I always thought Commencement was a weird word to use for graduation. It should be called Conclusion or Reality Time but this week I totally get it. I had my last chemo session on Monday November 5. The doctor assured me for the hundredth time that there was no way he could prescribe anymore. This time was truly it. One more week of suffering and then it was over…well, kind of.
I get my next PET/CT scan on November 27 and then the big meeting is November 29. Will I or will I not have radiation? That question can only be answered after the next scan.
We waited a good two hours to see the doctor this week. So many people are so sick…the waiting room was packed. He told us that he has no appointments free for new patients until the New Year and a few patients had even come in from New York over the weekend to be treated because they could not get to their own hospitals because of Sandy. How lucky have I been?!
As fate would have it, the same nurse I had for my first chemo session in May was to help me for the last one. My veins worked for me this last time and all went without drama.
Now I don’t know if this is true for every hospital, but there is a bell here at the front nurses’ station. When patients are finished all their chemotherapy, they are urged to ring the bell. I am not sure about this tradition, being a bit superstitious. I have to return in six weeks to have my next Rituxan so this is not the last time. Battling two cancers, not one, I feel I will never be done. Therefore, I have no right to ring that bell. So I didn’t.
The adorable nurses did make me accept a Certificate of Achievement…which I did, gracefully.
So now I am done for the moment – at least with chemo.
Have I commenced? Can I start to be Susan again? As much as I love the fact that chemo is working to make me cancer-free, I hate what it has done to my body. Looking in the mirror happens less and less. When I do catch a glimpse, I see reflected back, not the Susan who started this journey, but someone I don’t know, is completely unrecognizable.
Now that the worst it over…will the Susan I recognize come back? I don’t know….we’ll see.
The Louboutins have been my lifeline. I look down at my feet and are reminded of my world before this started…but with a difference. Now, everyday is a Louboutin day…no more special occasions only, no more dust collecting in closets…but I am getting ahead of myself. November 29 is on the horizon and, as I was told before, radiation has its own set of side effects. We’ll see what happens.
These ladies are the ones who are really courageous and who astound me with their courage and determination.
1. SULEIKA JAOUAD: LIFE INTERRUPTED
Ms. Jaouad is not only a Princetonian (Go Tigers!) but a brilliant writer. She is going through treatment herself and has been chronicling her life on the pages of the New York Times. Please check out her blog.
2. CAROLINE ROBERTS: THIS IS ME
Ms. Roberts went through a harrowing experience and is now getting her life back. She wrote a beautiful and helpful article in Tatler about finding yourself again after chemo in the October Issue.
3. ROBIN ROBERTS: ABC NEWS
Everyone in the USA knows Ms. Roberts from morning television. She not only battled breast cancer five years ago but now has to deal with myelodysplastic syndrome – a blood disease. She embodies grace and calm even during these tough times. She is a true inspiration. Her words, “focus on the fight not the fright” are in my head constantly.
I had a similar aversion to the mirror after chemo. Oh yeah, that’s for sure. Time will help, and if you’re interested maybe look up a Look Good Feel Better session? Sooner than later you will start to recognize yourself again, particularly as the eyebrows and lashes return. ~Catherine
You are always so reassuring and I thank you so much for that! So looking forward to the day I can thank you face-to-face! Susan
The shoes are utterly fabulous and so are you!!! Congratulations on completion of this round. I will be thinking of you all through Thanksgiving and hoping to hear good news on the other side.