After two months of the roller coaster ride that was the clinical trial, I broke down and called my clinical nurse on Friday morning. I can’t walk, I said. My feet are bright red and tender and my big toes are starting to turn gray. The skin is peeling off in sheets and it hurts to put one foot in front of the other. I’m back in fuzzy slippers and doing my best to cope, but it’s tough. It’s really tough.
I had to call her back at 10 am, telling her that it was worse. I couldn’t stand without pain. I took my pain pills and lay in bed all day, distraught at the probability that I couldn’t travel to my conference the next day. Stop taking the pills, she said. The oncologist will call you Monday.
So I did. I packed and faxed and prepared for the community meeting that I hold at this conference each year, for all the women in planetary science. We have over 110 women pre-registered this year, and we’re adding space so more can come. I prepped for my panels at the Undergraduate Research Conference on Sunday, and was happy that I could go.
I went. The undergraduate panels went really fantastically well, with the undergrads asking post-grad questions, worried about the compatability of family life and a research career. I tried to reassure them, but not lie. It’s hard to dedicate yourself completely to both, I said, and there are no easy answers.
Today my oncologist called. We agreed to take me out of the trial, to allow my feet and hands (It was too painful to type!) to heal, and to let me get stronger to continue fighting. It’s a sad day on the one hand, but a happy day on the other.
and I’m learning to do my work as best I can. I moderated the panel sitting down, not standing as the others had. I accepted help running the mic to the audience members (thank you, C, for coming to my rescue!). I am spending half the conference upstairs, lying down, resting, and conserving my strength for my meeting tomorrow. and I took a wheelchair through the airports, sacrificing my pride for the sake of my feet, and for being able to go at all.
As I told the undergraduates, “Figure out what you most love about your work in science, and then find a way to make it happen.”
I love being at this meeting, as I have been for the last 16 years, encouraging my colleagues who stayed in research where I could not, and mentoring those at the beginning of their careers, helping them see options where they may see only closed doors. There is always a way to make your goals happen, even if sometimes the answers are hard to see.