Exactly three years ago, I found a tiny, itty-bitty, pea-sized bump on my right breast. It was so small that I had trouble finding it.
I told my girlfriend about it, in kind of a way of putting it out into the universe and tricking her into not giving me cancer. But, I knew what it was.
Initially, my doctors thought it was very small, very localized and easily excised from the breast. However, I was of the unfortunate diagnosis that is metastatic. This tiny monster had gone into many of my lymph nodes and was starting to worm it’s way everywhere.
I lost my breasts and quite a few other things in the process. Pride, energy, understanding, hope, my hair, eyelashes, eyebrows and beauty were all gone. It was just me. Naked. Without all of the outwardly things we tend to think are important.
Here’s a few of way back then. Just before cancer squared.
We survived the spring semester with distance learning. In this instance, I use a very loose definition of ”survived”. Also, “learning” TBH. We have all practiced patience and understanding, but my earphones were getting used on the regular and the kids totally get it when I tell them they will lose electronics for: whining, yelling, slamming doors, lying, not following safety rules, etc.“I meant what I said and I said what I meant.”-Dr. Seuss, Horton Hatches the Egg.
So, what’s next?
Brad had his post-chemo MRI Wednesday of this week. we won’t know the results until Monday. The scan was to check for further metastasis/growth of existing tumors. Most specifically in his liver. He’s been experiencing a lot of back pain lately, making it very difficult to wait for Monday to find our new normal.
About a week ago, a beautiful friend died at 42 from lung cancer. Another friend has been given her time to be estimated at a week for metastatic breast cancer-same as my diagnosis. She isn’t quite 40.
This summer will be filled with a lot of spontaneity and family. Two of my favorites.
Often, friends will ask me how I’m doing. It’s a natural question to ask, but I’m sure you don’t really want me to be honest. I could bore you with the details about weight loss, bowel movements, job status and cancer and so many other shitty things. I would surely get sympathetic looks in return, but can’t give or receive hugs in a comforting kind of way.
Brad completed his radiation treatments last week, but had three sessions of chemo this Monday-Wednesday. I’ve learned that by now, Brad should start to feel a little better. This week, however, not so much.
I’m sure I’ve explained this a billion times, but radiation side effects are cumulative. So, in the beginning of radiation appointments, the patient typically feels relatively good. As daily sessions are completed, the side effects get worse. By the end, it can feel pretty awful and they can continue to worsen or remain stable forever. With chemotherapy, side effects are immediate, but last about 7 days give or take. With that said, Brad began his last chemo session 4 days after his last radiation treatment. I really can’t imagine.
Time is leaving us behind. I don’t know how to feel. The kids want to celebrate the last days of treatment for Brad. I don’t have the heart to lie. Or celebrate.
This time of year is usually full of so much celebration and delight. Our students graduate college and we all are so thankful for the blood, sweat and tears we put into them and they put into the program. As a family, we are usually gearing up for some epic camping trips. We had just started to plan in January. Before. Last year I was packing for Hawaii. This year I’ve engineered a system so that when I yell “substitute teacher” or “this isn’t math!” or “I just can’t” Alexa reminds me where the wine is and starts playing Fleetwood Mac. Something about climbing mountains and landslides. The only glitch is that Alexa doesn’t understand me when I’m screaming or crying.
Our house is glowing green with radiation with one more week left for Brad. We won’t be able to be at the bell ringing for him, but we will FaceTime so the kids can cheer him on. HOWEVER! He will finish radiation next Friday and have another session of chemo starting Monday the 11. This will be the last three day session of chemo. Brad will have met his lifetime max on this combination of drugs, so we are really hopeful that it’s doing the job aggressively.
For the time being, Brad is feeling ok, aside from the radiation side effects. We’ve had to change his diet completely and attempt to get him through these treatments with less weight loss. He’s lost a total of around 40 pounds. Since he is unable to do much, his muscle mass has slowly deprecated. On the upside, he can fit into his pre-marital attire. Me too for the record 😉.
These last two weeks have been a huge challenge for us personally. Planning for the future is necessary, but with so many uncertainties, we are left with few options. My biggest advice to anyone that is my age and healthy, get life insurance outside of your employment.
I am heading into the weekend with positivity and seeking comfort in my heart.
Here’s a couple of pictures from the last few days.