I wish I knew what comes next

We hear a lot about cancer being a battle.  But I think it’s really a war.  It’s a war fought on many fronts:  research, awareness, early detection, better detection, even better detection, and then treatment.  Treatment of course is a range of thrusts and parrys, trying desparately to make the cancer yield, to give ground, and to attack each little cell until it is all gone.

And yet, for those of us fighting this disease, each cell is never gone. 

In fact, every human on Earth (I’ve heard) probably has a couple cancer cells in us, lurking, malformed little creatures that don’t gain traction or find comrades, and die a normal death without us ever being the wiser.  A few f-ed up cells here and there don’t matter to young healthy people.  But they matter to us. 

Those of us who have fought cancer worry about those little cells as they lurk.

The reason I’m in chemotherapy now, actually, is to kill those little cells throughout my body.  We know they’re in my tissues, my blood, my organs, somewhere, because the surgeons took out 13 positive lymph nodes last April, and each of them had burst open, with cancer having clearly escaped.  A healthy body can fight off some cells, remember, but mine was already compromised by the 13 positive nodes, the chronic pain left as a gift from my 2008 surgery, and the effort that my body was putting forth to try to heal on its own.  We don’t know where they are, but we suspect they’re still there.

I got the green light to start chemo again on Monday.  After a horrible, no-good day that was saved only by @Stimey at my side, I got the go-ahead to start the chemo again, at a much-reduced dose (2 pills 2 times a day), and I can keep taking it until my feet hurt when they touch the ground.  The chemo leaks out the soles of my feet, remember, and the soles are hardened, blistered, peeling, and red already.  I can bathe them in bag balm, rest them on chairs, and not worry about exercise for a while (absolutely no long walks, running, aerobics, dancing, or swimming), but they will continue to blister and peel, and when they are so tender that walking hurts (again), then we stop.

And two weeks later we start again.

We do this dance, this dosing-to-injury, over and over again, until we’ve completed the 18 weeks plus the days we’ve missed (including the 7 from the last cycle). 

And then?  I don’t know.  The oncologist and her resident examined the lump just above my scars, and didn’t like it, and sent me for an immediate ultrasound and potential biopsy.  The ultrasound looked normal, with the technician pronouncing it “fat,” and @Stimey and I did the dance of joy afterward.

But then my oncologist called me yesterday and sent me to see the surgeon, who would do a core biopsy to be sure.  Because we can’t be too careful, apparently, we need to marshall the troops and keep marching in all directions to try to snuff out the scouts and the stray cells and even the itty bitty tumors (where, I’m sorry, the metaphor breaks down).

We have that luxury.  I’m still only locally metastatic, and I am not yet on maintenance chemo, and I still have so much hope that I can go back into remission.  I want to be in remission so much.  I want to be just like all the other moms at kindergarten pickup.

Not the one who walks carefully to the door, stepping gingerly in my fake-fur lined slippers, trying to spare her feet without letting the children know that anything at all is amiss.

They know that we are fighting the war. 

They just don’t know what we’re up against.

Here’s the link to Join the Army of Women and make a real difference in the lives of those who have cancer — and those who never want to get it. 

29 Responses to I wish I knew what comes next

  1. Niksmom says:

    Susan, my sister’s SIL lost her battle to breast cancer last year. I don’t think I ever knew or understood what it *really* means when someone is fighting cancer until I met you. Your brutally honests posts remind me that it is a painful battle. I am so sorry you have to fight this fight again and am sending prayers of healing your way.

  2. jodifur says:

    Much love and hugs and kisses and thoughts. I’m here for you, whatever you need.

  3. I wish I knew too. But you are an inspiration. Thinking of you and rooting for you 100%.

  4. Spruce Hill says:

    Hang in there sweetie! I am right there with ya. no blisters yet. I’m crossing my fingers🙂

    • whymommy says:

      I’m so glad you’re not blistering yet! My onc said I was blistering really early, so hopefully you won’t get it until the end, if at all!

  5. clifford says:

    *fist bump*

  6. andrea says:

    Hang tough but big hugs to you when the hanging tough just gets to be too much. My dad had his own terrible battle with chemo that ended in 2006. People don’t realize how brutal the side effects are. I am so sorry you are going through all this.

  7. *m* says:

    This post leaves me without words, but with a full heart, and with so many hopes and good wishes for you.

    You are a mighty warrior.

  8. Lots of love and hugs to you, and fingers, toes and eyes crossed that all goes well with the feet and the biopsy. Thank goodness for friends like Stimey to hold us up when things are down, and do the happy dance when medicos tell us we have fat! 🙂
    The sending-chocolate offer still stands.

  9. Kristen says:

    maybe THIS time your feet will do better. (crosses fingers and says a prayer)

    we will help you fight this war, Susan.

    • whymommy says:

      And yet it’s not about me — it’s about the millions each year diagnosed with cancer, tearing families apart for reasons we don’t yet understand.

      Why is this happening to us? What is it? Is it the HFCS (kidding, I think)? Is it aspartamene? Cell phones? I wish I knew which risks I had unwittingly taken that have brought us here today.

      Cause you bet I would go back in a heartbeat and change it. Nothing is worth going through treatment like this. Trust me on this.

  10. Molly says:

    What a moving post. And you are right. This is a war. And from everything I have seen from you thus far, you are one to take it on.

  11. Its weird how previously negative-orientated words like fat (you) and arthritis (me)become worthy of celebration because they are so much better than the alternative. Hugs and hope the biopsy confirms the ‘fat’ diagnosis

  12. Donna W says:

    You are one of two bloggers with IBC that I read. Both of you are going through trying times right now. I pray you both win this battle and this war.

  13. Linda Lawrence says:

    You are in our thoughts and prayers. Love you.

  14. Stimey says:

    Darn it. I’m sorry you have to do the biopsy. Not only that, I’m sorry you have to go back in to do the biopsy. I’m ALWAYS available as a sidekick, just so you know.

    I wish you didn’t have to fight this fight.😦

  15. This really, really touched me. “I want to be just like all the other moms at kindergarten pickup.”

    I want/wish/hope/pray that for you, too.

  16. pgoodness says:

    I hurt to know that you have to go through that – your poor feet.😦 You keep fighting the war… one day, I still hope with all of my heart, there will be an end to this war.

  17. Susan, your story is inspirational. It is so clear you fight not only for yourself, but your children as well, and your future together. Your health is in my prayers and daily thoughts. Twitter is good for something things , I guess, as every time I see an @whymommy post I can’t help but think of your fight, and how quickly anyone’s life can change.

  18. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by KimMoldofsky, jodi, Susan N, Susan N, Heather and others. Heather said: RT @jodifur: RT @whymommy: I wish I knew what comes next: http://t.co/Zq2DvAA […]

  19. J.J. says:

    YAY for FAT! I’m hoping the core biopsy only confirms that it is indeed fat.

    You are in my prayers, as always. Thought a lot about you today as I heard Mae Jemison speak at a seminar today.

  20. […] was going to run it here, with expanded explanation and links, but I’m sick from the chemo tonight and need to lie down again before I vomit.  So here it is, along with suggested links for […]

  21. Thinking of you, Susan, and hoping that the only thing that comes next, is good news.

  22. […] I instruct we knew what comes subsequent « Toddler Planet […]

  23. You teach us so much. I wish you healing.

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