Wow. I’m done.

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?”

“Nope.”

“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.

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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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10 Responses to Wow. I’m done.

  1. Gwen Moran says:

    I am so happy for you, Heather. May this be a distant blurry memory for many, many happy healthy years to come.

  2. Wow, you are amazing.

    For so many reasons.

    I’ve enjoyed, been inspired, felt pain along with you, and opened my mind and emotions as a result of your journey with cancer. And now that you’re through, i don’t want it to end.

    Not your journey with cancer, but your writing and being able to connect and be inspired and learn through your writing.

    Whether you continue to blog or not, I look forward to reading your reading, in whatever form it takes, blog, articles, whatever. Please keep me informed.

    All I can say: WOW!

    As one of my 9 year old son’s favorite books, Weird School Daze sums up: Means MOM upside down.

    HOw’s that for a life affirming thought?

    Best,
    Susan

  3. Janet Turner says:

    Congratulations! Enjoy!

  4. Catherine says:

    Hi Heather, I’m am so glad you got the good news–no more treatment! Congrats! Posted to you on fb, too.

    Just want to say that within six months of finishing Herceptin, I went into panic mode and was trying to get myself into a national trial for some new antibody better than Herceptin, yada yada. My onc. was kind of dismissive. I went for a 2nd opinion to a great onc. who at least listened and took me seriously, but basically said, you don’t need this, you’re going to live to 113. But he also said my experience was very common when finishing all treatment and feeling like there is now no barrier between me and the nasty cancer cells. Post traumatic stress. Just want you to know in case you start to feel scared. Now go walk your dogs and live your life! Allelujah!

  5. dropjohn says:

    hoopla! and huzzah!

    congratulations and onward into the fray – with all health and love.

  6. Shelley Volz says:

    Wow! Congratulations, another milestone you never anticipated needing to reach and one that’s very awkward to celebrate. Catherine’s experience is all too common, but not required. Your challenge now is how to manage your relationship to cancer. Do you distance yourself from it completely? Do you embrace it and write about it forever? Where’s the happy medium? Now that you are well, others may insist you move on, get past it, etc. Will the cancer have “won” if it ends up defining your future interests? Do you beat it by keeping it close … but from every possible perspective other than as a woman with a recurrence or a new cancer? How do you manage the fear of recurrence? Better yet how do you make sure you don’t have a recurrence? Oops there I go again — seeking that locus of control that cancer stole from me once upon a time.

    Like Susan, I hope you continue to write as you wrestle with these and other questions in your life. I have personally enjoyed your blog and know it has had a positive influence on some very special future doctors. My only advice: Live well, laugh often, and love with all your heart!

    Thanks for sharing your journey!

  7. Keltie says:

    Yes, thank you for sharing your journey. Now, what I want you to do is start another blog, because I discovered in reading this that I love your writing and your perception of the world – one that you shared with me during my first year at Stanford, one that helped shape who I am today. So, please keep sharing your journey in some way.

  8. First, I want to commend you on your strength and courage in not only go through the onslaught of tests, surgeries and treatments but to also share your experience with us.

    I am currently doing research for a book I have started working on and only came across your blog two days ago. In those two days I have read your blog from start to finish and it has been quite an education for me. I value every word.

    Many of us are aware of some of the surgery, chemo and radiation treatments endured by cancer patients however what I was unaware of was the amount of testing, MRIs , biopsies and so on that are required to determine exactly what type of cancer it is, where exactly it is, what stage, and what course of treatment is most effective.

    You not only did an incredible job of explaining the process in a very detailed manner but you did it in a way that the average person can understand. While doing this you also shared the impact on your family life and I thank you for that also.

    I have just started a blog for the book I am doing and with your permission I would like to put a link to your blog on mine. My book is to be an inspirational book for survivors of breast cancer with the primary focus on self-esteem and body image. It is also my intention for it to contain a resource section and for the blog ( http://beautywithoutblog.wordpress.com/ ) and website (still under construction) to also be a source of support as well.

    Thank you for sharing! My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family as you find your new “normal” and move forward.

    Gregg Woodhouse

  9. Hi Heather,
    I just found your blog and see that we have the same blog names (go figure) and thought I’d say hello. I also have (had?) bc, and am debating whether or not to write about my cancerversary as well. I subscribed, and look forward to reading your posts. I like your “About” post, especially when you talk about how you’ve lived a good life and while you don’t want to quite kick the bucket yet, if you had to, it would have been a good ride. Kind of how I feel. Although most people freak when I say it quite that way. Glad you’re done. Hope you feel good. Best, Claudia

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