It’s only been a week. The blue dye they injected into various spots on my arm & hand is fading, but still there, looking a little sci-fi. Yesterday the doctors checked everything out, removed the weird tubes, and gave me the thumbs-up to return to Michigan for a bit.
Saturday, I’ll make my way back to Ypsi. For the next couple of weeks, my only job is to rest and have some gentle hangs with folks I adore who want to help me recover. I can totally do that!
I was so busy running around getting ready for surgery, trying to prepare for difficult emotions, that it hadn’t occurred to me just how deep a sense of relief I might feel afterwards.
Yesterday, the doctor went through the pathology report with me, and each thing ended up better than I’d hoped:
the tumor was significantly smaller (< 5mm) than they’d anticipated, even from the most recent imaging (the chemo + immunotherapy worked well!)
the surgeon achieved clear margins (the problem area was completely removed!), and
NONE of the lymph nodes they removed showed any signs of cancer
After months of treatment and side effects, this feels like a real milestone. I still have some treatment to do to ensure things don’t come back, but those pathology findings mean that as of last Wednesday, I’m cancer-free! Fuck yes.
It’s remarkable how much easier it becomes to not sweat bullshit once you’ve had one of your worst fears occur and somehow (great doctors, therapy, friends, family, total chance, grace, friends, dumb luck, oh, and did I mention friends?) come out on the other side.
For all of that, I am thankful. Resting. Living.
*If you recognize the mural above, you’ll know where to find me!
Hey All, I have a lot more thoughtful things to say, but realized in recent conversations that I’m halfway (or close to it) through chemo and haven’t shared some of the basics of what my situation/plan is. I’ve been so IN IT that it’s hard to keep track of what information I’ve shared and what’s just hanging out in my head*
First, a few things, some of which I included in an earlier email:
Yes, this is a recurrence of the same cancer that I had seven years ago
It is triple negative and inflammatory (wasn’t inflammatory last time, just to mix things up and keep it exciting)
Blessedly, the scans of my brain, lungs and rest of my body are clear (!!!)
I am in great hands with Northwestern’s Oncology staff; the prognosis is good; the intent of treatment is to cure
From all signs so far, the cancer is responding very well to treatment
I’ve kept my hair so far (though my left eyebrow is making a break for it) through a process called cold-capping. I don’t look as different as you might think, though I feel approximately 3,551,314 years old a lot of days
So what’s the plan here? What does the map look like?
Each Thursday since the beginning of November, I’ve been receiving weekly chemo (Taxol, Carboplatin), infusions with immunotherapy (Keytruda) added in every third week. This will continue through the end of January. Then, I’ll have scans that will help my doctor assess whether or not to add in two additional chemotherapy agents in February. If that happens, those infusions will be every three weeks.
Whenever I’m ultimately done with chemo, I’ll have a few weeks to recover, and then go in for surgery. I appreciate any and all surgery advice from those who’ve had mastectomy or top surgery. I’m humbled and honored that there are folks who want to share their experiences with me! What’s planned for me is a bit different, but I’m sure that a lot of the tips will still be helpful.
I’ll recover from the surgery for 4-6 weeks (likely in Michigan, I have more helpers there), and then begin daily radiation back here in Chicago. My best guess is that radiation will be for 5-6 weeks, though the nurse has said we’re too far out to really start talking about that yet. That will take me through late May or early June.
Provided that all of that goes smoothly – I’ve learned not to get too attached to a specific timeline – I’d officially be done with the bulk of active treatment in June, with immunotherapy infusions continuing every three weeks for a while. That’s easier to schedule, though, as it’s just a few hours.
Great, let me write all those dates down on the calen — oh…
Of course, plans can change any step of the way. Some days I feel totally capable of doing this; others it feels overwhelming to stare down another six months of treatment and who knows what side effects. Looking at a new year hits differently when you know half of it will have to be organized around a treatment schedule.
Still, I am thankful there is treatment, I am thankful I have access to it, and I am thankful for my body’s capabilities to heal and just be, even on the rough days. I hate having to go through this again, but signs and tests point to my body having healed remarkably well from 6-7 years back.
I continue to be immensely thankful for the notes, calls, funds, care packages, treats, and love you’ve all been sending my way. It definitely helps me keep going.
How to help
My dear friend Onna created a signup for reaching out during the winter doldrums, and it’s been a really lovely way to have an excuse to (re)connect with folks! No pressure or expectation, but if you’re feeling like you want to catch up, text/call me anytime or sign up on the list! Also, if you are generally a night-owl lemee know. Sometimes the steroids keep me up and you can ask me dumb questions into the wee hours of the morning, if that’s entertaining to ya.
Please keep sending me and Mr. Chew all the feelings, vibes, spells, prayers and whatever you can, we appreciate it and we’re sending love right back out to you all!