Yay! ... ... ... now what?
In this post...
The future is now. Wait, like, now?
Life happened = forever grateful
The future is now. Wait, like, now?
I should be happy right now. I'm on my last 24-hour chemo infusion bag. Last day of the last round of the intense DA-R-EPOCH chemo regimen. Today (Friday), the PICC line comes out of my arm. I get my last dose of the worst drug that causes nausea + mouth sores. I walk out of the clinic for good.
But maybe not.
And that's why instead of feeling joy and relief, I'm sitting in bed crying my eyes out. It's almost as though I have to now really confront what it means to have lived this "cancer life."
Going through the motions of IVF and then months of treatment was very difficult. But I had a plan. I could understand what would be happening when. I was getting better at figuring out how to protect myself from side effects and how to better cope with the emotions that felt a lot like bowling balls once they hit me. Now... I await the post-treatment PET/CT scan scheduled to happen in about a month and a half. The first of several such scans to prove whether the cancer lives on...
So I guess that's why it bothers me a bit when people say, "It's almost over!" I get it. Yes, my first treatment is almost over. Confronted with the reality that my reality will never be "the same" actually makes me feel like this is just the beginning. What I heard from cancer survivors is that the transition from treatment to "after," whatever the hell that means, is difficult in its own way. You are not miraculously healed nor cured. Physically, you feel better and hope it stays that way. But emotionally and mentally you continue to feel drained. Exhausted. Others have told me that people "drop off the face of the earth" because it's assumed that all is said and done. On the flip side, do I want people to fawn all over me? No. It's uncomfortable. All I crave is "normalcy." But even the meaning of that has changed for me. WTF is normal?
Wah wah wah. Even I want to mute myself right now.
Not to worry. I rarely stay in these #debbiedowner modes for long. Give me 10 minutes, a good cry, and I'm all right (really). I just know that this is will be an ongoing struggle. Every bump, bruise, pain, ache will feel like a cancer recurrence. I must fight the urge to jump to that conclusion. It's much tougher to do when your defense mechanism bar has been pushed to the lowest levels.
For instance. Yes, I was the student who would answer in an incredibly defensive way in an exchange like this:
CLASSMATE: How'd you do on the test?
Except, most likely, I felt I probably did well. Yes, I was that kid. I thought that if I could just pretend that I failed, it'd be nowhere to go but up. My good grade would make me exponentially happier if I took this approach. Right?
Now imagine that to the umpteenth degree. We've been told not to worry about cancer. My doctor told me that same thing before she felt the lumps. Now that bar is even lower to protect myself. It's insane. And that insanity is what I'll have to fight against.
It's a full on Steph v. Steph battle for goodness knows how long.
To help me focus on this transition period, I've decided to commit as much attention as possible to helping others who've been in, are in, and (unfortunately) will be in my shoes.
I am publicly declaring that I am trying to build a platform or tool of some sort that will help:
- cancer patients
- refractory patients
- people in remission
I need to figure out biggest pain points first. I know what mine were. I'd like to know what others felt were the worst parts.
If you know anyone who fits any of those four "categories," would you please share the link below? It's a survey. My first (and yes, I've already made glaring errors and had to re-format).
Thank you so, so much.
I feel that I got this diagnosis for a couple reasons.
- To learn how to dig deep
- To lessen the pain for others
I'm in a lucky position where I don't have to go back to work right away. Thanks to my incredibly supportive husband and family, I can focus on healing. I've determined that part of that healing will be through helping others. I can understand the desire to run away from this life and try and ditch the cancer as fast as possible. To be honest, I considered that route. For me, personally, I think trying to figure out a way to support people caught in this very harsh reality will help me own my story.
Life happened = forever grateful
Lastly... I've talked about this before but I want to stress this again: My relationships as a result of the cancer have grown so deeply and beautifully. Would I want to get cancer again just to build this level or relationship? My answer is that my answer doesn't have to be binary. It's not a simple "yes" or "no." I am forever changed, and some of that change has manifested as more of a scar.
But let me put it this way: If I could go on and be cancer-free from now on, then yes, I would repeat the last half year of my life. It might sound dopey but I mean that from the bottom of my heart. My relationships with my parents, sister, Tim, and friends have strengthened and matured in the most incredible way.
Let's take my mom for example. She has spent the most time here just plain taking care of me and Tim. Incessant cooking, cleaning, caring. The bond that I share with her now is deeper. I have had so many more meaningful conversations with her. I have learned even more how incredible and how big-hearted she is, and I have come to know her more as a friend than as my mom.
Our family has had a couple fun karaoke and Mario Kart nights - and I'm looking forward to many more! They have such great voices. Hearing my mom sing Taiwanese songs was so beyond fun - it was heartwarming. That's not even the right word. It lit up my heart.
Here are some photos Chez Chen-Chuang <3 + images with my mom at my clinic bedside.
We also celebrated her 29th ^_~* birthday last weekend! (And yes, Christina made Hello Kitty cookies. Pink, duh. ;p )
I still have the most amazing husband in the world. Sorry, I try not to gush - REALLY - I try. But it's damn near impossible with Tim by my side. I know, there's no such thing as perfect, but I promise you he's the closest.
I hope he's okay with this (mwahahaha) but I'm going to post a couple surprise notes he left me in the morning this week.
I wake up pretty groggy but the instant I see one of these up... my eyes light up, I immediately smile.
And sometimes I sing out loud stuff like, "I haaaave the best hubby in the worrllldd!" or "I looooove youuuu, this is the beeeeeeest!" (Embarrassing but who cares.)
It's always a surprise because he's usually rushing off to work in the morning but I think especially this week, my last week of chemo (hopefully <-- there's that caveat again!), he's trying to motivate and inspire me to be happy. To... yes... celebrate the moment.
It's a nice visual reminder throughout the day to remember how blessed I am in so many ways. I continue to count the blessings...
OK last post it... was drawn for me after I vowed to hunt down a rascal, tiny mosquito that had bitten Tim 3x as he tried to sleep! The AUDACITY. I told him, "Don't worry, baby, I've got your back! I am not sleeping till he's dead!"
15 minutes of fanning the room with a pillow and then sitting to scope from various perspectives, I finally caught the sucker and zapped him (thanks for the zapper, Jason!). He was so tiny. A tiny body of evil, as far as I was concerned!
Tim fell back asleep.
Steph felt accomplished.
And voila, my thanks came in the form of this artwork!
(DISCLAIMER: Those are buns on my head. My awesome co-worker, Kris, knitted me a beanie with "bunny ears" because I used to put my long hair up in buns to get waves.)
And two thoughts on my man's skills:
- My mom and my friends have said he's good and I agree. I doubted his artistic abilities the first year he drew me stuff, but he has proven me wrong. In fact, a lot of his sketches are done very proportionately/to-scale.
- But yees, it scared me a bit to see that THAT FACE is how Tim sees me (cries) haha! But then I remember... he's totally that avant-garde type of dude, you know?