Preppin’ the Port

Treatment starts back up tomorrow and I am filled with mixed emotions. It is Herceptin and Perjeta, my two trusty biotherapies that I received with infusions every three weeks back in the beginning. Wow, way back then. It really seems like forever ago. Forever ago that I was a month or two into chemo and not yet feeling the real side effects. Sure, I was tired, I was nauseous, I was sick. But I had fun. I averaged about 3.5, 1000 piece puzzles a week, jamming to my own song, “Everyday I’m puzzlin’ puzzlin’ puzzlin”. Those stopped with the second round of chemo when merely looking at the pieces made my head spin. I believe the last time I puzzled was March 15th, the night before the next round. Craig and Kayleen were over and we teased him for not being as good as the rest of us. At puzzling. Jeez. I really needed to get out, eh? The kids asked to do a puzzle yesterday so we cracked open a new one. As we flipped the pieces, I got a twang of nausea. It wasn’t real, it was a ghost - a ghost of chemo past. Keeping at it, it ended up as it typically did; the kids whining about where things go, me begging them to go play, watch tv, anything so I can get back to puzzlin’ puzzlin’ puzzlin’. 

Many incredible things have happened since the last time I wrote. I have been showered with love from many of the people I adore most in this world. Friend’s birthdays, my birthday, my 20th high school reunion, a wedding for two of the greatest, and oh yes, the icing on the cake, the creme de la creme... my Gettysburg lacrosse team came for a visit. A surprise. My coach - she’s still there, by the way, you may have heard of her...she’s won three National Championships and is pretty much the shit on the street if you know what I’m sayin’. Anywho, Coach picked me up under an “in town for some recruiting” guise and we went over to friend and former teammate Meghan’s house to grab her and get some lunch. Next thing I know, I turn the corner to her kitchen and standing in there, clad in shirts they had made - “Bucha 18, Cancer 0. Nothing stops a Bullet” was over a dozen of my former teammates. They traveled from all over, some having flown in late the night before. It was incredible. I am crying while I write this. I have never felt better than I have battling cancer and that is because of all of you. You sure know how to make someone feel supported, loved, and strong. Thank you. 

I am somewhat relieved to get back to treatment. I was ecstatic when radiation was over. A huge time-sucking, sort of painful, alarmingly damaging drag. That’s radiation. But then I just had to wait for the next step. More waiting. I am relieved that step is here. I need the reminder. After surgery, waiting for radiation, that was intense for me. My body needed a break and my mind did, too. I stopped thinking about treatment, pain, time, and just lived how I once did (only healthier :-)). The problem is — my mind took a break in a way that I hadn’t anticipated. Some of the perspective I gained dissipated, especially that from initial diagnosis and immediately thereafter. I became less focused, but also more independent. I didn’t filter life through the cancer on a daily basis. Part of this was knowing - wonderfully knowing - that the worst was behind me. But in the beginning, I wouldn’t have cared. That would have been irrelevant, and frankly a waste of time. I had one job to do and I would do ANYTHING to get it done. Being on the “other” side of it makes that stuff go to the back burner a bit. Willingly, of course. Once you’ve tackled the major obstacle, things start to go back to normal... but you’re not even sure what that is anymore. My normal for 37 years no longer exists. I was sort of stagnant, lost in time somewhere between it all. Do I move on? Do I reflect? Radiation was exactly what I needed to figure it out. A daily task, but more importantly, a daily reminder. This new round of treatment will serve the same purpose. Cancer is not something I regret, or dwell upon, or hold any hostility towards. This is me. It is the most important lesson I’ve ever been taught. Rather, it is the culmination of every lesson I’ve been taught, tested. 

And so with these new steps comes the perspective. “Cancer Becky” returns (she’s a good thing), and I get back in the game. I will always need the perspective I gained last October, and then again in June, and now again on the eve of my second-to-last phase of treatment (one more surgery to go as well). Time to separate the bullshit from what really matters. I know I will continue to lose this every now and then and am thankful for the many people around me that say, “hm, cancer Becky wouldn’t feel that way.” They’re right, Cancer Becky doesn’t sweat the small stuff. I am thankful as well, for the lifetime of scans and tests ahead of me...for the reminder of that perspective you gain when faced with the ultimate test.

As I wrap this up, I’m doing pretty great these days. Feeling is slowly starting to come back which is nice, but also freaky and somewhat painful. My port is once again noticeable (feeling-wise) and can bug me out a bit when I all of a sudden get some sensation from the muscle within which it is bed. I’m convinced one of these days that thing is going to come bursting out of my chest like the water balloon shot out of a sling shot from my family to the Kennedy’s. True story, oops. So Herceptin, the miracle drug that makes my cancer curable, powers up again tomorrow. It is the same process as chemo so I get to return to Dr. Silber and my squad in the infusion lab. I’m sure patients who remember me and my entourage from before will be over the moon to see us back on the beat (sarcasm). I’m not as weak as I was before so things could get a little rowdier than they were in the winter. These drugs shouldn’t come with side effects, thankfully, but carry quite a load when it comes to the heart. Being that I’m not starting off with a perfect model, this concerns me a bit. It will be my thing to worry about, I always need one. I am being monitored closely by my cardiologist, and having echocardiograms after every two or three doses. I remain 100% confident in Smilow, in my doctors, in my treatment. I trust whatever they do is making me better, not worse. Sometimes you just have to weigh the risk and reward, ya know? Anyway... There will be 13 of these treatments... so saddle up, partners.

xo b