about women far worse off than I- even dying. When the gravity of this type of cancer becomes that real, I start shaking in my boots. It’s better for me to stay away from that stuff as much as possible. So trying to balance between total denial and total absorption, to find a healthy dose of reality with a heavy flavor of optimism, is not as easy as it seems. I’m not failing at it, I don’t think, but I am struggling a bit with it. And I just keep turning it back to God.
I’ll probably write again after my next treatment just to let you know where things are at…………we continue to covet your prayers! Oh….and Happy Father’s Day!