Bittersweet

The title… I know…

What’s she gonna write?

I shall explain.

Today is a great day: today I finished chemo!

After a year and two months of constant injections, needles, hair loss, nausea, red devil, “peeing it out” I’m finally done with it.  It is such a victory to finally get to this day.  I have counted down every chemo injection to reach this point at last.

I cried and I triumphed.  I laughed and I fought.  I gave up vacationing and travel.  I embraced the couch with vigor.  I napped like a champ.  I watched almost every episode of Law and Order; SVU.  I put my dreams and career on hold.  I did not throw up!  I read books.  I stayed inside.  I stayed away from crowds.  I did not eat sushi, raw eggs or lunch meats.  I cried and I survived and I thanked God for every friend, family member and supporter along the way.  I slowed down. I mellowed out.  I got engaged.  I started to figure out where my life should go.  I decided this cancer thing would be a SMALL part of my life and then I’d move on.

And I finished chemo.

The thing is, with cancer, ya know, is you can never get too comfortable…

About three weeks ago, I noticed a constant pain in my ribs and I let my nurses know during that chemo.  I thought it was just my scar and scar tissue had built up.  Then in the last week, I noticed a constant pain in my ribs on my back.  Both areas still hurt but there’s no bruise.  It’s persistent and consistent.  There are a great many things it could be.

But on Saturday, when I went to bed, the worst case scenario came to me like a freight train:

…What if it’s bone cancer?

Under the horribly-available-likely-useless-at-least-it’s-something guide of Google, I checked briefly what that might look like and yes, my symptoms (constant pain, worse at night, etc) combined with my previous health dilemma (read: “breast cancer”) mean it is a very real possibility.

Can’t I catch a break????

Before you get too worried, I don’t know what it is yet.

Once the potential for a second cancer settled in on my mind, and my mind kept spinning it around and around like a sock in a dryer, the tears welled up and rolled down.

You see, my self preservation button often automatically tries to determine the worst case scenario so that I am prepared for any diagnosis.  If it turns out to be broken ribs, then that would be better than cancer.  ANYTHING would be better than cancer (well, almost).

Can I go through this again?  Can I do surgery and chemo and pills and feeling awful and and and…

And then I try to stop.  I wake my fiance and he reassures me.  I go to sleep.  I go to work and I push it out of my mind.  I try to think about it as little as possible.  I pet me dog.  I eat good food (chicken wings!).  I try to live and I try to not fall apart.

And I go to my last day of chemotherapy.

I tell my nurses that I’m happy to be on my last round but that I’m worried about my new pains.  They schedule an x-ray and a CT scan.  It could be anything.  It could be from doing too much activity.  It could be hairline fractures on bones weakened by radiation.  It could be from free-diving at work and putting pressure on my lungs and therefore my ribs.  It could be.

But what if…

We tell ourselves to “be positive” and “think happy thoughts” and “say no to negativity” (bumper sticker?!) and I’m trying, I really am.  But I’m also very cautious.  I want desperately to jump for joy at being done with chemo but this discovery and realization is weighing me down.  I feel like I’m disappointing everyone that has been gunning for me all these months.  And I also feel like my body is letting me down.  Again.  I’m stuck in this disappointment sandwich, and it sucks.

There are two things that happened today that make it clear to me how precarious a situation this is:

One was when I was asking about scheduling to get my port out soon (before the wedding) and my nurse said we should wait to schedule that once I finished my x-ray (today, done) and CT scan (Friday).  Like, I might need to use my port again…

And two was what my favorite nurse, Annette, said as I was leaving and she realized I was going to cry, “I wish I could tell you not worry…”  But she can’t.  Because once you have cancer and you fight it and you beat it away, you always remember in the back of your mind that it can come back.

Cancer is an awful thing.  When it’s not physically strenuous, it’s mentally taxing.  It’s a constant roller coaster of the worst series of emotions.  No one wants to think about the very real and tangible possibility of illness or death.

I wanted to keep this to myself but I couldn’t hold on to it; it was drowning me.  You have all been so amazing and supportive.  You are all so excited–as am I–to see chemo end, but I felt like it’s kind of a lie.  True, it’s over, but I’m so preoccupied with this other thing that I figured you deserve to know.

I believe that knowledge is power.  The obvious take from that is that if you learn, you’re more intelligent, desirable, skilled, capable, powerful.  But it works in another way.  This bit of knowledge above is spread to you, and while it may not be good knowledge, it allows you to help me.  It’s the power of a thousand hands and five hundred hearts.

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