How am I?

I realize I owe you an answer to the question that I revolted against last week.  How am I?  Am I better? Is the chemo working?  When I sat down to answer that question last night, here’s what came out.  It sounds a little sad, but I’m not sad today.  It will be okay.  It will.

I didn’t know I’d live to see the Fall.

When I was diagnosed on June 16 (a date that will be forever etched in my mind, as the day my world came crashing down) it was somewhat of a death sentence.  Although the outlook is not as bleak as it once was, survival rates for women with my cancer — inflammatory breast cancer — are only 25-50% at 5 years; survivors at 10 years are still recounted by name (“Well, there’s Susan D, and Sally X, and they did it!” said in a falsely chipper voice).  90% of IBC survivors will suffer a recurrence.  Treatment is an ardous melange of chemotherapy, masectomy, more chemotherapy, perhaps a prophalactic masectomy on the other side, and radiation.  Often, the treatment goes in cycles, with survivors fighting the cancer and surviving chemotherapy for the rest of their lives.

Sometimes, there is no rest of their lives.  Because of delays in diagnosis and treatment, it is not uncommon for IBC survivors to not make it 3 months past diagnosis.

I have survived 3 months.  I am doing … well, I suppose, in that today I am not worse off than I was when I had my first chemo treatment.  I’m no better yet, but the spread of the cancer since diagnosis has been stopped (whoo-hoo!), and the inflammation is on the retreat.

I am tired.  My arm and upper chest hurt, from nerve damage or sheer muscle fatigue of hauling around this heavy cancerous tumor that once was my right breast.  My hair is gone.  My arms are bruised from the weekly needle sticks and IVs that are essential for the treatment and monitoring of the treatment.  (I don’t have a medi-port put in, for valid reasons having to do with the spread of IBC through cut skin.  It would make treatment easier, but perhaps less successful.  The survival rates for this disease did not rise from zero until they stopped cutting first and started treating with neoadjuvant chemotherapy, which means chemo first, then sugery.  So I have chosen not to have a port put in, to improve my chances.)  My fingernails are discolored and weakening.  My gums are dry and tender.  My eyebrows are falling out.

But I — me — the I inside — am doing well these days.  I’m up and around and going to playdates.  I’m holding my baby and hugging my child.  I’ve cared for my kids myself the past several days, with WonderDaddy’s help but not all the time.  I even cooked last night.

I’m getting better.

And my children are settling into this new normal.  Widget is less clingy, allowing Daddy to “put me down” to bed some nights, and letting Mama out of his sight for yoga and appointments at the cancer center.  We spent yesterday playing in the yard together, and I swear I overheard him talking earnestly to a butterfly.  Little Bear is growing up, too,  learning to walk, learning to drink from a cup, and laughing out loud with a chortle that makes all around laugh with him.  I’m learning to relax about it all, and I think that’s where we need to be.

And so now when people ask how I am, I think I’m emboldened enough to answer as my three year old does, although perhaps with less inflection, as he hits most notes on the scale with his response.  How am I?  “Pretty good.”

As the leaves in our forest turn yellow and begin to singe with red, “pretty good” is an outcome that I can live with.

36 Responses to How am I?

  1. ~JJ! says:

    You make me cry every day.
    With joy. Mostly. I am so happy for you for feeling this good.

    Pretty good is pretty damn great!

    Hugs. Hugs. and more hugs.

  2. Mary says:

    I read but don’t usually comment. But I just want you to know I think of you often and you are in our family’s prayers. Sending all white light, good thoughts and affection your way—I’m glad to know you’re doing pretty good.
    Hugs to you,
    Mary

  3. magnetobold says:

    WM,
    My keyboard is wet. Again. You gotta stop doing that cause I could hurt myself.

  4. Jessica says:

    Pretty good is pretty great…I am happy for you! Sending prayers your way, every day.

  5. Your honesty here is breathtakingly beautiful.

    We’ll all take “pretty good.” We will.

  6. canape says:

    Pretty good. Still here. Still fighting. Those are all things that make me smile.

  7. Yeah. We like “pretty good”.

  8. amanda says:

    An awakening, this post. Thank you, we need this.

  9. Pretty good is pretty awesome. Thanks for this post.

  10. diatribal says:

    “Pretty Good” is actually “Pretty AWESOME”. I love that you are able to keep us posted like this. I hope it is as therapeutic for you to write as it is for me to read. I’m looking forward to hearing about many more “Pretty Good” days!

  11. magpie says:

    Pretty good is pretty good.

    My mother’s in chemo for lung cancer and her fingernails are revolting, to put it mildly. But her toenails aren’t, because she has some lousy circulation to the legs. Turns out that the lousy bloodflow protected the toenails. And related is that if you chill your fingernails during the chemo infusion, they may not get as bad. Of course, she learned that too late.

