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Round 7: the doldrums of chemo

August 18, 2018

A week ago Monday, I had my seventh chemo treatment. It was a good and uneventful. We got to see Dr. Z and I asked him what monitoring would look like going forward. He said my next scan will be 3 months after I finish chemo, and then we’ll have some kind of scan every 3-6 months for the first 3 years. These next 2.5+ years are when I’m most likely to have a recurrence. After that, the likelihood drops dramatically.

He mentioned starting hormone therapy after I finish radiation and I reminded him that I am currently on Tamoxifen. He said that I should stop taking it for now (I don’t remember why), and then once radiation is done we will look at a stronger anti-estrogen option for a year. He thinks that because of the aggressive nature of my cancer, we need to follow up with something stronger. I’ll have to get a shot that will make me go into menopause. After doing some reading, I’ve actually been surprised that I haven’t gone into menopause already. It seems like chemo does it immediately to a lot of women.

I remember last fall thinking about taking Tamoxifen and looking at the list of side effects – hot flashes, weight gain, decreased libido – and feeling like I can’t do that to myself at this age. And I still don’t want to do that to myself, but I guess I’ve learned over the last 6 months of recurrence, mastectomy and chemo that cancer doesn’t care what I prefer. I’m not saying these are my only options. I know there are other things I could try. But saying I’m too young for hot flashes, even raging and screaming against these lousy options, isn’t going to prevent recurrence or metastasis.

So I have that to look forward to ;-P

The day continued as usual with the addition of my dear friend Adri keeping me company. She was in town from Massachusetts, and it was such a gift to have time where we could do nothing but sit and chat. I can’t say I remember much of the first bit of conversation since it was immediately post-Benadryl, but it was lovely.

The rest of the week was uneventful. Not terrible. Not great. I needed naps most days, and, for lack of a better descriptor, I felt off for several days. We’ve had my sister’s family staying with us since late July, and on Thursday, they went to Alabama for a wedding and two of my girls went to my parents for a couple days. I was looking forward to having a couple days on my own, but ended up lying on the couch most of the time. As disappointed as I was to not be doing something more fun or interesting, I was grateful for the time to rest, and as I was reminded again, even when I’m not doing anything, my body is working hard.

I continue to have random and annoying body pains. I expected severe bone pain, so I’m grateful it isn’t that, but it is still unpleasant. My legs seem to bother me the most. They feel achy and tight, especially when I’m trying to go to sleep. I know part of that has to do with the steroids. I’ve also started noticing how tired they feel after doing something simple like carrying Elin up the stairs. It could be the several months of minimal physical activity. It could be the chemo. Or the drugs that help me manage the chemo…

On the bright side, my headaches have been much less severe this round, and so far, I have been fever free. Another bonus, albeit a very strange one, is that as far as I can tell, I don’t get smelly armpits these days. I’ve even asked other people close to me just to make sure there wasn’t something wrong with my nose. How weird is that? I’m curious if this is a chemo thing. Does it kill the bacteria that make you stink? It’s so strange.

The hair on my head keeps growing but is very sparse, so I still cut it every couple weeks. My eyelashes continue to fall out. I have some large gaps on top and almost none on the bottom. I find myself spending a great deal of time on my makeup before I leave the house. Liquid liner and a brow pencil are crucial in going from cancerface to Graceface.

I started writing this on Monday and now it’s Saturday. It’s been a good week. I’ve felt good and been able to do normal things. We went to a baseball game, I worked in the yard, and went to work (I work as an executive assistant part part time.)

I’ve been in a weird place during these last few treatments. I feel good, but not good enough. I’ve lost motivation to do things that I know will sustain me physically, emotionally and spiritually. I don’t have the sense of desperation that I had earlier in this cancer process, which is good, but I think it’s left me in a place of stagnancy. Doldrums. Like I’ve been eating rice crispies for a month, and then wondering why I feel weak and tired.

We talked to our pastor last week who encouraged us to just pick one thing that would help instead of thinking, “If only I were exercising, cooking more, reading my Bible and praying more…” It has helped as I’ve gone through the week. I know that God meets us where we are, but I forget it a lot of times. I constantly have to fight the mentality of a works-based relationship with God. This week hasn’t been dramatically better than last week, but there have been moments of peace and awareness of God’s presence in our lives.

I have so many more things I want to write about, but we are about to commence sibling weekend around here and I need to go put my Graceface on.. My sister Joy and her family live in China and are in the States for the summer. They have been staying with us for the last three weeks, and over the next 24 hours, all the rest of my siblings (coming from Hoboken, San Diego and another from China) will be in Atlanta. It’s going to be a crazy and fun time.

Oh yeah – Monday is my last chemo treatment!


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Chrysty Beverley Fortner permalink
    August 18, 2018 11:16

    Thank you for your vulnerability. I look forward to reading about your progress from such a pure perspective. Blessing’s are headed your way and I pray for you daily. You’re on my prayer wall. ❤️

  2. Andy Zimmerman permalink
    August 18, 2018 21:41

    Kim and I continue to pray every day for you, Grace. Glad you are closing in on the end of treatment. We pray it will be successful and the cancer will not return.

    I’m in the middle of cycle 3 of 6. Should be finished by the end of October. Thank you for sharing your journey. It has been most helpful for us as we follow in your footsteps.

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