I'm done with chemo!!!
Last Thursday I had my ‘last’ chemo. Well, my last cycle of the drugs docetaxal and cyclophosphamide that have been knocking me around for the past ten weeks.
It’s fair to say that I’ve been struggling. You might have noticed a touch of something in my recent posts (from upcancercreek.blogtown.co.nz). Less of the positivity and more of the dark stuff. It’s definitely been a rough ride and while I promised myself I’d keep it honest it has definitely taken a toll.
It isn’t a surprise that I suffered. It isn’t surprising how angry I got. It was (is) a pretty shit experience. I don’t want cancer in my life and I hate chemo. I don’t want my kids to be learning how precious life is already. They should get to stay innocent a while longer.
But equally, I’m not ready to give up.
This cancer business will likely kill me one day. But that day isn’t here. Yet. So I’m not really sure how to deal with that. I don’t know if these blogs are helping anyone but for now I’ve decided that while I can, I’m gonna keep talking. I don’t always like the sound of my voice, and I often say things I regret, but it feels like the right thing to do.
I opened some mail not addressed to me the other day (oops. Does it help that it was a VUW law alumni magazine?? Or does that make it worse?!). In it there was a really interesting article on anger and the politics of blame as presented by Professor Martha Nussbaum. It talks about how popular anger is despite its ugliness. Professor Nussbaum explains, the best response historically to anger has been to ignore it, not allowing it to fester and boil over, and also involves outrage and payback which is pointless and destructive. One exception being what professor Nussbaum terms Transition Anger, where you feel the outrage but diffuse it rather than seeking blame or retribution. She gives the example of parenting: maybe a child does something destructive and you initially feel outraged. But rather than seeking to punish the child, you instead try to help adjust their behaviour. You might have felt anger towards your child (admit it!) but instead of smacking or yelling or whatever you gently do, (don’t scoff, you’re a better parent than you give yourself credit for) redirect it by teaching better behavioural strategies.
So, I have been trying this theory on myself. Feeling the anger but being kind to myself and talking myself through the hard days. Even little things like staying hydrated (even though water still tastes like crap), and going for that walk (even if only to the corner).
And it worked. So quickly and easily that it can surely only be a placebo effect. To be fair I was helped along by some pretty strong support from my kids. When I said I needed ten minutes rest, Ivy dutifully set my timer. They let me have my ten minutes but then I had to get up. Clark on the other hand invented a chant to keep me going (“you’re the best mummy in the universe”!)
It has been both a very quick and a very long four months. It’s been hard to see the point some days, and the weird side effects (the worst still being that food and water tastes awful) have taken its toll. And I have met some amazing talented people who are all dealing with shit one way or another, from fellow patients to all the support workers out there. I have learnt a lot, and changed a lot. And become immensely grateful for so many things.
So thanks for listening.
But… it ain’t over yet. Truth be told I’m not done with chemo. And it looks like I will never be. That’s the trouble with this stupid disease, the dam has burst and best we can do is sandbag the front door and hope for some luck (without getting all melodramatic or anything).
I have a scan next Friday and then I’m back in hospital after Christmas for the results and to start my next round of treatment. My oncologist has hinted the drugs I need may yet get funding which is amazing. The chemo has brought on a sudden chemically induced menopause which is not amazing and which will be made permanent. (Hot flushes are way, way worse than you can imagine). And while my tumour markers are dropping (that’s a good thing), we aren’t in ‘remission’ yet.
But fingers crossed that maybe sometime soon I’ll learn how to live with this crappy disease on my shoulder without scaring everyone away.
Written by Rachel Brader