The almost month since I wrote last has been a blur. Not like a foggy, chemo-induced blur, but a whirlwind, fast paced, spinning colors type of blur.
I had my last chemo treatment! I turned 36! I got a legitimate wig! I had my port removed! I had a manicure! I ate sushi! (Nails and raw fish no-nos during chemo). I went on an airplane to Las Vegas! I started radiation! All very good things.
It is SO nice to have the chemo portion of this journey behind me. My head feels clearer, my energy is up and the light at the end of the tunnel has become more reality and less wistful dreaming. My parents came down for the last session and although I spent much of my first weekend as a 36-year-old sleeping, I did (at the insistence of my mother) have a couple of birthday cake shots and eat some Mexican food.
The following week I had this awful Lady Gagaesque port taken out. I had no idea how what a big milestone that would be. It was huge. I will have a scar there the rest of my life but now that I can wear V-necks and other clavicle-showing clothing, my wardrobe has tripled in size. It ended up being pretty awesome because my cousin Michelle was in town and when I had to bail on a pre-planned lunch with her and Lin for surgery, they decided just to tag along with me. (She’s a nurse to boot!) It was much easier this go round as I asked the nurse not to do an IV in my hand (I still have a scar!) and to be generous on the meds (last time I thought I was going completely under and when I didn’t, spent the entire time fearing that I might start feeling them cut my chest open. I didn’t, fyi). Then we came home and celebrated with a bottle of bubbly. I really do love my family.
I’ve often spoke of my girlfriend Molly, who coordinate care packages for every single chemo session. She’s also the one that first got me started on the gluten free, dairy free way of eating before chemo (and maybe the hospital pizza-OH MY GOD GOOD) shot that one to hell. (Although with her help this weekend, I started back up and am on day six. I’m hopeful it’ll stick this time.) Anyway, for my last package, I got a pair of sunglasses and a summery hat–items the card read, that I would need for my weekend in Vegas!
I cannot express how good it was for my body, (we did yoga! we ate amazingly healthy tasty things!) my soul (poolside relaxation! best girlfriend catch up sessions!) and mind (I read two books! I learned of the wonder that is Bar Rescue!) having time away was. I’ve known Mol forever as well as her amazing husband and family (who all live there) so it was just so blissful to spend the weekend with them. I haven’t felt that good since, well, before my surgery.
On my trip, like so many other times since I was diagnosed, I had someone come up to me and tell me their story. On the first night, we went to the 8th grade graduation party of Molly’s cousins. I started off the evening in my new wig (I finally found a half way decent one at this place in Maryland that was a former Circuit City turned wig warehouse–so, so, so odd!) but, being Vegas, the temps quickly rose to 90+ degrees. Once sweat starting running out from under my hair onto my face, I decided to say “Screw it” and go bald. I was a little nervous, as I was at a party with a bunch of people I didn’t know, but the relief from the heat made my quickly forget any self-consciousness. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman making a beeline for me. She sat right next to me, grabbed my hand and began to speak.
I have to say, one of the things that I’ve always liked about myself is that people tell me things. Things that they wouldn’t normally admit to other people. They confide in me. I’ve always been proud to be worthy of such personal stories, such trust. And this shiny noggin just adds to that. Hearing about someone else’s struggles, how they dealt, how it gets better, it’s a privilege. I don’t even remember her name, but for 20 minutes or so, she told me her story and I told her mine. Even surrounded by so much support and love, it is really nice to be able to confide in someone who knows exactly what I mean.
The rest of the trip was equally amazing. We ate at the Golden Steer–frequent hangout of the Rat Pack and home of the best steak I’ve ever tasted– and took a night tour of the Neon Museum, where all famous Las Vegas signs are put to rest. It was Molly’s birthday so we celebrated with brunch and mimosas and a family barbecue. I did lose my first (and hopefully only) nail as I walked off the plane at Dulles after it got caught on my backpack. But I was more bummed because it ruined my otherwise perfect manicure I had gotten with Molly more than anything else.
The day after I returned from Vegas, I started radiation. Tim and I went in a week earlier for mapping. Basically they have to measure and mark you (including three permanent, pin-drop size tattoos) so they can make sure the radiation lasers hit only the very specific area it should. Particularly since my cancer boob is the left one, they want to avoid hitting my heart as much as possible. Today was my second day, and so far so good. The staff is (like pretty much every one I’ve encountered at Virginia Hospital Center) amazing, it’s a cake walk compared to chemo and they were playing Garth Brook’s Unanswered Prayers when I walked in. I LOVE me some GB.
Tomorrow, I go back in to see my surgeon, Dr. Sebastian. After my experience with the mastectomy and chemo, I have decided to have my right breast removed too. I don’t ever want to do this again. Even if it’s like lightning striking twice, which I’ve been told about reoccurrence, I don’t want to even think of the possibility. It’s been tough. On not only me, but the people I love the most. So I’m being proactive. I was hoping that it could be done during my reconstruction surgery at the end of December but it seems like another surgery is necessary. I’ll probably have it end of Septemberish, but having been through it once, I know what to expect. And besides, if I’m going to have one perfectly perky boob, I might as well make sure the other one matches, right?
Life is A-OK. It’s a nice place to be.