I’ve had another rotten weekend, weakened from the chemo, fighting fatigue and anger and pain in my bones and joints, spent sitting still to avoid angering those bones and joints, waiting to see what will happen. Will the pain and aches and fatigue resolve on their own this week? Will we be able to go back for the next-to-last chemo on Thursday, and finish the series the next Thursday, just after Christmas? Or will we be sucked into a whirlwind of a different sort, a twist waiting just ’round the bend, a frenzied blizzard of activity that hovers like the heavy air before a storm?
We’re hoping for the former. Praying, actually. I would dearly love to finish chemo on the 27th, 11 days from now, and get to surgery in January. And, barring a repeat of last week’s neuropathy, we will.
After that, things should get much easier around here.
We met with the radiation oncologist on Friday, a lovely woman with big eyes and a kind heart, who smiled when I asked her how many IBC patients she’d seen. “Many, many,” she replied, confident, with a touch of sadness. “There’s always at least one being treated here, even though it’s not at all common.” That’s what comes of living in the city, you know. High densities of people mean high densities of disease, even somewhat rare ones. And although every radiation oncologist may not have this kind of experience, ours does, and it cheers me — momentarily — until I remember that her experience is a function of other people’s suffering. But I have no time to reflect on that now, for she is asking me questions about my health history, my pregnancies, my babies, any family history of breast cancer, and how my cancer was detected. She marvels at the wisdom of babies, and smiles at Little Bear, who is waking up now, in his father’s arms, smiling but a little confused at the sterile office instead of his own cuddly blue nursery.
After a quick exam, the oncologist is confident again, stating how much the chemotherapy has helped me and how it looks like there shouldn’t be a problem getting clean margins, unless there is a spot of cancer below, hiding where it can’t be easily seen or felt. We will have the surgery in January, and then daily physical therapy to help me move my arms above my head once again. (It will be difficult to do at first because of the radial axillary dissection — basically, the removal of the lymph nodes under my arm — and the muscles that will be cut during that part of the surgery.) Once I can raise my arms above my head and hold them there for 30-40 minutes, I can come in and start the process for radiation.
This all sounds good. Very good.
The oncologist smiles, chuckles at Little Bear, and reminds me to do my exercises as she moves on to her next appointment. We are left once again in a small white room with each other, my husband and I, and it feels for a moment like one of so many prenatal appointments that we’ve attended together, and I wish for a moment that it were.
But then I regret that thought, and banish it from my mind. For we are so lucky to have our children, Widget and Little Bear, and, as we walk slowly from the room, hand-in-hand-in-toddling hand and smiling at each other, we know just how lucky we are.