Friend or Foe

I’m waiting to talk to my doctor before the last infusion today. Last time, I spoke with him briefly about a flurry of bizarre brain activity: anxiety over chemo ending. The thought sat with me for two days. Chemo is ending. Not, chemo is ending, yippee!! But, chemo is ending, period.

Chemo is my big gun. I come to MGH every two weeks. I have labs drawn and a physical with every appointment. My infusion nurses calm fears, answer questions, and when necessary, watch me like a hawk. My doctor never rushes through our appointments. I’m surrounded by brilliant, understanding minds every two weeks for a whole day. Warriors. And today, my last such visit.

Having chemo is an active battle. It’s physical. On Day 1 it’s an all-day process, with a needle accessing my port for eight or more hours. It doesn’t hurt at all, but it’s there. On Day 4, I can feel the aches; not pleasant, but I know a war is being waged on the inside. I see my bald head and the white spots on my fingernails, external reminders. In three to six weeks, my hair will start to grow. On January 25th, the aches will start to fade. February 1st, I will feel like myself. February 5th, my white blood cell count should be pretty close to normal. February 5th is two weeks from today. My life for four months has been on a two-week rotation. This is the last one. This is the last chance for chemicals to do battle, to find any stray cells. Today, I can’t clearly define chemo as friend or foe.

I’m going to rent “The Graduate.” From the last visit, my doctor’s comments, paraphrased, “The best way I can help patients understand this phenomenon is by comparing the end of this phase to the last scene of ‘The Graduate: What now?’ “ As for me, I think this is part of “survivorship” – working out how to live as a Survivor, with a capital S, this particular active fight behind me. A new meaning of survivor for me, and a better understanding of the term survivor for those who have already traveled this path.

11 a.m.

I will have a post-chemo meeting with my doctor two weeks from today. Whew! I’ll be back in two weeks for a very short visit. We’ll talk more about living after chemo and after treatment in general. We’ll set appointments to follow-up with the trial in which I’m a part.

2 p.m.

One hour left of chemo! This afternoon, I’m glad to say, “This is it!”

Hopefully, I can upload a couple pictures of me here in the infusion pod that Bill just took. In one, I’m hooked up to and standing beside my IV tree, having just had a look at the salt & pepper bridge crossing the Charles River. I’m counting down.

Staying strong,