It’s been a week since the oncologist told me that I wouldn’t need chemo. And that means that my life can largely go back to normal. I have one more plastic surgery that will likely be in late April or early May, but I think that should be out patient surgery and not too much of a big deal, though you should feel free to shower me with baked goods, regardless. I’ve been on tamoxifen for about a week, and though I’ve had a headache 2 of those days, my guess is that those headaches are just related to the overall nuttiness of my everyday life, and not to the drugs.
I am incredibly relieved (still) that chemo is not part of my breast cancer experience. I really feel like I got off easy and I keep waiting for a call that the oncologist has changed her mind. I was diagnosed at the end of November, had my first surgery in January, will probably have my (hopefully!) final surgery in April or May, and then it will just be routine maintenance (knock on wood) from there. 6 months, beginning to “end.” And I am thrilled for my family that we can be on the road to normal (or what passes for normal in our house) now. The kids have moved ahead almost as though nothing ever happened. Jon’s work schedule is returning to the long hours and travel that preceded my diagnosis. The food is still showing up at my doorstep, but only for another week or so, except for the zucchini muffins that I hope Bridget will continue to bring as long as we live here.
So it seems that the only thing that isn’t back to normal is me. I mean, I have plenty of moments when everything is fine. I even have moments when I almost forget about the surgery and feel totally like myself. But the truth is, there is no way you can go through what I’ve gone through and not come out a different person. And I think it’s too soon to know exactly what that means.
The changes are as simple as needing to go to the dentist, but vaguely remembering something in my volumes of medical paperwork about going on antibiotics before having any dental work done, and then wondering which of my many doctors I call to ask about that, and not really wanting to go through the exercise of calling any of my doctors to ask, and then not wanting to go to the dentist because I’ll have to go through the story of the last several months, which I’m just not in the mood to do. And when I fill out medical histories now, I can’t just mindlessly check “no” all the way down the form, which I always could before. And once you check “yes” there are all the follow-up questions. And should I not be eating soy and soy-based products because there’s a chance that the isoflavones (whatever those are) may interfere with drugs like tamoxifen. And now that my cancer is gone, do I have to stop drinking peppermint mochas (an indulgence I allowed myself after my diagnosis) and go back to the “healthier” cappuccino I had been drinking, or should I just give up caffeine all together, because I vaguely remember some article that discussed a link between caffeine and breast cancer? And in the grand scheme of things, these are minor frustrations, but in the aggregate, they mean something, I think. And then I feel bad for complaining about little stuff like this because I’m so fortunate not to have bigger things to complain about, like several months of injecting poison into my body, hair loss, and nausea. And as an aside, do non-Jewish people feel the kind of guilt that I do for not needing chemo? Is this just cultural guilt? Anyone?
Anyway, I said back in November that by all accounts I should end up healthy and well, it was just a question of how hard the road would be and how long it would take. And on the spectrum of people with breast cancer, my road so far has been short and relatively easy. But that doesn’t mean my time on the road, however short it was, doesn’t stay with me, in ways I didn’t expect and couldn’t have imagined, and sometimes can’t even explain (see e.g., this post, which I think may be a little scattered, at best). And I’m guessing that this seems obvious to all of you, and probably would have been obvious to me if I were on the outside looking in.
And now I’m going to go pick up Abigail from school, drop her at tennis, and then go pick up Benjamin at school, and bring him back to pick up Abigail at tennis, because it’s a normal Friday afternoon and that’s what we do, which, despite everything else I’ve said in this post, really does feel good.