  12. imstell says:

    My Cell Sister, pretty good is good enough for today. Pretty good today turns into not so bad tomorrow, then, before you know it, you’re looking at your 1 year anniversary post-chemo (October 20th, thank you very much) and wondering where the year went.

    If I can do it so can you! We are in a new age. Neo-adjuvant treatment has changed the face of IBC treatment & they don’t have any survival statistics for us yet. So don’t look at the old statistics. They don’t even apply to us. We are the New Generation of Survivors and they will add our names, Imstell & WhyMommy, to the list.

  13. NoRegrets says:

    Still crossing fingers and toes for you.

  14. Matt says:

    Thinking of you each day and sending all the hope and peace I can your way. Pretty good is good enough today. And listen to imstell.

  15. mamalang says:

    After watching my MIL go through chemo earlier this year, I can honestly say that if you can survive chemo and everything it throws at you, and still say your “pretty good” then you’ve won at least one battle. I’m glad you can say that, and you will continue in my thoughts every day.

  16. Mama DB says:

    Good for you, Whymommy! I’m so glad you have the strength to hug and play with your children. You continue to be in my thoughts.

  17. practiceliving says:

    “Pretty good” is pretty great, all things considered! I’m so glad that you are keeping on keeping on, and enjoying all these moments with WonderDaddy and your kiddos. Soak it up, mama, and let it keep you going!

  18. Do you have any idea how much people are thinking of you, out here in the ether? How often we are thinking of you, and how much we think of you?

    I hope so.

  19. whymommy says:

    Kate,

    Today I could feel people thinking of me, helping me, lending me strength as I went to yoga and met with a woman who was just diagnosed with IBC. We just sat on a couch at the Wellness Center and compared notes, but it was stressful on both of us, facing the reality that is IBC in another person. I wanted to help her, to comfort her, to tell her that it would all be okay. But she’s got weekly chemo to look forward to for the next 6-9 months — and that reality is not fun. I didn’t think I could make it through the meeting, but I did. I even enjoyed it. There’s no way I could have done that by myself.

    Powerful.

    Thank you.

  20. Bon says:

    i’m glad you can feel it, and that, in moments, it helps. ’cause we do think of you, and wish – like you did today – that we could help you, comfort you, tell you it will all be okay. wrap you up and make it…easier. because that what caring for someone usually means.

    but learning to care for someone when you can’t make it all okay, but can just be there with them, offering what you have, sending love and energy…that’s a very special learning experience that makes us all bigger and better. so thanks. for letting us in.

  21. NYfriend says:

    You are simply amazing.

    You are in my thoughts, as always. 🙂

  22. Mama Luxe says:

    I’m not really sure what to say but I can’t just lurk. Not HERE. Not when you are so brave and honest.

    You don’t owe anyone anything, but you are incredibly generous and you are saving lives, I am sure.

    And I am very happy to hear that you are doing pretty good and that you are still here and your spirit still shines through in the messages you are sharing.

  23. Stimey says:

    I love you, WhyMommy.

    I’m glad you’re here.

  24. Pretty good is very good. I never know what to say to your posts, so often I just lurk, but I was thrilled to hear “pretty good” and I am so thankful to you for sharing your journey with us.

  25. motherofbun says:

    Am thinking of you, lady.

    Thanks for being the reason I’ve had a big, dumb smile on my face for TWO days straight. Am thinking of you constantly. Am praying, praying, praying. Feel SO lucky to have found you. Now when I see Ski? I think of you.

  26. Susan K says:

    The fall is, and I think always has been, my favourite season. The air turns crisp and fresh, you can see the stars again, you can enjoy being outside at high noon, the apples are better, and the smell, oh that wonderful smell. Of fall.

    You are here. You are seeing it come. And you will see it again next year, and the next, and the next. Forget about June 16. Don’t remember the date you thought your world was ending. Remember the season where you found hope again!

    Thinking of you always.

  27. PunditMom says:

    As always, thank you for sharing all of this with us and reminding us about what’s important.

  28. KillerboobSister says:

    You are amazing. KB is desperate for me to get her computer to the hospital so she can blog and read and answer comments. She treasures your support and so do I. Thank you for your honesty in your post. It (you) have changed my day, and therefore my life. I hope that peace you found today returns often and stays longer every time.

  29. Anonymous says:

    How am I? – Toddler Planet

    Find out how WHYMommy is doing with her chemo and her life and celebrate with her that she is doing “pretty good” and is “still here.” And find out how you can spread the word and help her save lives.

  30. Damselfly says:

    Pretty good is all right. I’m so glad you’re with us. Blessings and prayers to you.

  31. Thinking of you and praying for you. A while back I did a post about Inflammatory Breast Cancer, and I have Team Why Mommy on my sidebar as well as the Click everyday for Breast Cancer button. Keeping fighting nto only for yourself, but for others whom you can inform, help and inspire.🙂

  32. […] to my earlier expectations, I have not only survived but become more healthy this fall.  I can now go to playdate in the […]

  33. […] know.  Oh, do I know, […]

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