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Friday, August 23, 2013

Infusion complete

My chemo jersey. Not pictured: crocheted prosthetic boob.

Today was my last herceptin treatment. (If you're curious, this is a pretty good explanation of the drug and how it works...though you still may need multiple advanced degrees to really understand it.)

My original plan with this blog was to close up shop once I finished treatment. Now, with restarting reconstruction (and a possible clinical trial for an anti-cancer vaccine) on the horizon, I think I'm going to keep going. I also don't feel quite ready to give it up. This experience isn't over for me, even though I have hair, and have gotten my last drop of drugs, and zap of radiation. Most people seem to think that since I don't look all that cancer-y anymore, I must be feeling back to normal. Yeah no.

In the chair.

I said to my therapist this week that I felt like I'm expected to just go back and be normal now, which feels impossible. Cancer has been my identity for over a year. It took over everything in this sick way, and now I don't know how to do anything else. I had stopped reading all my old blogs in favor of cancer research articles and prescription drug labels. And now I don't really feel like I fit with all my old interests. Don't get me wrong, I am really fucking sick of cancer. But there's a little Stockholm Syndrome or something going on here.  

While on my way to herceptin today, last year's song of the summer popped up on my ipod. When I was in Rome (before all this happened) that song was everywhere, and so I associate it with this period of innocence, or naivete, or something like that. It's like, when I came come from Rome, I was like,"I'm NEVER going back there," because I felt like I got the whole experience in one go, and most Romans treated me pretty badly. But now, of course, there's this nostalgia for it, for that moment before the fall. Wishing I could be that girl again. This song brought up that feeling, and how it seems like I've broken with a part of myself that I don't think will ever come back.

The way home. No seat on the PATH, natch.

So there's an odd feeling that comes with finishing treatment. I'm glad for the reprieve and that I get a chance to heal. I'm scared that I won't be being watched anymore, and won't be getting any cancer killing drugs. But I'm also scared because it's like, "What the FUCK am I supposed to do now?" Throughout the experience there's a feeling of just doing whatever you have to do to get through the day. If that means you eat chips and watch Orange is the New Black all day, that's fine. (I have definitely done that. Maybe that's obvious...?) But now, I have to leave the holding pattern and actually go somewhere. Otherwise, what was all this treatment for?

Self portrait?

Someone drew a picture of me on top of an image of the 9/11 memorial. Maybe this scar/slash thing should be my new tag. 


The final installment.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The moon in cancer

Tonight there will be a blue moon.

A week and a half ago I had a surgery, my fifth in a year, to remove my left breast implant. My radiated skin was simply not healing while being stretched over the implant, so we took it out and now there's nothing. When I place my hand over the spot I can feel my heartbeat, for the first time since I was about 11.

Tomorrow my surgeon will remove the stitches from this last procedure, and there will be nothing holding me together.

Friday will be my last dose of Herceptin. And then nothing, at least for a while.

No doctors, no drugs, no blood tests. No one squeezing, measuring, frowning, or patting my shoulder. Nothing.

A blue moon is when there are two full moons in a period of 30 days. Or more accurately, when there are four in a season. It's when there's extra. It's when, arguably, there is more full moon. More moonlight. Less darkness. Less nothing in the world.

But now, more for me.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Overheard in NY: Cancer edition

Matt: Nice outfit (referring to my post-surgery bathrobe).
Me: You like the depressed housewife look?
Matt: Yeah, I like feeling like I've crushed your dreams.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Buried treasures

A stowaway from surgery three days ago. #cancerfriends

Hiding out

I just watched Pink Ribbons, Inc. which was amazing and infuriating. I just read this Buzzfeed article about all the carcinogens that we allow in the US that are banned elsewhere, which was scary and crushing. The I saw this (incredibly biased) article about radioactive water from Fukushima, which was really scary.

Friday, August 9, 2013

New for Summer 2013

Gown by Balenciaga, bonnet by Marchesa, bracelets by Cartier. 

I think.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Bad dates

One year ago today, I wrote a little in a journal, but what poured out was so dark and sad that I had to put it away. We're not doing this, I said to myself.

Because there was a definite "we." I felt strangely not alone in the days following the mastectomy. Yes, I was surrounded by my family. But there was something someone closer. Some people would probably say that it felt like the presence of god or an angel. But I think it was that I was occupied by two selves. The old me, tidying things up, leaving things like lists of instructions and passwords for the new me. The old me packing up her things, donning some kind of pert hat, and taking a last long look around before closing the door. The two mes, one going, one coming. I wrote in my journal about bleeding from many orifices (I somewhat cruelly got my period the day after my mastectomy). A shedding of the old, a purging.

The idea of a doubling or twinning of a person gets tossed around a lot in English classes. I guess it's related to the idea of the foil. Was one of my selves a foil for the other? One good, one bad, to be reductive? Or was it a tag teaming of consciousness, or some evidence of alternate universes? Over the past year I sometimes succumbed to torturing myself with the ever present What if? What if this didn't happen to me - what would I be doing? Dates that I had planned to do things, finish my novel, apply for fellowships, pass me by with little fanfare. I wonder about an alternate me somewhere, accomplishing everything on time. I have, several times, been reminded of a passage from Tess of the D'Urbervilles:

"She philosophically noted dates as they came past in the revolution of the year; the disastrous night of her undoing at Trantridge with its dark background of The Chase; also the dates of the baby's birth and death; also her own birthday; and every other day individualized by incidents in which she had taken some share. She suddenly thought one afternoon, when looking in the glass at her fairness, that there was yet another date, of greater importance to her than those; that of her own death, when all these charms would had disappeared; a day which lay sly and unseen among all the other days of the year, giving no sign or sound when she annually passed over it; but not the less surely there. When was it? Why did she not feel the chill of each yearly encounter with such a cold relation? "

These events make echoes, bouncing back and forth over the years. My Christmas freak-out four years after Matt's diagnosis can attest to that. But where is the warning shot? The creak on the staircase that tells you that you're not alone in the house? There isn't one, most times. And would we even want it?

I woke up today filled with dread. It's been one year, I thought, since the mastectomy. I spent the morning feeling nervous and snappish, and looking in the mirror, and feeling sad for my lost self. I looked for a photo that Matt took of me in the hospital. The photo, which I distinctly remember him taking after I moved from recovery to my room, was dated August 2, 2012. Not August 3. Yesterday. Sure there was something wrong with his phone, I checked my calendar. Thursday, August 2 contained the word "Surgery," neatly printed with a felt tipped pen. Still not convinced, I checked my email for references, and found, again and again, that the anniversary was yesterday.

A day that passed by, with little fanfare.