Of course I want to start this as I did most entries in my diary as a kid... “Dear Journal, sorry I haven’t written in so long...” and then some excuse as if this inanimate object was sitting there, longing for my eloquent words. Ha. I don’t think I was ever honest in those either... just in case my sisters got a hold of it. Thankfully, that has changed.
This part of the journey is one that has carried tons of apprehension for me - the “after” (sort of). I’m still in treatment, but I am okay. Life has returned to some sort of normal and that is great. Being able to be busy is a weird luxury and serves the purpose as a wonderful distraction, allowing me to forget the reality of life for a bit. It has given me more time with my kids, more energy to do what I missed so much last winter... but it has hindered the therapy that the quiet used to provide for me. I used to journal all the time... now I jot in my phone when I can. This writing has been a savior. The honesty of writing on here is what I have needed to process the nonsense of cancer. The unfairness, the struggle...that is all easier when I reach out to you all. So, thank you.
Okay, treatment... I am currently in my last stretch of infusions. With HER-2+ breast cancer, the biotherapy Herceptin is a saving grace. It is about all they have to trust that any remaining cancer cells are not able to establish a blood supply. I receive a half-hour infusion every three weeks. It is the same process as chemo, an infusion via the port down at Smilow, only it doesn’t carry the same side effects. I am not nauseous. I still have my hair. (Holy shit, post-chemo hair is another thing entirely. Lol is all I can say). It should not exhaust me, nor should it be the direct cause of exhaustion, but damn... it takes it all out of me. Perhaps it’s simply the mental toll it takes on me, the reminder of what infusions were like a year ago. Walking into Smilow, I feel like one of Pavlov’s dogs. Who knows, but it drains me for a couple of days.
I am not naive to assume that everyone has the same experience with cancer. I know that everyone processes it in their own way. I often think of how I cope... the Bucha way - humor, volume, laughter, all of our usual defense mechanisms. What would it be like if that wasn’t the case? What if we still lived in lonely Turlock, CA (where I am convinced this shit came from... another story entirely) and all I had was a good book and Bubble Guppies? Fortunately for me, my treatments were something I looked forward to - a good social scene with friends, family, and lots of laughter. It was also often the only time I ever had any interaction with people outside of my home.
I don’t know what I expected. Why was I nervous? I had done this [seemingly] a thousand times before. Perhaps I thought my family and friends of chemo past were just a shield to the heinous reality of treatment. Here I am, over a year later and drastically different, both mentally and physically... and I am still thinking that this appointment, all by my lonesome, held such horrific potential.
I saw all the usual partners. Everyone asked where my entourage was and I explained that I felt it was time that I experienced it by myself. If anything, it was a time to reflect. A time to look past the curtain around my chair, to hear what others are talking about. My first thought was, “holy shit, they must have hated us Buchas”. I never realized just how many people were sleeping. Happily, not many were alone (for some reason that makes me sad. But in truth, most that were alone were at peace or working, looking quite comfortable being alone.) I saw the way support works on a different side... it’s silent and present but not distracting. For me, the constant background noise was a very warm welcome. I wanted to laugh at why I was there... I wanted to entertain. On this day, I didn’t have to... and not that I ever felt I was entertaining, but it was bringing people “home”. Bringing people to my realm, to the paradigm within which my life was filtered. Now, it’s a mental game more than it is a physical challenge (shout out to Double Dare). It’s the ebb and flow of cancer and nothing.... every three weeks, and perhaps a couple of other appointments scattered throughout... it’s that.
As I sat in the waiting room for treatment...alone... a young woman entered. She was in full makeup, very nicely dressed, clearly a business woman in town on business. (Regina Felangey? I think you left your Filofax in Conference Room B.) Her heels alone made me chuckle a bit to myself - you don’t see many of those in this room. I listened as she signed in... she was an employee of Blue Cross Blue Shield. Interesting. My mind immediately went to this time last year, when her employer denied me the treatment I so desperately needed. When this denial brought my blood count to the lowest threshold allowed to receive treatment. I started to boil a bit, but calmed myself with the reassurance that it was not her fault. She walked by my seat and bumped my leg with her bag. I mean, her giant bag bumped my leg and knocked it off the other one as I was sitting cross-legged. I was pissed. Not only did she deny me my treatment, but she just bumped me with ZERO acknowledgement!? GASP! How dare she!! I almost said something. (Jill has started calling me Larry, as in Larry David... saying post-diagnosis Becky is like Larry David. I was unfiltered before, but now it’s different. Social norms no longer come into play if I have something to say. I tend to release my inner dialogue for the rest of the world to digest. I just don’t care.) So I was going to let her have it... was going to ask what gives her the right to walk into my infusion lobby with no concern for the patients who need to be there. Just then I made eye contact with the gentleman sitting directly across from me. He laughed, rolled his eyes, and got it. He understood. That was enough - he was on my side in Bag-Gate and that’s all that mattered. We both giggled some more, burned her soul with our eyes, and it was back to the game on my phone.
After my deep breath, treatment was easy and uneventful as it usually is. It went by quickly which didn’t really surprise me. Tomorrow I go on to my 13th round of Herceptin, four more left after that, then one surgery, then...done. Right now I am planning on going alone. Darn it, I should have called earlier to get a massage. (They literally give you those, though I have always forgotten to sign up. Doh!)