Drum roll please...I've tasted my final chemo cocktail! I rung in Round 8 with three of my best friends at my bedside, while a dear old friend and fellow cancer survivor sipped herceptin in the chair next to mine, cheering me on every step of the way. I came prepared for my final face-off with the frigid footwear; sporting my daughter's "monkey legs" (essentially, leg warmers) pulled down to my toes, I had instant toasty tootsies and ankles. My nails, appropriately decked out in Sally Hansen's "Brisk Blue" were left to face the frosty wrath of the freezer mitts and booties one last time. We chatted and laughed the hour away, pausing only to consume a steady stream of homemade bite-sized brownies. Before I knew it, happy hour was over and it was time for me to sound the ginormous "end of chemo" bell. And boy, did I ring that victory bell! I was not leaving chemo pod land without a proper send off.
Some truly amusing side effects this round...
I did not even attempt to give the injection myself this time; a friend administered the needle. I sneezed, and it was over. Funny how that worked out. And amazingly, I did not get any bone pain until day four, and it came and went in one day. Once again, Neulasta did not disappoint.
Superman with Kryptonite
You'd think I'd be a little tipsy after 8 rounds - and you'd be right! My leg and arm muscles have weakened considerably since the previous round, making walking somewhat challenging at times. I liken it to that moment when runners cross the finish line and collapse from exhaustion. Sadly though, I've not conquered any marathon. I've accepted that this is a temporary state and that I will soon regain mobility. Instead of hoisting myself up and down the stairs when I've inevitably forgotten something on the wrong floor, I now take advantage of the fact that 3 and 5 year olds are ever-so-helpful and love fetching things for mom!
So that's why it's nicknamed Taxo"tear"
I can't stop crying. Or rather, my eyes won't stop tearing. Nothing more embarrassing than happily walking through the hospital to a routine appointment, trying to blend in with the crowd, and realizing that you have bucketfuls of tears streaming down your face for no apparent reason. Add the lack of eyebrows (they disappeared this round), chemo head scarf twisted out of kilter, and a crazy new eye twitch and it's no wonder I garnered so many sympathetic looks. Damn you, Taxotere!
M.I.A. Taste buds delay Thanksgiving feast
Ok, well I actually delayed our turkey dinner unintentionally by - are you ready for this - FORGETTING to take the turkey out of the freezer well enough in advance. I know! ME, forgetting something. Craziness. In the end it worked out much better for me as it gave my taste buds a few extra days to return so I could enjoy the meal. The dinner turned out really well except for my favourite part - the stuffing - which I somehow (?) forgot to remove from the warm element and cooked to mush. Uncle Ben would not be proud.
Tipping the scales
I was told Taxotere may cause weight gain from water retention. I'm going with that theory. Ten pounds in three weeks for me deserves a lifetime achievement award, chemo or no chemo.
O where or where has my memory gone?
Has anyone seen my short-term memory? I seem to have lost it at my last chemo session. No one has turned it in to lost and found yet...or at least I don't think they have...actually, I'm not really sure where the lost and found is...or why I would need to go there...
I'm having...chest pains (thankfully, I hadn't fallen and I could get up)
A jam-packed celebratory weekend followed my last chemo session (which you will read about in my blessings report). Unfortunately - and completely unrelatedly - my weekend ended with an ambulance trip to the emergency room following some rather sudden and severe chest pain on October 1st. I woke up feeling just fine, but quickly developed strong chest and back pain that felt as though something was squeezing my chest. It was almost like exaggerated heartburn. The pain worsened dramatically in a matter of minutes until it became very difficult and painful to breathe.
Unsure if it was something or nothing, and trying to sort out the logistics of daycare/school drop-offs (yes, this is where my head was at), I made the necessary school phone calls then soon realized that, oh right, I'm going to pass out now. I called 911 and had a nice ambulance ride to the hospital through the fall foliage. My ecocardiogram, chest x-ray and blood work all checked out - my heart was just fine. Phew! It had likely been either a bad chest muscle spasm or gastro-intestinal reflux as a result of the chemo. I was advised that this is the same kind of pain you feel when you have a heart attack, which was oddly comforting. I will now be able to recognize one should I ever feel it coming on!
To Mastectomy and Beyond!
Now that chemo has done its job in shrinking the tumour to a mere shadow of its former self, I'm gearing up for a full left mastectomy and axillary (lymph node) removal on October 25, 2012. I had a follow-up MRI last week and this week will undergo a few more diagnostic tests, including my first ever mammogram. Radiologists avoid using mammograms on lactating women as they cannot achieve as clear an image as with an MRI and ultrasound, so I had only previously had those. Fingers crossed for a "clean bill of health" (er...so to speak). I asked if there was any chance of a tumour developing in the other breast during chemo and was told it was not likely but not impossible. I take comfort in the knowledge that no matter what comes my way, I have the breast team of people working with me.
All right, enough serious talk. On to the good stuff!
Special Blessings Report
I'm dedicating my entire report to the events which unfolded during my post-chemo weekend extravaganza, as I've never felt so blessed as I did the evening of Sunday, September 30th.
My weekend started with a quiet visit to an old hangout with a dear friend and her wonderful parents - or so I had been led to believe. When I opened the door, I was greeted by about 15 old friends, most of whom I hadn't seen in as many years! I was moved to tears. Not only was the evening unforgettable, but I rekindled many long-lost friendships. We closed the bar as I closed my chapter on chemo. Thank you K for outshining Facebook and making this all happen. J, I can't believe you were willing to travel 4000 km (x 2) to be here.
|Me with surprise-reunion organizer extraordinaire!|
Thanks to the amazingly generous donations of so many caring people, Team Keeping Abreast of Ellen raised $6,880 in support of the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation! Loving thanks to everyone who supported our team and congratulations to my awesome teammates who braved a chilly, rainy, Sunday morning for such a great cause. I came prepared for the walk (not the run!) and completed the 1km trek around my old office buildings in true Ellen style - and even donned a wig to mark the occasion!
|Ready to rock it!|
|Better than my name in lights|
|Walking with an army of love|
Singin' in the Rain at Harvest Noir
After an expeditious costume change, I headed out for my second Sunday social, this time a flash picnic, Victorian style. Along with 1500 others, I dined outside Ottawa City Hall decked out in my finest black for the second annual Harvest Noir picnic. It rained the entire time, which made for some logistical challenges (the rainwater kept topping up our soup bowls and wine glasses), but our awesome group of friends - some new, some old, and some wonderfully outrageous - persevered. It really was the perfect end to a perfect weekend.
|Incredible table mates|
|In our Sunday best Vintage Victorian / Steampunk|
Chemotherapy has been truly enlightening; I would never have thought it could be this way. And my experience with cancer thus far has led me to so many wonderful experiences and people I would not have otherwise encountered. This has been my wrinkle in time. So if I'm asked if anything good has ever come of cancer, I will reflect on the seven months since diagnosis and smile a discerning, yes!
|My Wrinkle in Time|
Love to you all, here and there, far and near.