On deck

The night before your first chemotherapy infusion feels…

Overwhelming. So many friends call to check in, to say they care, to ask what they can do. I want them to call, I need the connection, but I don’t know what to tell them. So many drugs. Which ones do I take tonight? Which ones tomorrow? Did we get those vitamins and folate and glutamine the oncology nurse recommended? So many things left undone.

Helpless. I have no choice but to do this thing, no way out but forward. It’s kind of like being 9 months pregnant, with no other option but to go through labor, except you don’t end up flooded with endorphins and holding a cute baby at the end.

Determined. I didn’t HAVE to do this. I made the choice to do chemotherapy. The docs recommended it, of course, yet I could have said no. Some women do. But I said yes. Why doesn’t this make me feel better?

Cranky. Does my daughter have to argue about everything? Does the dog have whine like that? Why can’t my husband read my mind?

Nervous. It’s like the day before a high school cross-country meet. You know it’s going to hurt. You know you’re going to get tired. But you have no idea exactly what the course will be like, or how it’s all going to turn out. Which team will win? I’ve been listening to a book that describes chemo as setting off a bomb in your body. Is it really that bad? Really?

Fuzzy. There’s a buzzing in your ears, an out-of-time, out-of-place feeling. Like unexpectedly running into someone you’ve loved intensely, and lost, it knocks you off balance.

Tomorrow. 8 a.m. UCSF Breast Care Center, 2nd Floor for blood tests etc. Then 10 a.m., 5th floor (I think) for the poison party.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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5 Responses to On deck

  1. schwartzspot says:

    What an amazing brave and honest post, Heather. I’ve started faithfully reading your posts, not as a breast cancer patient or survivor. But because you write about fears, pain, and the unknown in such a universal way.

    My thoughts are with you on 8am.

  2. Catherine says:

    Hugs and a prayer.

  3. Katharina says:

    Hugs and kisses – all the way form the Upper West Side.

  4. Katie Janssen says:

    Hope all goes well. (As well as possible!)

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