I have been so grateful of all the support that I have received since I published a post sharing how I had discovered cancer. I know many of you have been praying, sending good vibrations and encouragement to me. I am very grateful and am definitely feeling the love. It’s high time that I post an update on what has been happening. People keep asking how I am and when I answer, they look concerned and ask, “But how are you doing, really?” It’s nice that people are concerned for me, but this is awkward because normally I have shared exactly what is happening and don’t need to elaborate further. So this is how I am … really.
I have had moments where I have felt sick and tired, but especially now that I have finished the first round and have had a break for four weeks, that certainly helps me to feel great, really! Plus, this week has been very encouraging because I had a CT scan on Monday and my oncologist told me on Tuesday that everything was clear, there has been no spread of cancer. My doctors had not expected there would be, but even though they were just being cautious, it’s always good to hear that things are progressing as we want them to. My back is still healing, and not always comfortable, but the pain meds for this are decreasing and I can certainly feel improvements in that area.
In the last couple of months I have completed six weekly treatments of low dose chemotherapy. Over that same time I received 25 daily (weekday) treatments of radiation. Everything went so much better than I expected. I turned up on day one very prepared. I’d spoken to lots of medical professionals, I had read blogs and I had read some books. I was prepared. Which I’m very happy about because both the chemo and radiation nurses need to go through all the side effects, including worst case scenarios on that first day. I think if I hadn’t have heard it all before I might have been very overwhelmed and maybe slightly panicked and anxious. I decided early on that I was consciously avoiding worrying about what might happen. I thought it was common sense to listen and be aware of what might happen, but I had decided that when that happened I would deal with it. Which has saved me a lot time as I would have worried about nothing, as I had an unbelievably good experience. For starters, despite being told it would, my hair didn’t fall out! That was a delightful surprise! I’m still told it might, but I’m still grateful I didn’t have to shiver through the majority of winter with a bald scalp! I’m not as worried about losing my hair as I am of how it will grow back, whether I’ll lose my curls (which I love) and I’m desperately hoping it doesn’t come back grey because I’ve been proud of the fact that I’m over 40 with only a few silver threads that you have to look hard to find. Plus the whole growing back thing, it’s got to be more frustrating than growing out a bad haircut. But anyway, considering possible alternatives, the hair thing isn’t so bad, so I know that all will be well with my soul whatever the scenario.
Chemotherapy, for me, thus far, hasn’t been gruelling. Occasionally I have felt nauseous, but medication helps that very effectively. I haven’t always had the best nights sleep, mainly waking up in the early hours. Also had some mild medication helping there. In actual fact, because I had little side effects, chemo day was quite relaxing. It’s not often a Mum gets four hours to sit down uninterrupted in the middle of the day. Radiation also wasn’t so bad. It’s daily but most of the time it’s fairly quick. I would arrive, don a very unattractive blue hospital gown, go into the machine, let it do its job, (it doesn’t hurt at all), and then back home with a weekly appointments with the doctor and another one with a nurse. It’s all pretty streamlined.
I had a quick surgery the week before I began treatment to have a port-a-cath inserted so they didn’t need to use my rather useless veins. That has been probably been the most hassle in the end, in terms of pain. For some reason it really hurt, we got it checked out, and nothing was wrong, it was just sore and tender. ( I don’t regret it even still, I hate watching my tiny veins shrink after all the poking and prodding. I don’t think the years of IVF previously helped either.) Fortunately that has settled down since I’ve had a four week break in between treatments. I also was very tired by the end of the radiation treatment. This was to be expected, radiation has a cumulative effect.
I wanted to spend the week after it on the couch, but luckily I was well enough to force myself to choose my days as it was Jonty’s 11th birthday. We kept things low key, but I was very happy that I was able to help him celebrate his birthday with having a fewmates (and his female ‘cousin twin’, they were named this in Kindy as they’ve always been inseparable) around to play handball together and have a bonfire at night.
Jonty is our budding farmer, and requested a farm cake (This is the 4th year I’ve made him a ‘farm cake’) Luckily I came up with a simple idea of combine harvesters at harvest time that looked really effective.
That was a Friday, and I can assure you that I took it pretty easy the next day. I mean, I did have 3 extra children in the afternoon, but the beauty of large families is that extra kids are absorbed into the crowd and create a diversion from the norm, which means the kids normally play even better than usual.
My children are still dealing with this well. For the most part, there is one child who has had to work through some emotions, and there has been such good support for all of us to help us work through this. But mostly, they are taking it in their stride and getting on with enjoying life. Probably the best illustration of this was on Tuesday when I shared with the kids that we had received good results after the CT scan. Trent came up a few hours later and said, “Mum, I’m really happy that you have got good news from your test results. But what I think I am even more excited about is that we are having meatballs for dinner.”
I am just so fortunate. I am very grateful for the blessed souls who have cooked meals or baked for our family, helped with cleaning, taken children on play dates and for all those who have prayed, sent messages, scriptures and been so positive. When God says that his Grace is enough, he so often does this by providing people at the right time and place. (IRL and online, in my experience!) I was listening to a podcast by the God Centred Mom (seriously, if you haven’t listened to her podcasts and you are a Mum, even if you aren’t, but definitely if you’re a Mum, do yourself a favour and listen to one. So much wisdom.) Heather was interviewing an 87 year old lady, (Vickie Kraft if you want to look it up) and there was one sweet stand out moment when this faithful elderly lady said, “There is no grace for your imagination”. His grace is enough when we NEED him, not when we are imagining something awful is going to happen. I have found this so true during this season. There is so much I could worry about, but I choose not to, because when I am in the middle of a situation, I have felt such a supernatural peace surrounding me that I know His grace is sufficient for me.
Post script: I hadn’t quite posted this, so I will give you an update on my first day back to chemotherapy yesterday. I have been waiting to see how I would react to the stronger dose. So far, so good! Even though the dose I’m now receiving is almost four times the previous dosage. I even went out last night to Toastmasters (A hobby of mine!) and competed in a speech contest. (I didn’t win, but it was good experience.) I have been feeling a little tired, but coping quite well. Yesterday during chemo I started cutting up a crocodile costume for my daughter (she was very insistent she came as a croc to our school’s Book Week equivalent, Festival of Nations) so I plan to hand stitch today, so that will be a nice easy activity.
I’m told that the effects might increase with the extra treatments, but for now I will celebrate that I have more energy than I thought I would have.