Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Chemotherapy Complete!

The last six weeks of chemo were brutally different from the first twelve. During the first twelve weeks I had energy and was able to do much of what I used to do. With the exception of chemo day and maybe the day or two after my double infusions (where steroidal rage became a laughable problem for me and those around me!) I was able to do mostly what I wanted to do.  In the last six weeks, due to the build-up of toxicity and the drop in my blood cell counts, I was able to do little. I was consistently weak and unmercifully fatigued and without sufficient white blood cells, I was hyper-susceptible to viruses just as flu season began. 

As a result and out of an over abundance of caution, we did not get out much. When we did, I was not able to participate as I would have liked. My physical capabilities were diminished such that I felt like an extremely old and unwell soul.  I could not even complete daily tasks (like doing dishes or washing laundry) without having to stop and rest.  I could not make a trip to the pharmacy to pick up needed drugs as I could not walk from the car to the entrance without support.  Even going up the stairs at night was taxing, requiring me to rest half-way up and again once I got to the second floor.

It was frustrating, limiting and mentally debilitating.  After a time, my mind and spirit also grew weak. I no longer felt like I could continue to take the cancer-weakening drugs into  my body and was concerned I would not make it through my final six weeks of treatment.  I even considered phoning my GYN/ONC and telling her I was done with chemo...I was ready to quit.

 But I've never been much of a quitter so I  did not quit. I made it through the 18 treatments and chemotherapy is now over (and never to be repeated).

I should be jumping with joy and be elated at the prospect of regaining my energy (required for jumping), my color (I am officially the palest white person I know) and my hair (now that the summer is over, being bald has become a matter of finding heavier hats/scarves to use as a covering...can't say I've ever experienced a 20 mph wind on a cold day without any hair....Brrrrrr!!!!).   
Those who have gone on this little adventure with me are certainly happy - my husband is happy that I'm no longer under the influence of so many poisonous drugs, that I'm no longer Dr. Jekyll and Ms. Hyde for a few days every week and that I already seem to have a little "pep" back in my step.  My sister is happy and noted that my color is already better and that I seem like my old self again...and so on.  The best possible feeling I can muster about it all at the moment however is relief.

I am relieved at not having to have a blood draw every Tuesday.  I am relieved at not having to spend 4-6 hours in chemo every week.  I am relieved not to have to take steroids, or anti-emetics or any one of the other dozen or so pills I had to manage my chemo toxicities/side effects. I am relieved to know my energy will (eventually) return as will the feeling in my leg and foot.  I am relieved to know that my hair will soon start to regrow, etc.  

I am only relieved however, I am not yet even happy.  There are still too many things that are likely to go wrong to give myself permission to be happy...
  • 80% of women who are diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer and are subsequently treated will experience remission after 1st line treatment - hopefully that will be me. 
  • Of those who go into remission - 75-90% will experience a recurrence within 2 years.  Once a recurrence is experienced, ovarian cancer is considered non-curable.  Further treatments are palliative only.  (Though I hope that is not me, probability says otherwise.)
  • 50% of women who experience recurrence will live less than an additional  24 months (not nearly long enough)
  • Most women who are diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer die of ovarian cancer

...and the fall from happy is a much greater fall from the space we have reserved, called relief.

Happy may bloom on the day I hear "You are officially free of disease."  Then, and only then, I'll allow myself some time to be cautiously and temporarily happy.

In just a few weeks' time, I will follow up with a CT scan and another CA-125 test.   The results of those will show whether or not the surgery/ chemotherapy alleviated the disease. I will provide an update after we know more.

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