Josh and I had mixed emotions as we drove back to Stanford for my post-opp appointments on Thursday. It felt so wonderful to be on the other side of surgery, and that I could actually walk from the parking lot to the Cancer Center without a wheelchair! On the other hand it was weird to be back because it's a blaring reminder that just 2 and 1/2 weeks ago I was a patient in the hospital, longingly watching people maneuver ever so easily through their daily routines on the main walking thorough-faire. I got to walk down that path on Thursday and it was fantastic to be out in the fresh air and "free" from my hospital room.
Speaking of two weeks, WOW, what a difference they make in the world of healing! I can not tell you how much better I feel. I am actually feeling like a real person again! Woo Hoo! As I gain a little more perspective through this journey, I'm realizing that it was really hard for me to know what to expect with surgery since I have never had any experience with "more than baby delivery" hospital stays. I knew that I would need to lay low and rest for six weeks, but I guess it was just hard to know what it would actually feel like until I was in the middle of it.
It's hard to prepare for how cancer/chemo/surgery/post surgery healing will effect you emotionally. I now realize that this healing process is not only for my physical body, but it is a type of grieving/emotional healing process as well. No matter how positive I'd like to be, I can't change the fact that it is really hard not to be able to do the things that you really want to do after surgery. I first experienced this, "it's hard not to be able to do my own life" feeling with my chemo treatments because of little things like not being able to chase my kids, or even care for them. It was also a bit of a shock to lose some brain power (they call this "chemo-brain") which means that I have been losing my keys more often and don't always quite have the word that I want to say on the tip of my tongue. If you know me well, you know that this can be a really frustrating thing to deal with sometimes because I love people and I love to talk. It's weird and a little scary not to be able to be as quick with every word. I've tried to embrace this fuzzy brain feeling (very similar to pregnancy-brain for all of you who have had a taste of that!) and I feel like I've dealt with it pretty well. Unfortunately, this past Thursday I found out more that made this side-effect hard to swallow. As I chatted with my chemo doctor, she mentioned that chemo-brain might not fully go away after chemo—ever. Whoa. This was a hard thing to hear because everything that I had read and heard before that was that my brain would re-sharpen about a year after chemo. Thankfully this is not 100%, but what really gives me hope is that we have an amazingly powerful and compassionate God who knows exactly what I need to love well and live my life to the fullest for Him. No matter how hard-core and nasty this chemo might be on my brain, I know that God is bigger and he can protect me from long-term side effects. Thank you so much for walking this road with me and especially for interceding and lifting me up to Jesus, THE HEALER. I would love your prayer that my chemo-brain would not be permanent.
The rest of my post-operation appointments and conversations went really well. My colon surgeon checked out my incisions and told me that they are healing beautifully and my oncologist confirmed that my blood counts are excellent. I had known that I would have about three more months of chemo after surgery (4 more 3-week cycles) so we talked about starting that process as soon as possible. Even though the surgery had fantastic results, the protocol for my stage of colon cancer is always more chemo after surgery to get any microscopic cancer cells that might be looming in my body. I know how important this is in the fight to not have it come back, but it is also the first time that I have had thoughts that this chemo is semi-optional (and is there any way I can do without it?!) But then I think of what we have already been through, and I think of Josh and my boys and the wonderful life that God has given me and I know that it would be unwise not to do everything in my power to eradicate any tiny cancer cells. Here is the approximate treatment game-plan that we discussed:
Today (Monday 2/6) Chemo infusion #1: (I am typing this in my infusion room!)
Wednesday (2/29) Chemo infusion #2
Wednesday (3/21) Chemo infusion #3
Wednesday (4/11) LAST CHEMO!! Which means by April 25th I will be chemo free if all goes well.
The last part of this treatment plan is a small surgery that I will have to have in late May. This second surgery was not expected, and therefore a big bummer for us. Because of the location of my colon tumor, my surgeon found that he will need to do one more quick corrective surgery once I am done with chemo.
The most exciting part of this plan is that I should be all done with everything in time for summer—my favorite season! I love summer in Mount Hermon and Santa Cruz. I can't wait for the swim lessons, beach days, late nights, the fun MH summer staff vibe and for the SUNSHINE. BTW, all of you out-of-town-ers are more than welcome to come visit!
I have so much more to share with you, but for now I will leave you with a ((BIG HUG)) and a few prayer requests.
Thank you so much for praying for...
- Strength and a joyful outlook to get through the side effects of this chemo round. The biggest offenders are the nausea, cold-sensitivity/tingling and also the peeling of my feet!
- Also, I am going to try acupuncture for the nausea this time, so I'd love prayer for its effectiveness
- Protection from radiation, and it's long-term/unknown effects, as I get my CT scans. I have one today at 2pm.
- Healing for Grandma Penny. (Josh's mom) After caring whole-heartedly for the boys in the month of January, she went home about a week ago and found out that she has pneumonia. Please pray for complete healing, rest and renewal.
- Strength, joy, hope and perseverance for Josh and our families too, but especially Josh as he has to deal with so much every day.
- Wisdom, patience and insight for Josh and I as we raise our oh-so-active, strong-willed, impressionable, precious boys.