In addition to losing my hair, I had one other health ‘crisis’ following my first chemotherapy session. I began to cough and to be quite short of breath again, and was cognizant of the same rattle in my lungs which had been a constant before my surgery. After we called my oncologist, he asked that I come in. Following a physical exam I was given a CT scan of my chest, which showed nothing more than a small area of plural effusion around the lobectomy scar (to this day, I have lobular thickening in that area that is noted on each radiology report). He then suggested that I try using a nebulizer at home. This treatment prompted a lot of productive coughing and gradually resulted in an easing of the breathlessness. I followed up with a pulmonologist, who put me back on asthma medication again. Perhaps three months ago, I finally weaned myself off of the inhaler (Advair), but as I also have allergies, I still take Singulair and Flonase.
And so it went; all summer long. Chemo would knock me on my butt, and then just as I would get back on my feet again, it would be time for another go. Psychologically, it was one of the most difficult challenges I have faced. Cancer is tough that way. While the purpose of the treatment is to make you better (whether curative or palliative), generally it makes you feel a hell of a lot worse, at least initially. However, the will to live is strong, and most of us will do whatever it takes to extend our lives.
In between treatments, I would nestle in the hammock until I was strong enough to move about. Occasionally, bundled up to shield my skin from the sun, David took Peter and I out in our skiff. We lived in a coastal community bordered by salt marsh, and David would guide the little boat inland amid the tall grasses. I took a lot of photos of the marsh that summer, some of which I am using now as reference for paintings.
As predicted, each chemo treatment was harder than the previous one. By my fourth and final infusion, I vomited what looked like coffee grounds; it was actually blood. But I had made it through to the other side. Bald, skinny, and for a time diminished in both a physical and mental sense, I was happy to turn my back on this particular summer. At the beginning of September I would have another scan, and I was oh so hopeful that the report would be a good one.
As the daughter of two parents that have been through multiple recurrences of this… well, I can’t tell you the impact of this disease on so many levels. You most likely already know. Even so, the impact must be exponentially greater on the person directly facing it, and confronting it about themselves. The chemo, physical devastation, overwhelming fear and all that entails. No two ways around it, it’s just plain tough on all.
… and those quiet trips out on the water are to be treasured I would think. Your husband sounds special.
Most of all though, I applaud you about your strength! Keep up the fight.
Thanks Suzy, I try to imagine myself fierce! Linnea
While the chemo may have done it’s best to knock you on your butt, the strength of your will and spirit shines through.
The photos are amazing!
Tracy, my friend Sadie took the photos. It was an incredible gift–she made me look stronger than I felt. Linnea
i need to get copies of those images at some point mom, they still take my breath away.
and you were always very brave throughout the whole chemo period…
You’re my girl…Love, Mom