Today, I go to the breast care center for an oncology checkup with Tara, my nurse practitioner. She tells me that I’ve lost 9 pounds (that gives me hope, only 20 to go!) and that I’m finished. No more surgery. No more chemo. No more radiation. No more Herceptin, the monoclonal antibody.
During my last appointment, in August, we’d agreed that I would do Herceptin through February 10, 2012, the anniversary of my last chemo infusion. That didn’t seem right, but I decided to go with it. Then, today, I find out that, indeed, the date was wrong. The standard of care is that you get Herceptin every three weeks for one year from your first chemo infusion, not your last.
I had my chemo-versary October 28, exactly one year since I started chemo. I thought about it, thought of posting, but then got back to the furious pitching that I’m doing to resuscitate my writing career.
I wasn’t expecting this today. Tara tells me I’m doing great. She says I look thinner (wish I FELT thinner). She convinces me to start a formal diet to keep losing (i.e. write down what you eat and measure it. Haven’t done that for about 15 years). She says my last echocardiogram shows that my heart is pumping blood marvelously. The “ejection fraction,” or how much blood my heart squeezes out per beat, is 66, up from 50 at the low point.
“You’re flying!” Tara says. “You’re doing great.”
“You mean I don’t have to go up to the infusion center again?”
“I hope I never need that place again.”
“I hope so, too.” Tara says.
That conversation happened four hours ago and I’m still stunned. Tara says the process of processing what’s happened over the last 16 months begins now.
“When you hear that word cancer, it’s the first tap of mortality for people,” Tara says. “It will take time. It may get worse before it gets better.”
I still don’t know what to say. When you’re in treatment, it seems like it will never end. Then, amazingly, it does.
Well, I’m going to walk the dogs. The rest of my life begins now, I guess.