Crossing Cancer (Chapter 6)


A blood transfusion- they’ve got me sequestered so I don’t catch a cold.

As I get deeper into the cancer treatment process, I need a certain mind-frame and energy level to finish what I start to write. Feeling good happens but is unpredictable. This is primarily due to the dizzying quantities of medicine that they’re giving me, both the chemotherapy itself and the drugs that help with my body’s reaction to it. I’m repeatedly low with both my white and red blood cells counts (0.1 white cell count and 7.5 red cell count: low enough to have nurses whistle out loud when they check my reports). In a little over a month, I’ve gotten over my freakiness towards receiving blood and had 4 blood transfusions, giving me a new appreciation towards blood donors. Since my white cell count is so low, I caught an intestinal bug, vomiting and with fever, and was shielded off into the neutropenic ward of the hospital since I had no immunity to fight bacteria. In all of this, I had to delay chemo sessions, which is distressing because you lose sight of the finish line.

They say that writing helps you–the creative process is healthy. But it’s hard to write so off-kilter. While recently composing a diary-entry, my pencil stopped mid-word and I drew a straight line horizontally across the page, closing my eyes and laying the pad next to me on my bed. Exhaustion blanketed me.

I want to answer well-meaning questions like: “How are you doing?” But it’s hard to answer accurately without sounding like a downer.  By writing, I’m hoping that I might help someone in the future with what to expect since I’ve had such a mixed experience with what I’ve read. All the information is out there—online and in books—but it’s jumbled and impossible for me to compute. You’d think that the disease would unmask several common truths. Thus far, it’s felt like a 1:1 relationship with a mean and unforgiving bully. I feel at times like a tormenter is stripping off the outer layers of myself and all that’s left is raw and unrecognizable.

Often I think cancer is trying to crush my spirit. Before, I had been willing to suspend it for a long while. Thinking: “Cancer has messed with the wrong girl” now feels brazen. At least I predicted my naiveté. In my experience, cancer was an unknown and then it unveiled itself to me. It came unbound—swinging unsuspecting blows. You hear: “cancer’s a bitch” when you’re thrown a punch. That somehow doesn’t really capture it. I’m in awe of cancer—of what it’s doing to me. And then what’s weird and confusing is every once in a while, I feel great—a fleeting ghost of my former self. I go to lunch for a friend’s birthday or out to dinner, wearing my wig and a hat and painting on eyebrows to pass for normal. Soon I’m back in bed, woozy again and gray in hue. I wonder if I’ll get back to me, ever, on a permanent plane.


For Thanksgiving, all the Moody’s came out to California. The cousins had a blast and I was happy to make it through dinner.

Right now I’ve finished 15 chemotherapy treatments (4 Carbos and 11 Taxols –unfortunately seem to be allergic to Taxol) and I still have one more Taxol this round before I segue into the second chemo phase—8 weeks of bi-weekly AC. Nobody says nice things about the AC. What I find to be the hardest, right now, is there is no finish line in sight. If all goes according to plan, I’ll be finished in mid-February with chemotherapy. I still don’t know what surgery I’ll have nor how many weeks of radiation following. But February keeps getting pushed back due to curveballs, like delays in chemo. I can’t plan for life when it can be normal again, free of this cage. I’ve tried to live more in the moment, but perhaps since my body is feeling so lousy, my mind gropes for an unmovable finale somewhere on a calendar.

The doctors are happy with my progress and I’m grateful for that blessing. The finish line waits even though I can’t see it. I am lucky with the care I’m getting at UCSF and for friends and family—who are pulling me through this storm. For the holidays, Mauricio and I will get a sneak peek into what it’s like to be empty-nesters: the girls are joining the Prieto family on an amazing tour of Argentina and Chile to celebrate my in-laws 50th wedding anniversary while we hopefully cross off more chemotherapy treatments here at home. While not being with our daughters over the holiday will seem unnatural, I’m thrilled they’re going. A small victory over cancer.

Related Articles:
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)

Categories: cancer

20 replies

  1. Susan: You WILL reach the finish line. I have seen you swim too many 200 flies not to believe that sincerely. You’re just at the 125 yard mark or so. I hope that you and Mauricio can have a peaceful holiday together. Thinking of you. Tiger, tiger, tiger… Grace

  2. Susan

    Thanks for sharing like you do. Reading your notes also helps many others reflect about our lives in new ways. A positive side effect of this very difficult period. You have always impressed me in million ways, writing is just a new one.
    Love from Barcelona

  3. Your post is just so open and honest that it is certainly going to help and comfort others suffering with this nightmare, as well as helping your friends and family know how you are feeling and what you are going through. As a swimmer you are used to a finish line and knowing when you are done. This is different but the result will be the same. You will finish and you will win. We are all, all over the world, rooting you on.

  4. Dear Susan,

    Like your Friend Grace said, you WILL cross the finish line. Cancer is challenging your spirit but it
    CANNOT touch it. Keep your sight on the finish line, even if it might move a little. You are surrounded by your beautiful family and great friends. Even those that don’t know you much are rooting for you and send strength and positive vibes.


  5. You have come so far already!….You will reach that finish line and it will be amazing. Enjoy the holidays with your loved ones. Sending healthy, restful vibes your way from Seattle – Holly

  6. Love you, Sooz. Thinking about you all the time.

  7. Sooz, thanks for writing, I know it is hard, but you are amazing and sharing your feelings and thoughts is very special, we feel very close to you and that must count for something, besos, L.

  8. We are so incredibly proud of you for your grace and poise in taking on this awful, awful thing known as cancer. We so desperately want you to be through this horrible part of the journey. All of our love. xo The Steele Family

  9. Eloise never quit! Before summer you will be back in track swimming and enjoying life. Have a wonderful Christmas with Mauricio and the girls.

  10. Dear Susan,
    Your writing is so beautiful and compelling and for that I am grateful that you are sharing your experience though this medium. And this experience sounds so awful…all I can think to say is just give yourself permission to process the process. Sending you much love and warmth and wishing you and your family all the best over the holidays. Maybe your girls will run into the Netherlands royal family while in Argentina. I think they are visiting Queen Maxima’s family at the moment. 🙂

    Big hugs,

  11. Hi Suzy,

    All the best for 2015.
    2015 is your victory! !!!!!!!

    Shirley, Daniella, Johann and Richard

  12. Susan – I only just found out about your cancer fight. Please know how much I am thinking of you and your beautiful smile. Love, Rachel

  13. It’s TAPER TIME! You can do this. Nothing can beat that Moody smile! xxoo Teeter

  14. Susan,

    You’ve been in my thoughts since I learned the news. We are sending good vibes and lots of love from all the Garlinghouses.




  1. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 7) | Swim4Good
  2. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 8) | Swim4Good
  3. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 3) | Swim4Good
  4. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 4) | Swim4Good
  5. Crossing Cancer (Chapter 5) | Swim4Good
  6. Celebrating and Movin’ On! (10th and Hopefully Last Post in Crossing Cancer) | Swim4Good

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