Yesterday was the final chemo session for my leukemia. After this, if all goes well, I’ll simply be doing maintenance chemo (perhaps orally?) at regular intervals to keep the leukemia at bay.
Yet it’s a bit anti-climactic.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s an amazing milestone, but I also know that the next 4-6 weeks will be filled with days of nausea, difficulty walking, races to the bathroom, and possibly worse peripheral neuropathy. My teeth are (literally) falling apart from the chemo, I see my dentist next week and I think there will be an extraction in my future. This time, though, I’ll spring for the implants to keep my teeth from growing and separating in weird ways. Ah, teeth. By the time my dad was 42 he’d had ALL of his teeth extracted and wore false teeth for as long as I could remember. I have his same “soft teeth” – teeth that are sensitive and develop cavities quite easily, but I don’t want false teeth.
I don’t mean to sound down, I’m very fortunate that I have both kids and very good friends near me to help with my recovery, but I feel like I’ve just been pushed off of a cliff and if I don’t use the hang gliding kite that’s strapped to my back correctly I’ll smash into a canyon wall, like Wile E. Coyote.
I made the mistake of looking up survival rates for my type of cancer. Of folks who contract it over age 20, 25% will live five years or more. I didn’t look farther into how that recovery percentage changes for folks who already have had a previous cancer (who needs that much information, amiright?) I’m taking the percentage bit like a challenge, I WILL be in the 25% (or die trying…?) because there are still so many things I want to do in my life.
There’s an adult trike out back with my name on it! I want to learn more about gardening so I can take advantage of our beautiful yard. I want to see Max married to Sophie and maybe a grand baby at some point. And I want to travel! There are so many places I haven’t been to, places I long to see! I’ve always wanted to travel across Canada into the Rockies by train, to visit the Scandi countries, perhaps by cruise ship when I’m feeling better… I don’t think long walks will be in my future, but walking again without a walker or cane would be a wonderful thing!
None of us will beat death, it will get us all in the end. I’ve become much more at peace with that truth over the last few years. I’ve lost so many folks who are close to me, maybe that’s why I have such a strong desire to see a grandchild. Or maybe it’s just that I love babies. At any rate, I feel that as fine as my kids are, there are rough edges to be smoothed, more lessons to be taught. The early 20’s are too young to lose both parents, and I want to keep that from happening.
And, the elephant in the room at this moment is the pandemic that, for whatever reason, is not striking ENOUGH fear into the hearts of so many Americans. It’s such a serious issue, but I see folks protesting the most effective means to prevent the spread (face masks, social distancing) as if having their face uncovered is necessary for a rich and full life. As someone who imagines I feel death creeping up on my heels, I want to shake each and every one of these people. How ironic it would be if, after fighting two different types of cancer, I become infected with COVID. Sometimes being ill and having no reason to go out into the world is not a bad thing, I just wish more would look at this as a health issue, and NOT a political issue.
So while I will be recovering from this last chemo, sheltering in place, I’ll have Max oil my trike chain and fill the tires with air, I’ll have Andy do a bit of gardening, and I’ll live vicariously through them for a few weeks until my health recovers enough for me to take over some of these duties.
In the mean time look for me hang gliding myself back to solid earth, pushing through the side effects of the chemo and hopefully feeling better than I’ve felt in years in time for my birthday (Sept 3). That will REALLY be the day that I’ll celebrate, when I’m feeling strong and healthy again!
And today, I get to finally see Hamilton! That was one of my goals when I got lymphoma, to live to see Hamilton. Okay, it’s not live, but Disney’s made it possible for me to watch, and I’m very grateful!!
15 thoughts on “Anti Climax”
I hear you. I feel you. I will celebrate with you in spirit at least on September 3. Neither one of us will go out of the house much but will we have a lovely assortment of masks by that time, I’m sure. Blessed be, Annie, Blessed Be!
Diagnoses like ours really forefront life priorities, don’t they? Sometimes people mistakenly think that being at peace with one’s mortality–accepting that I’m going to die–is “giving up.” It’s not. It gives me the energy to stay healthy, to love and laugh and do whatever I can do in the moment fully. Otherwise, I’d just be hanging funeral crepe every day. Thank you for your example, Annie. It helps.
You are welcome. I hesitated to write this because I was afraid folks would be saying, “Oh, she’s giving up!” But I’m not. I’m trying to be realistic, and I’m trying to let the kids see that there’s graciousness in living a life well, and coming to the end of it peacefully.
I can’t believe what you’ve been thru, and yet still you can wax poetic and philosophical. Isolation is not horrible when you can have your children’s company and help.
You SAID it, Barb! Gerry and I always looked at his Myeloma as a doubled edged sword. It sucked, that’s for certain, but it allowed him to be an amazing stay at home dad with our young kids, and shepherd them into early adulthood. We saw the cancer as sort of a gift, one that we didn’t want, but if viewed with love and gratitude, one from which we could benefit.
Whoa, whoa, whoa! Are Max and Sophie engaged?
No, not at all. But a mom can tell, and they’re both head over heels. Have been since Freshman year!
I loved every word of this post. And you… I was reminded of a recording of the late Rosemary Clooney. Let’s Eat Home. If I can find it, I’ll send a link to you. It’s a Dave Frishberg song. He fancies himself a modern day Johnny Mercer. A nice try anyway, but those shoes are already filled. Forever…
Oh, Peter, you can ALWAYS give me musical suggestions! I remember so well the hours in your dorm room where you schooled me on the Great American Songbook. You may not realize what a pillar of my education at Denison you actually were. I love you, sweetie!
Nice to hear from you, Annie — as always. I don’t read any sort of “giving up”, but then again I think that idea is tied into those pervasive martial metaphors. I see your optimism and future planning, your hopes and dreams. Continue enjoying those wonderful young adults* and (as someone describes their midwestern garden at the moment) the peak of photosynthesis!
*even if I’m a teensy bit sad we won’t be machatunim and share red-headed grandchildren swaddled in handknits.
For the garden, consider straw bale gardening. Ridiculously easy, and raises everything just enough to make it easy. I got ‘discard’ straw bales from a farmer…ones that had gone bad for bedding are perfect!
I’m ecstatic that you’re on the healing side of your journey. I managed a 600 foot walk today, and kept telling myself ” if Annie can, I can” Thanks for the inspiration!
Annie, I heard NOTHING of giving up in your post. I heard the pondering of your very active mind as you paused for a second to take a deep breath before you have to jump to the next big “thing” … one more time. And you are doing fine with the hang gliding. The only way you can hit the cliff is if you look backwards. You are so focused on forward that YOU GOT THIS
Congratulations on completing the chemo. May it do its work and then we will get to watch you grow back into full health. Love to the young people.