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Friday, September 17, 2010

Yesterday was my 8th and FINAL round of chemo

[apologies to my vegan/vegetarian friends but]

Stick a fork in me--I'M DONE!

Yesterday marked my 8th and final round of chemotherapy. From June 10 to September 16 I've had 4 rounds of AC chemo--the stuff that made me feel truly bad and weird and nauseous and that caused me to lose my hair 3 weeks into treatment. And then 4 rounds of Taxol, which was much better on my system, but it still gave me muscle and joint pain, and the chemo brain, while better on Taxol, is still ever present, as is the fatigue, which is a combination of the cumulative effects of all this poison in my body and my lowered red blood cells.

But now that's all over! Soon my hair will be growing back (I'm hopeful in another 2-3 weeks I'll be feeling some peach fuzz covering my scalp). And as my red blood cells start to produce more and more and as the chemo leaves my body, hopefully I'll feel more energetic. My nurse Delma did warn me that it could take a couple of months--which will probably be the case especially, with me, since I'm meeting in 2 weeks with my surgeon to go over my bi-lateral (double) mastectomy procedure. I think he's going to be in touch with me by email to set a firm date, but I think we're looking at mid-October. If I had to guess, it'll be either the 14-15 or 21-22.

As soon as I know, I'll let all of YOU know. Matthew and I have been really overwhelmed with everyone's generosity--and folks have been asking if they can do MORE, esp. around the time of the surgery. Honestly, I had not originally planned to do any more meal drop off sign-ups or Bruno walking because I didn't want to overstep the bounds of hospitality, and I esp. didn't want to seem like we were taking advantage of everyone's good will. But Francesca and Kathy and Minrose and Ruth and Joy and Jane D., and Beverly have all ASSURED ME that it would be nice to have another sign-up sheet. So...we'll be putting one up just as soon as I know what the surgery schedule is going to be.

And now that the chemo is done, I do want to have at least a week where I'm not projecting ahead to the next thing. First of all, I know that I'm going to show symptoms starting Sat. evening--which means joint/muscle pain, which got pretty severe last time, so I may be drugged up on percocette Sat-Mon. But from an emotional p.o.v., I know that the next step--the surgery--is going to be challenging for me in many, many ways. I've been reading a lot of cancer memoirs and it's not a pretty picture, but it does give me a sense of the kind of pain (and hopefully pain management) that I'll be experiencing and the emotional/psychological pain that will come as well. And I know that I'll need at minimum 2 weeks of intense housebound/bedbound healing, and probably another 4-6 weeks of physical therapy and just being gentle with myself.

But getting back to yesterday, honestly I was so happy I was nearly giddy--the first time I can ever say that about going in for a chemo treatment! Matthew and I wanted to do something nice for all the staff, nurses, and docs and so we bought some gifts from Southern Season and delivered them to the first floor registration (where I always began every visit verifying that I hadn't moved since the last time I was there, and I also had to verify my name and date of birth--wouldn't it be funny/odd/bizarre if someone ELSE was trying to get chemo in place of a friend/family member?)

Anyway, I'm not a very huggy person [Pause: BUT WAIT, I've hugged Jennifer lots of times!]. Yes, it's true. I'm not a very huggy person. I don't know if it's just me, or if I should do the typical Asian American thing and tell you that we didn't hug a lot in my family (the standard trope found in much coming-of-age/young adult literature describing the dynamics of immigrant parents and their American born children). Seriously, though, I learned to hug when I got to high school and college [and NO as crunchy-granola as UCSB was, they did NOT teach a class on Hugging 101, although if they did, I can assure you that I would have received at least 1 credit towards graduation for it--another notorious thing about UCSB's curriculum, you could get college credit for the darndest things). And while I am fine with it--really--I wouldn't say that I'm normally the first one to go in for a hug. But in this case, being hugged by all the receptionists, nurses and doctors because it was my last day of chemo gave me a warm fuzzy. And I tried not to think about the number of germs there are in a hospital or that I had been telling friends that I wasn't hugging anymore because I was worried about my compromised immune system. Which, by the way, I'm still a bit nervous about going into surgery because I really don't want anything to delay surgery, like getting an infection or the flu. So I may still not be hugging folks, f.y.i.

It was a rather long day--we go there at 10:30am and didn't leave until 6:30pm. But just as I was finishing up my chemo treatment, the nurses came in and surprised me with a going away song, mardi gras beads, and a certificate! I took a photo of the few that would let me take a photo with them, including my nurse Julie, who very appropriately was the first nurse I ever had on the chemo ward, and I was tickled pink to have her as my last nurse on the chemo ward--chair #14 (and btw, Julie promised me not to show her photo to anyone--I would love to post the one with all the nurses and the pharmacist, Chris, but that will just have to be part of my private photo stash).

So to wrap things up I'm just going to leave you with a series of photos we took at the hospital yesterday to commemorate my last chemo treatment:

These were the gifts we gave to the registration desk, 2nd floor oncology & 3rd floor chemotherapy (actually, the big tower has a duplicate to the left that you can't see)

Most of what we did on the Oncology floor was wait to see nurses and doctors, so here is Matthew on the phone while we're waiting for the nurse to draw blood for my labwork. Maybe he's also practicing for when he becomes a nurse one day!

A self-portrait in the mirror--yes, I'm also trying to wait patiently for my blood to be drawn.

This is the pump that they used to administer my chemo drugs--bye bye pump!

Matthew goofing around with me in the chemo ward, trying to make me laugh

Me getting my chemo award! As the nurses all said, they hope I'll come to visit but the hope to NEVER see me in the chemo chair again. Couldn't agree more!

Finally, Matthew decided he wanted to see what it was like to be a strawberry blond--what do you think???!!!!


  1. Congratulations, Jen! I'm so delighted to hear that the chemo is over, and I'm eager for a new sign up sheet for meal deliveries. FYI: My church is having one of its famous fish frys on Sat., Oct. 9, and I would love to be on the list for that day to bring some fish to you and Matthew, who looks positively lovely as a blond!

    Virtual hugs,


  2. Congratulations to you both. Hang in there!

    Thoughts and prayers are with you.