So, I now have a few more sessions of chemo under my belt and I’m doing well. Really well, all things considered. I was able to successfully endure the IP chemo with no problems, which was a huge relief. And, best of all, my CA-125 cancer marker has now decreased 83% from its highest point immediately post-surgery. 83% in less than 90 days. We’re so grateful and relieved. The treatment is working….!

I finally broke down this week and got a second port, for administration of the IV chemo and pre-meds. As much as I didn’t want another surgery and another scar, it was becoming too stressful for me – as well as my nursing team – to deal with vein issues every single time I came in for treatment. Plus the trackmarks on my arms were starting to look a bit sketchy. The port will also save me a significant amount of time on chemo days (the difference between pushing liquid through a thread vs. a straw), and time for me is precious. So I did it. I took the new port for its inaugural test drive today, and have to say it made the process so much easier. I have no regrets.

One thing I appreciate about the chemo – besides the fact that it is hopefully saving my life – is that I essentially get to catch up on my sleep on chemo days. You see, on the two of every three days that I get the drug Taxol injected into me, they also give me intravenous Benadryl to prevent any allergic reactions. And that stuff knocks me right out. It’s like getting a roofie (or what I imagine that would be like…). It hits pretty quickly and then I start getting foggy. Next thing I know, chemo is over.

I have some wonderful friends who have offered to sit with me, bring lunch to me, play games with me, and keep me company during chemo. I’m not very good company on the Benadryl days, let me tell you. Today a very sweet friend came to eat lunch and hang out with me. As we ate our food, we talked in detail about my friend’s scheduled trip out of town to see Jack White perform over the weekend. Then, the Benadryl hit. Next thing I know, I heard myself slur, “so what are you doing this weekend”? My friend slowly and patiently responded, “Going out of town. To see Jack White”. Oh, yeah.

But it’s all good. As a new mom, sleep is such a luxury. I would even say delicious if I liked that word used in that context (which I don’t). And how nice to wake up and know that, while I was sleeping, my system was infused with even more cancer-fighting drugs. One step closer to cancer-free! I’m ready to get my CA-125 count into single digits. That’s the goal. And I’m a hell of a lot closer than I was a couple of months ago.

I have an amazing friend named Molly who also happens to be a strong female cancer survivor herself. Molly talks about the “upside of cancer”, the unexpected benefits that come from this sort of trial by fire. I’ve already seen the upside. The deep appreciation for life and family and friends. Being overwhelmed with gratitude for all that you have, and all you have been fortunate enough to experience. Recognizing how much you have to live for….wanting to Live with a capital L. Having such a new appreciation, for everything….good, bad and ugly.

Another upside has been all of the amazing people I’ve already met in this process. Being embraced by a huge, powerful and loving community, the strength and magnitude of which I never really knew existed. No matter what happens, cancer will always be part of who I am. And I’m okay with that…more than okay.

As I’ve written, I initially started this blog as a means to hole up with my fear and grief and hide from most of the outside world. And to avoid sending those annoying mass emails and having to tell the same story over and over (and deal firsthand with the reactions). Hiding behind the keyboard just felt safer in the beginning, which is what I needed. And it was just what I needed.

I don’t feel like hiding anymore. I love taking off my hat in public and displaying my bald head as a badge of honor. Any time I hear of someone going through something similar being inspired by me talking about my story, I am so touched and honored. I don’t know that there’s anyone whose world hasn’t been affected by this disease. And we’re all a family of sorts. I’m loving this new family…and the deeper level of intimacy that comes with being a member. There’s no room for bullshit in this family, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

I was recently contacted about this blog by AOL. They were interested in making it a weekly column for The Stir on their Cafe Mom platform. First, I was stunned that anyone would be all that interested in what one woman from Nashville, Tennessee had to say. After all, I’m just one woman going through cancer treatment; there are millions of us out there. But then I thought that if I can help anyone else out there better deal with their own battle with this disease through hearing my story, I’m in. So I’m in.

I’ve heard from so many people who have said that they or a family member are going through a similar situation but that they’re “not telling anyone.” I very much respect their rights to privacy. For me, though, I feel that talking openly about this disease makes me stronger and it weaker. So that’s what I’m going to keep doing.

Next week, the column will launch on thestir.cafemom/columns, and I’ll put a link to it here if you’d like to follow it. I’ve always loved writing – it’s one of the things I love best about my job – and now, if all goes well, I’ll get to write for a larger audience. Scary and exciting….I guess this is also part of the upside of cancer.

I’m fortunate that I have had so many good days during treatment; and that my regimen is tough, but also essentially affords me ten days off every month to recharge and recover. This allowed me the opportunity to travel to Arizona last week with my husband and baby (yes, the Moo has now earned her wings) to visit my wonderful in-laws and my amazing aunt (whose ass you’ve all seen if you’ve been reading this blog from the beginning). I think the trip was good for all of our souls, theirs, Mark’s and Maggie’s. I know it was good for mine.

Thanks, again, for the continued support and well wishes. I have no doubt, whatsoever, that all of the positive energy I’m receiving every day is a big part of what is carrying me through.

My doctors told my family that the survival rate for those with my type and stage of cancer is 50%. But that certainly didn’t factor in my husband, new baby, family, friends and all of you.

Love and gratitude,
Joanna

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