The Big C

A journey through Stage Four Cancer

Bald as a Cue Ball

My life seems to go in two speeds, sonic, in which I have way too much to get done and then slower than a sloth, in which I never think of the things that I need to get done.  May-be I can blame being overwhelmed for the end result of having nothing done?

So now, in a matter of days, I’ve gotten an MRI, Port operation and my first round of chemo scheduled.  Yikes!  Nothing, nothing, nothing and then vrrrrrooooooooooooooooom!  The MRI is just to make sure the pain in my legs is not due to my cancer migrating into my bones but actually from the tumor.  The port is because the chemo would destroy my veins if it was administered there.  So a little plastic appliance will be installed (again) in my chest wall that will funnel the chemo to the right place to minimize damage to anything except the tumor.

My husband continues to be my personal hero, tries to keep my spirits up etc.  So we’re sitting here watching tv and out of nowhere, he says to the whole family “That’s your mom!  She’s going to wear a scarf with style!!”

Everyone in the room is concentrating on a very engrossing television plot, that for the life of me, I couldn’t tell you now. Hmmmmm….. which is what I said “Huh?” because somewhere in the periphery of my consciousness I realize that Nate had said something.

“A Bright, catch-catch-your-eye pink scarf, right Mary?”

I caught up to his conversation quickly.  My mind screamed “NO!” and a LOT of tears came to my eyes.

“Hey, if you go bald, I’ll shave my head! We’ll be bald together!”

I’m less touched by his offer of solidarity than you might think.  Nate likes being as bald as a cue ball, he’s done it many summers.  I hate it when he shaves his head.  But his timing is a definite nod toward solidarity.

What’s going on?  With my first round of chemo, I was losing my hair, and I wasn’t overly stressed about it.  Now my fourth round of chemo hasn’t even started yet, and I’m upset about the possibility of losing my hair?

I was walking past the hospital gift shop for chemo/radiation patient women.  Nate was getting our car, and it was cold, so while I waited, I walked into the shop.  There were all kinds of different hats and scarves.  I’d like to be a hat woman, but with a semi-bald or bald head, I don’t think it’s the time to start.  I looked at the scarves, and was astounded by how many different types there are.  Short, long, brightly colored, drab, print, the array is endless.

For myself, I think I am leaning more toward the head covering that you see in the Middle East instead of the type that is knotted at the back of the head.



The Day After

So here it is the day after, and my head is still swirling.  For all of my resolutions of how I am going to fight this newest attack, for how I am also such a believer in the next world, I find tears in my eyes often.

My emotions are a mess.  I go from being stalwart and chomping at the bit to get to this fight and get past it.  Then I am depressed, because there are no guarantees.  This may be my last battle.  There is no real reason to believe that this will be the last battle but cancer is so sneaky, so underhanded, malignant and vile.  Who knows if another assault is being waged in some other part of my body?

There are no guarantees…………

The chemo oncologist spoke to Nate and I yesterday.  He was very open about what chemo I would be getting.  This time, the chemo will not cause any more numbness to my fingers or toes, which is good, because any more numbness and my fingers would probably be useless except for the most gross of activities.  I am glad for that.  This new chemo will inhibit the tumor from producing any new veins from it, to me, it’s host.  This chemo has side effects of diarrhea and, I will lose my hair again.  This time, it may well be all of it.

I know losing my hair should be the least of my worries, but, I’m not looking forward to it.  I am sort of dreading it.  But not dreading it enough to put off chemo.  Fact is, I think I am becoming one of those people desperate for life, that I will do almost anything  just to be with my children that much longer.

The way that I am handling this second battle surprises me.  I am in turns brave as a lion, and as cowardly as the cowardly lion in The Wizard of Oz.  I am full of hope, and in the depths of despair.  I am grateful for more time with my children, and fearing what kind of time it will be.

I will have to have a port put back in.  That is not overwhelming agony, but it does make me retreat to an early bedtime just to get away from the pain.  I am fearing to some degree also the chemo.  It is after all a poisoning of my cells, good and bad.  How tired will I be?  How long between treatments will it take me to recover to another ‘new normal?’

In the next two weeks, I will be having an MRI to make sure that the pain in my back is because of pressure from the tumor, and not because of a new cancer onslaught.  Then the port gets to be put in.  And then chemo begins.  My fourth round.

I don’t know for how long.

There are many heroes to this story.  My doctors to start with.  If it wasn’t for Dr Miner who saw something in me (I was unconscious at the time), I would have been dead for two years now.  Dr Safran who thinks so carefully about my chemo.  The team of Miner and Safran are genius!

Then there is my husband.  My journey has meant me staying months in hospitals (notice the s?), being with me as I relearned how to walk, putting up with potty duties when walking to the bathroom was beyond my strength.  He worked all day and then came home to do the laundry, check the schooling, make dinner and drive 120 miles roundtrip almost every day to see me.  Despite rain, sleet, ice and snow.  He doesn’t understand how close I might be to the end of this fight.  I don’t think he will allow that thought.

Mary has cancer again?  We’ll fight it.   She needs chemo again?  She’ll get it.  I have to drive her to chemo sessions 130 miles round trip?  I’ll drive it.   I have to make suppers and do all the house hold chores?  I’ll do it.  Mary needs another operation?  We’ll get through it.  Mary will go into remission and if the cancer comes back again, we’ll go through it all again.  And again if need be.

Too bad Nate can’t be made into a supplement for everyone who need strength to get through the day!

He gets absolutely grouchy at my tears! He allows no defeat, not even in attitude.  Not even in fears!  No quarter given to cancer. None!

The other heroes in this story are my cousin Alice and my long time friend Janet.  They cry with me, they pray for me.  Other heroes are people that I’d never recognize on the street, my long time internet friends and blog readers.

And I am so thankful for all the individuals that make up a huge army that prays for me.

Thank-you all of you soooo much!

What worries me about posting this, is that although it is truthful, it is not all that uplifting.  Will it really help anyone who has been diagnosed with stage four cancer?  May-be.  They’ll see that it isn’t unusual to be afraid or depressed.  To have emotions that are all over the place, and rapidly changing.

The most important thing is to hold onto your faith with two hands and not lose hope.  Where there is life, there is hope!  And miracles still happen, even in this day and age.


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