Six Hours of Questions and Answers

Written at 2 a.m. Saturday, February 6th

Early morning in our house Friday, February 5th:

“Do I have any clean socks?” No.

“Is there a basket somewhere with clean whites?” No.

“Are there any clean towels?” Yes, the basket in the laundry room is clean. My laundry experiment: “Can I just do laundry on Fridays?” For two days in a row, I had dried off after my shower with single hand towels. If I buy more socks, more underwear, and a couple towels, I can do laundry just on Fridays. Except if someone has an accident in bed on a Friday night.

“Are we really out of bread?” Yes, even the supply that I depend on in the freezer is gone.

In the morning at MGH:

“Do you have a port?” Yes, but I’m done with chemo, so I want blood drawn from my arm. My port is closed.

“Can I really say I’m cancer-free now?” Yes, you were when you started chemo. Everything we are doing is to prevent it from coming back.

“Can I go anywhere and do anything?” Yes, your white blood cell count isn’t 100%, but it’s on its way up. If you get a fever at this point, your body can fight it. (Perfect timing: Will threw up two times – make that three – in the night. Polly Purell wouldn’t have dealt well with this.)

“When can I get this port removed?” As soon as you like.

“Will I have a full body scan every year?” No, there is no evidence to support the benefit of finding tiny breast cancer cells, say in your lung, or finding something after investigating symptoms six months later; research shows that the treatment and outcome would be the same. So there is no reason to subject your body to yearly radiation, nor your psyche to false negative findings. Remember this is a very theoretical discussion because everything you are doing significantly reduces the chances of recurrence. By the way, give your body time to get back to normal. You may look normal but it will take your body a while to recover. I tell my patients for every month of treatment – from surgery to the end of radiation – it takes a month for the body to recover. (Full recovery estimate: January 2011)

“Really? I feel great.” It may not take quite as long, but give yourself time. By the way, don’t be surprised if in a few days or a couple weeks you feel very emotional for no apparent reason. It could happen during the strangest times: you could start to cry watching a Superbowl commercial. Many people put blinders on and move through this physically. But you can’t trick the mind; it will catch up with you when it realizes what you have been through and what a significant step this is to have completed.

Still at MGH, waiting for an injection:

“Do you need anything else?” No, I don’t need this recliner over-looking the Charles. I’m done with chemo. I’m only here for an injection.

Late morning, talking on the phone with Marge, my friend of 30 years who has been reading my LHH posts and the comments:

“Do you know how lucky you are to have so many friends? But of course you know. Aren’t friends the best?” Yes……………………………… don’t make me cry right now ………………………………………. I’m out of bread; I’m parked outside the grocery store; I have to run in for a loaf so I can take Will a PBJ in a half hour for lunch.

Staying strong,