Thursday, January 20, 2011

Chemo on hold!

Thank you so much for your support, your positive thoughts and your prayers. I feel like you have really carried me along this path.

I'm kind of stunned to share this good news and almost don't believe it. Last week, I had a PET CT and got the results on Tuesday -- there is no evidence of disease. There is a small amount of activity on the PET but nothing on the CT.

It is kind of weird to be in this position, in a good way.

We talked with the doctor about options: Continuing chemo, modifying my chemo regimen, and taking a break (I like to think of it as quitting altogether) were among the choices, and I chose Door #3 (ha ha) -- I decided to stop chemo. They will monitor my blood levels in a month, and I get another PET CT in two months. 

So that means, two months with no chemo. Since I have chemo every other week, that is four whole weeks that I regain in my life.

I'm relieved in so many ways, but mostly, I truly can't believe and process my test results. It really does feel like a miracle.

So, I'm trying to keep a steady breath, and remain really thankful and really hopeful. I'm not looking too far into the future, but for me, two months is long-term planning anyway. This whole thing really does force one to be in the moment.

In the meantime, my goal is to regain my strength and continue anything healthy. Thank you for ALL you have done to help get to this point.

If you want to read further, I'll share the story of the PET CT:

I went in for my PET CT on Tuesday of last week. In this test, they inject a radioactive substance into your veins. In the past, Nurse Barbara would insist she could stick me, and stick me she would -- a few times, always unsuccessfully, before then getting Nurse Virginia, who actually could access a vein. 

This time, Angel Chemo Nurse Julie suggested that I use my power port (a device implanted in my chest). Why no one suggested that before, who knows? Anyway, Nurse Julie accessed the port just before my test and I made my way to the PET CT area of the hospital. It was funky to walk outside with tubes hanging out of my chest, but not bad.

When I walked into the nurses' office there, Nurse Barbara's face fell. I immediately told her -- I'm already accessed! I swear, she cheered. (She's truly a nice person when she isn't poking me with needles.)

I got the injection, drank the drink, and then laid on the table for the (20? 40? minute) test. After the test, I got a whole new nurse - Let's call her "Nurse Unnamed" -- whose job was to disconnect the needle from my chest.

Nurse Unnamed insisted on two separate ways of confirming that I had a power port in my chest. I tried to tell her that I had it placed at this hospital, she could look in the system. She did, but wanted more verification. 

Now, for anyone who doesn't know, I can actually remove the needle from the port myself, at home. I even did it once! That basically demonstrates that it isn't complicated. But she kept refusing to disconnect me. She finally left me alone, I assume to see if she could figure out an alternative she was comfortable with.

While she was gone, I looked down at my body. I generally don't have body issues. I never thought I was too thin or too fat, never had issues with my boobs or butt, mostly felt like my body, and everyone else's, seemed to be just fine. Even with all my surgeries, I still didn't really dislike my body.

But right then, I was noticing my body in a new way. Because I can't wear my bra for the test, I didn't have my prosthesis on. I could see my ostomy bag and my port. So, some parts missing, and some parts added. I saw my scars from my surgeries: my mastectomy, my hernia surgery, my initial colon resection, the removal of a tumor from two summers ago, the original ostomy placement, the closed holes where the tubes were, the vertical scar on my belly from my most recent surgery. Typically, I think of them as a road map of my life. Right now, though, there just seemed to be an awful lot of them.

When did my body get like this? How did it get to this point? I was suddenly tired of everyone accessing my body in so many different ways, through cuts and needles and everything else I've done just to stay alive over the past five years. Sitting in that hospital room, along with so many others who were in chairs, on beds and in wheelchairs, waiting for treatment, I felt like a victim. And I hated it.

I decided that I needed to take back some power. So, I looked at my options. I could remove this myself. Or I could return to the infusion unit and ask them to remove it. Nurse Unnamed did not have to do something that she made her uncomfortable, and I would not be at her mercy.

Ironically, once I acted like I had options, she decided to go ahead and do it. Out of all the stressful elements of the test, I didn't expect the disconnect to be the most hassle. But it was manageable. 

So hopefully, I can remember that, even in situations that don't feel great, there are options, and I have choices. Right now, I'm happy to have the choice to take a "chemo holiday" and hope it is a good, long one. Thank you again for all you have done to help me get to now, and for always believing that this is possible. That belief really expands my world.

Have a most excellent day.

Much love to you,


ruth pennebaker said...

Hooray! So happy to hear your news.

Marie said...

Thanks, Ruth! :-)