I met with the surgeon on Friday who removed all of the tissue from my breasts and ordered my pathology tests. As we waited for her I made silly faces in the mirror. Joel laughed at me and pointed out that I was in a much different state of mind this visit than I was last time I was in her office. She was all smiles explaining that I had a C.P.R. A complete pathological response to my treatment. Which means in all the tissue samples they tested — there was no cancer. She again stated that my prognosis was excellent.
I thanked her for saving my life. Maybe that seems dramatic. But it is probably true. I first met with her in late November. She was serious and stoic as she laid out the medical plan for me. I didn’t eat that day, and my hands were shaking as she told me about the chemo, the targeted drugs, the surgery, the ovarian suppression and the hormone blockers. It all seemed too big. An ocean of impossible.
But here I am. Six months later. In the aftermath of chemo and surgery – hearing that the treatment worked. So many of you have told me that I am strong. But there were moments of unbelievable desperation. There were days I was shriveled in bed, listening to my kids laugh and play in the backyard. Wishing with my whole being to be out there, running in the grass, blowing bubbles, and giggling about the clouds. There was darkness.
Today I took Andy to the park for lunch and to look for turtles in the pond. He sang to me as he dipped his carrots in humus and held my hand as we walked. I tried not to hurry him as he carefully positioned his “superman bear” on the bench to watch us swing. Instead of rushing him, I tried to watch him. I tried to feel the sun on my skin. I was tired. So tired. But also . . . so, so grateful.
I’ve been that way lately. Grateful, and happy. I’ve caught myself singing in the shower, and the other day when my neighbor asked me how I was doing, before even thinking I blurted out, “I’m great.”
And it’s true.
I described this journey as a triathlon: bike (chemo), swim (surgery), and run (ovarian suppression and hormone blockers). I guess I am here finishing up the swim. Tomorrow will be three weeks since surgery. Every day the pain lessens, and my boobs look more like body parts, and less like Frankenstein’s head. But as I end this leg of the race, I am feeling that familiar dread of the unknown. What will the run be like? Is my body strong enough to keep going? What does forced menopause look like for a 36-year-old body? What will the side effects be of these new meds? When will I get my full energy back? How long until my hair doesn’t scream “cancer patient”?
Tomorrow I have to have an echo to make sure my treatment hasn’t damaged my heart. They are long tests, and they always make me nervous. I have to have blood drawn, and get an infusion of herceptin, and meet with my oncologist. And to be honest — I don’t want to do any of that.
But you can’t divorce cancer that easily. Even though it is out of my body now, I have to do what it takes to keep it out. And I will. And just like every other leg of this journey, I will be scared, and angry, and then I will take a deep breath and carry on.
In high school I remember being asked to write down the five most important things to me on separate pieces of paper. We were then asked to pick one to rip up, then another, then another, then another. Then we had to look at that last piece of paper. What was the one thing that would be left if we had to get rid of everything else? My last piece of paper said “faith”.
One of my favorite bloggers always says that we have to “show up” for each other, because we “belong to each other.” You all have shown up for me. Big time. I feel like I belong to you. And whether you are a believer or not, you have to know that I have seen God in you. Describing it would be like trying to fit an ocean in a tiny box. I just have to tell you– it has been astounding. Your simplest gestures have made a beautiful soundtrack for me.
So here I am. I don’t know what will come next. But I do know this: I can do it. I’ve got this. I’ve got this because you’ve got me. Thanks for showing up. It feels good to belong to you.