This morning, Facebook reminded me that it’s been two years since my last chemotherapy session.
And how am I doing now? Fine, just fine, medically speaking.
Well, I’ve got the scars. And a sort of… call it a divot. Because the chemo was so successful, I didn’t need the full mastectomy that we all expected at first. They ended up removing so little tissue that under most circumstances the divot isn’t even noticeable at all. The site aches a bit when I move in certain ways, but not enough to limit my motion at all.
I’ve been lactose-intolerant as a result of chemo for the last two years or so, but it actually seems like that’s starting to back off. I might be free of it, soon.
I have some residual numbness in my fingers and feet, also a known side-effect of the really aggressive course of chemo we took. It’s weird, but manageable: sometimes things can slip from my grip, especially very smooth things. I just have to pay closer attention than I used to. I have to watch out for bruises and cuts on my feet in places I can’t feel, and be careful of over-flexing. (Which always reminds me of Cordwainer Smith’s story, “Scanners Live in Vain.” I have to scan.)
And I have periodic check-ups from my oncologist and surgeon. But these are being scheduled at longer and longer intervals.
So… No problems. Two years later, no real problems.
When I reread the blog posts from the time of my treatment, it seems as if I was perky and cheerful for most of the experience — but I know that much of that is illusion, caused by the facts that a) I used my blogging to cheer myself up and stay positive, and b) when I felt really unhappy, I just didn’t blog at all. But trust me: I experienced the full range of possible emotions during that time. Including some that defy description.
I got a lot of support and encouragement from the comments and emails from all of you, by the way. I can’t express how much it helped me to know you were out there rooting for me.
Of course, my sister Sabine was my main support person, and I was so lucky to have her. Still am, generally, by the way — but especially during that time. I can’t say enough good things about her and how she helped.
I had many things planned for that time, most of which had to be abandoned, or changed, or postponed. I was barely able to write during that period. Some writers and artists actually manage to maintain (or even increase!) their creative output during cancer treatments. I was not one of those. The emotional limbo interspersed with periods of stabbing angst were not, I found, particularly conducive to maintaining the clarity of thought and steadiness of imagination I needed to make serious progress. I had some spurts, but nothing I could maintain for long.
However, one thing that I did manage during all that was the publication of the ebooks. For the most part, the process was straightforward dog-work — tedious, but doable. And with no set schedule and no deadline, I could do as much as my strength and mental acuity allowed at any particular time, and set it aside whenever I wasn’t up to the effort.
Below: Links to the posts I made during my whole cancer experience. I just reviewed them myself, and found it pretty interesting…
12/23/2013: breaking the news
12/30/2013: First chemo
01/08/2014: A rant on pseudo-scientific bullshit included here
01/13/2014: losing my hair, but I don’t care…
01/19/2014: missing out on Boskone that year
01/28/2014: in the chemo suite
02/05/2014: health update inside ebook update
02/13/14: at the halfway point.
02/27/14 : one way you know you’re using the right chemo
03/12/14: Cumulative effects of chemo, including no guitar-playing
03/24/14: Just another day in the chemo suite
04/01/14: Chemo continues, despite blizzard
04/04/14: A hat. I wore a hats a lot during my treatment
04/07/14: Numbness side-effects of chemo, with drawings!
04/25/14: Gaining strength once the heavy-duty part of chemo is done
05/09/14: Surgery had to be postponed…
05/13/14: The body has a mind of its own
05/21/14: results of that biopsy
06/01/14: More delays
06/06/14: Just an update to say all went well
06/07/14: What the surgery entailed
06/15/14: Could not ask for a better outcome
06/24/14: Radiation therapy meant no WorldCon in London for me
07/08/14: Prepping for radiation therapy
07/17/14: Echocardiogram, because of Herceptin
08/28/14: A post mostly about a poll, but including info about radiation side-effects
09/07/14: And heading back to the day-job
12/29/14: An essay on radiation therapy
02/25/2015: Herceptin isn’t killer chemical like most chemo, so at some places they call a patient’s official Last Chemo the last of the heavy-duty chemo…. but at my hospital, they declared my chemo over with my final Herceptin infusion.
And that’s it.
Sometimes, looking back, it all seems sort of unreal. I remember it all quite clearly — but heck, I have a writer’s imagination. There are plenty of things entirely imaginary that exist in my mind just as clearly as if they happened.
I do know how to tell the difference, however. This was real. And… seems to be over.
In other news: Hey, I’m alive!