Chapter 17: My last day of chemo

It really felt surreal walking into the final chemo. Number 6. This was it. My last day of chemo. I knew that this infusion was going to knock the crap out of me, but hopefully the meds were going to knock the crap out of those cancer cells at the same time. When you are sitting in the waiting room, not many people look at each other in the eye. It may be a quick glance, but no connections. That particular day, I was waiting with so many mixed emotions running through me. I was worried for how I would feel the next couple weeks, I was relieved that this would be the last one, I was anxious for the results and as I glanced around, I caught the eye of another woman around my age. She was sitting there with tears streaming down her face. She still had her hair and she was holding a large packet with information on breast cancer. I assumed she had perhaps just found out the news that she had cancer and was just starting her journey. I looked her in the eye….really LOOKED her in the eye and I smiled. She smiled back through her tears. Nothing said, but we connected. We were both battling this and we understood each other for those 2 seconds. I hope for her that she was able to make it to the end of her chemo journey and look another fighter in the eye and share another moment.

After your finish your treatment, most cancer centers have a bell that you ring following your final treatment. On my last day of chemo, all of my nurses and docs signed a “graduation” card for me and every single one came by to wish me well and congratulate me on my final chemo infusion. Even the sweet lady who did acupuncture came by! Post infusion, I rang that bell so hard that I am surprised it did not fly off the hook. We came home and our sweet Nanny had gotten me a cake to celebrate, friends and family had sent goodies and flowers, but the best thing ever was looking into the twin’s eyes and telling them “mommy did it! no more chemo.”

My younger sister was getting married in Florida a few weeks after my final chemo and I begged her to keep everything as planned and not move the date. I would be there no matter what. We were going to be driving down in an RV to avoid airplanes and large crowds, had a ton of help from family with the twins and I also told her I would wear a wig for her wedding ceremony. She did not ask me to wear one, but I did not want her to look back on her pictures and see a bald q-tip head that stuck out. This was her day and I was going to do everything in my power to make it is as normal as possible.

On the day of the wedding, I was very sick. I had an IV nurse come and administer anti-nausea meds and lots of fluids. I tried to hide it from her and did not want her to see me upset or sick. There was a point where I got really angry that I was not able to enjoy this day like I wanted to. My older sister did a great job of covering for me and together, we got through it.

The wig…was ridiculous. BUT, it would do the job and resembled my old hair color. I decided to just put it on, put it in a clip and call it a day. I could not stop laughing at myself, but it would take any attention off of me and my bald head and that was the goal. I was walking down the aisle and I caught my Aunt’s eye…she was motioning me to pull it down. Huh? I reached up and felt my wig about halfway to the back of my head and pulled it down towards my forehead. I will NEVER forget the look on another lady’s face when this happened. She clearly had no clue it was a wig and I imagine she was quite shocked. As soon as we were done with pictures, that thing came OFF and I popped-on one of my trusty beanies. We ended up having an awesome night and we all laughed, danced and partied late into the evening.

Over the next few weeks, I was starting to gain some strength back and I was getting ready for my surgery on July 1st. I was having a double mastectomy, as well as removing and testing lymph nodes to check for any cells that had spread. Again…mixture of emotions. Part of me was terrified to remove my breasts, but the other side of me wanted them gone. They had, however, tried to kill me. Now let me be frank with you. I had good boobs! I hated them when I was a young soccer player, but as a young woman…they were not too shabby. By no means did they define me, but they certainly were a part of what made me feel like a woman. I tried to stay away from googling post-mastectomy breast pictures, because there was no way to truly know until it happened.

My bestie and I went to see U2 a few days before my surgery and it was the perfect way to let go of all the sad, anger and fear of the last 6 months and get myself in a proper mindset before this surgery. I never ever used the “I have cancer” card for anything, but this one night….just this once….I pulled the card. We had gotten to our seats and they were both super high up and also obstructed view. We decided to go down to the box office and ask if there were any other seats available. I mentioned I had just finished chemo and got a little nauseated at heights. This really kind man took our tickets, went to talk to someone, came back and handed me an envelope with our new tickets inside. I thanked him and we walked around the corner. He gave us 12th row seats! So many songs (if not all), I had tears running down my cheeks and we would just clutch each other. There was also a lot of joy that night and feeling so grateful that the chemo was over. Still had mountains to climb, but I had come pretty far.

In the days leading up to the mastectomy, I spent a lot of time reflecting on exactly how far we had come. What we had been through in a short 6 months. We also were so incredibly grateful to learn the news that the chemo had worked. The tumor was essentially gone and the chemo had shrunk it to almost nothing. 6 months of hell had all been worth it. It worked. IT WORKED! I was so humbled by our army of friends and family that had fought by my side and helped carry us through every day. This next step was going to be so incredibly imperative to see if the cancer had spread and removing my breasts would help ensure that this beast would not come back.

“One life, you got to do what you should

One life with each other,

Sisters, brothers.

One life but we’re not the same,

We get to carry each other, carry each other,

One.”

-U2

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