She’s done with radiation therapy.
More or less.
There are still the radiation burns to heal. There is still an open blister to treat. There are still the side effects of fatigue and pain to be dealt with. Some of them will go away quickly – five to seven days. A few will take longer, possibly years. One or two, such as scarring, may never go away at all.
Stretching on into the future, there is more to come. There are continued Herceptin infusions until the middle of next year. There is hormone therapy for three years. There will be more frequent check-ups and follow-ups and blood tests and monitoring. There will be increased worry, additional concern, nagging doubt, insecurity.
There will be frequent reminders of mortality, that comes for us all.
But the pace changes now. Things are no longer in crisis mode. In the near future treatment and sickness and side-effects will no longer be a part of our daily lives. She will still have a constant reminder of her body’s fragility, of course. But we can once again start thinking of things like travel and camping and attending KublaCon and visiting her family.
We don’t have the faintest idea of what to do now.
She and I talked about it last night. Despite the fact that she had just finished her treatments and we had reached an awesome milestone, we both felt sad, and somewhat bewildered. Neither one of us knew what to do now. There is a whole lifestyle tempo change staring us in the face after almost a year of dealing with Lump. And we haven’t really prepared for it. We’ve been so busy dealing with things day-by-day that there hasn’t really been much chance to think of any future plans. We’re barely out of the hospital grind when we discover we are suddenly stuck in a rut.
Maybe that shouldn’t surprise us. In a way its rather funny actually. When she first discovered Lump she acted without hesitation, without letting fear hamper her decisions. We moved into crisis mode not effortlessly, but decisively and with determination. Now we find ourselves moving out of crisis mode, and that level of decisiveness and determination seems suddenly to have left us – we made it to, if not the finish line then at least a finish line, and have found ourselves taken by surprise that the race goes on and our determination gas tanks are near empty. We’re not sure what to make of this – at a time when we should be giddy with excitement and relief, at a time where she of all people should be feeling pride in her accomplishment, satisfaction in the positive outcome made possible in large part because of her determination to beat Lump, she is instead both melancholy and deflated. Part of this can be attributed to her treatment side-effects: she is uncomfortable much of the time and lacks energy. Part of it is because of other medical problems she has at the moment that have had their treatment delayed by radiation therapy, which are now impinging on the holidays and threatening to make them less enjoyable.
Part of it is just change.
People are pretty good about changing when they have to. I, at least, am terrible about changing when I don’t have to. And who likes change when they are sick? It’s hard to remember at this time when things should be so encouraging, but she’s still sick and weak and struggling. Lump and chemicals and surgery and radiation have kicked her around for the better part of a year like a soccer ball at the World Cup finals. And she has taken it. She has taken everything that they have thrown at her – all the parts that have been poisoned and cut and burned out, all the hair loss and nausea and loss of appetite, all the weakness and discomfort and pain, all the needles and exams and tests, all the changing rooms and hospital gowns and covering her head in public, all the explanations to friends and loved ones – and the next explanations and the next explanations and the clarifications of explanations and the revisions and the next step explanations, all necessary and important to keep our support network up to date but all tiring particularly when repeated for the nth time. She has been brave and loyal and true throughout it all – a veritable paladin who was able to look beyond what she was going through and be a friend and adviser to others going through the same thing. It shouldn’t be a surprise that she is tired now.
Tonight we are going out for dinner to celebrate. It’s important to celebrate the victories. And this is a victory. Her victory. I get to share in it though, for which I am very grateful. We’ll see what the future brings. For now, we HAVE a future, and I think that is what we are just starting to realize again. We haven’t reached for it yet, but it’s there waiting for us. It’s what she fought for. Its what she endured for. It’s what she put up with all sorts of indignity and inconvenience and discomfort and sickness for. And if it takes us a few days to realize that the fruits of all her labor are dangling before us, and that we can now reach out and take them, that’s okay.
She deserves her moment of relaxation. She deserves some time to recover. She deserves a bit of a rest.
She saved our future. Let her catch her breath.