Tomorrow marks my eighth treatment. Perhaps like house arrest, time has concurrently crept and flown by. I shift between thinking how far I’ve progressed to wondering when I’ll glimpse the finish line. I have nine more treatments left which translates to another 3.5 months of chemotherapy before surgery/radiation. When asked how am I doing or what this feels like, I try to give an accurate response. At best, I have about half the energy than normal, at worst- well, suffice to say that the other day I was slowly walking up the stairs when I thought: “It’ll be easier if I just crawl on all fours.” So I did– and it was. When people describe chemotherapy with the word fatigue, they must be referring to this bedraggled feeling. Like your limbs are failing with an alarming, barbed lassitude. It’s accumulative; four weeks ago I was able to fly to Princeton for a swim team reunion and that wouldn’t be possible now. In fact, Mauricio is away for a work event and my mom is flying out to substitute as the parental figure around the house since I’m so grotty. I sense I’m getting close to a blood transfusion.
Last week I had an allergic reaction to the medicine as it was administered– something that is relatively uncommon but within the realm of normal. I was watching “House of Cards” with my dear friend, Jennie, when all of a sudden a hot, sharp pain developed in my lower back, quickly enveloped my pelvis, and ignited down my legs. Tears involuntarily flowed and I whispered to her: “something’s not right.” Swiftly, she got the nurses and they switched the chemo for other pain-reliving drugs while attending to my vitals. “Describe the pain,” they asked while caressing my shoulders. “Feels a lot like childbirth,” I uttered. Within the hour, the pain subsided and I was able to take the chemotherapy, somehow. Modern medicine!
God knows, when I’m close to reaching a new nadir I think about the sacrifice this has taken on me. When I use that word, sacrifice, I mean the suffering that in a certain light feels absurd. There’s no other way to describe it but pointless in the normal world. It’s human to look for meaning and hard to find it, at least for me. I think about how there’s no guarantee that I’ll be cancer-free after all of this is over. Even if they find no trace of the disease at the time of surgery, the only unassailable data point is time. Over time I’ll know if I’ve beaten cancer. But there’s no option other than to fight it and know that I’m lucky to have great care both at UCSF and in my home. The harsh reality is that I’m in a zero-point-zero something percentile, just by living close to an amazing cancer center. I’ve read some distressing statistics about cancer care around the globe, specifically on the high rates of women dying from breast cancer in developing countries. That’s unfair.
In a recent visit, my doctor was positive with the response the chemo is having on my body. After he wasn’t able to locate the locate the lump anymore during a manual exam, he smiled at me and said: “You’re defeating this thing. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me.” Nuggets like these make me think that within his new odious cancer universe, it’s do-able. I’ll get through it, cross the finish line, and move the hell on.
When I was younger and complained too much about something, like being tired after a grueling twice-a-day swim practice, my father wouldn’t bend. “If I can survive a year in Vietnam, you can withstand anything,” he repeated (but never elaborated on any details). Close family friends described the Moody household as a “loving boot-camp” and maybe you get a tiny glimpse why.
Dad– Happy Veterans Day! Today I’m reminded that you did the impossible and that many, many brave people have endured far more than I.
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 1)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 2)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 3)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 4)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 5)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 6)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 7)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 8)
Crossing Cancer (Chapter 9)