Metastatic cancer is an introduction to topsy-turvy world.
Things I once counted down to now I must cheer.
The first time I was diagnosed with breast cancer (stage 2, in December of 2006), I counted my chemo treatments down. “Only 2 more adriamycin/cytoxans to go,” I might say, or “Only 4 Taxols left.”
Now I’m forced to be glad for the chemo rounds.
I started my 12th round of chemo yesterday, on Sunday the 17th. After being sick with a bad cold and stomach virus this week I’m feeling not-quite-ready to start again. I haven’t had enough time to rebound and my side effects are not as reduced as they traditionally have been. My feet and especially my hands are not in great shape and I’m limited as to things I can do. For a few days I had trouble walking. Some days I can’t hold a coffee mug. Most days buttoning and unbuttoning are a lengthy challenge. Typing is sometimes painful as well.
Whereas before I could look forward to the time when chemo would be over, now I must be happy for each round. I must realize that it means another week alive, another week the drugs are working.
Another week to be a wife, mother, friend, daughter.
Another week to write, another week to love.
Another week to hope there is a new treatment brewing.
My milestones used to be measured in how much time I had invested to get through to the other side: putting cancer in the back seat. The goal was successfully completing surgeries and chemo so cancer would be more like background noise rather than an attention-greedy headliner in the spotlight.
But now all of that is backwards. I don’t count down until my treatments are over because they are going to be here for the rest of my life. That’s a hard one to accept some days. There is no “when I’m done with treatment.” Not taking chemo would mean I’ve run out of options or the treatment is worse than the disease. There is no after. There is no “looking forward to being done.” Being done now only means death to me.
This is the way it is.
Everything is upside down.
And that’s how life has felt every day since I was diagnosed with Stage 4 breast cancer.