And so after a rough week, some bad news and the most amazing long weekend… Reality bites yet again and despite my determination to make this day, this week a better one, I find myself flat on my back once again… I know that many of you have been anxiously awaiting a report about the results of my latest set of tests and I apologize for taking my time with them.
I got my latest test results on Wednesday afternoon. I wish that I could give you good news with a nice inspirational story about survival and winning the fight but unfortunately I can’t do that, not today anyway. I’ve been trying to think of an easy way to tell you about this, some way to sugar coat things to make them easier to hear. I just remembered though that I promised not to do that, so I won’t.
The test results are not encouraging and it seems the big C is fighting almost as hard as I am. The blood tests showed a substantial deterioration in my condition, my complete blood count and my platelet count are both considerably worse than they were a month ago. The other tests showed metastasis to my esophagus and even a cluster of cancerous cells in my left foot. The chemo-radiation was seemingly ineffective in assisting with my enlarged spleen and the tests show that the spleen is still ‘riddled’ with cancerous cells. The tests also showed that more lymph nodes are now infected with cancer. Although I’m still considered to be a victim of Metastatic Stage 4 Gastric Cancer, it has spread to various, some rather distant parts of my body as well as my blood and lymph nodes. What it all comes down to at the end of the day is… well, at this point, I’m not winning. Cancer is adamant that it is going to take over my entire body. It’s spreading rapidly and again, the medical prognosis is not good. Needless to say, my medical team is not satisfied. I’m not going to get into all the medical terms, numbers and statistics, I’m really no good at those and quite honestly, they confuse me terribly. I’ve said it as I understand it; hopefully it makes sense to you too.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news but that’s it. That’s where we are at this point, scary stuff isn’t it. As for what happens next… well, I don’t know yet. The doctors suggest another round of Chemoradiation at a higher dose. I don’t know how I feel about that and the truth is, I don’t know if I want that. I haven’t made that decision yet and although I promised to think about it over the weekend and make a decision by today as to how I want to proceed, I didn’t get around to it, in fact, I did everything to avoid thinking about cancer this weekend and making this decision was the last thing I felt like doing. I’m really not sure what to do. I understand the necessity of the treatment and that it could possibly help with the pain but in the same breath, it’s really unpleasant and I can’t help but think that if I don’t have much time left, is this really how I want to spend it? Everyone has a different opinion about this and I understand all the different views but I’m just not sure. I think it’s safe to say i have some serious decisions to make. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if I had all the answers, if I could just snap my fingers and know exactly what to do… Aaaaah, a girl can dream.
My oncology nurse asked me if I notice the deterioration, if I can feel it getting worse. The truth is I can, not just from a pain point of view but also in my appearance, my ability to function and my strength. It definitely feels different and I feel more helpless every day. Even my mood swings have gotten worse. Today I wanted to bite the head off of every person I saw and I honestly cannot tell you why, I was just so frustrated, so angry and so irritable. I hate feeling like this, the last thing I want is for people to not want to be around me because I’m impossibly difficult, I really don’t want to be that person.
It’s becoming increasingly difficult to get through a day, today I left the office early… again! I just couldn’t take any more and I just wanted my home, my bed, peace and quiet and sleep, lots and lots of sleep. It frightening to think how much my life has changed in a month, from running around like an energiser bunny day after day to not being able to get through an 8 hour work day. I never thought it would happen so quickly, I expected a certain rate of deterioration and a bit of fatigue but I was clearly very mistaken.
I continue to fight though, no matter what my final decision with regards to treatment is, I will continue to fight this thing, I will carry on walking and I won’t give up. As long as I still have an ounce of strength left in my mind and in my soul, I will use it to keep fighting, keep going and keep smiling. I try to smile as often as I possibly can, as long as I can smile, I can breathe and as long as I can breathe I can fight. I remind myself of that every day. Although it does make the fight any easier or the journey any shorter, it helps to know that I can still do something. There have been a succession of ‘bad’ or ‘down’ days lately and although they are tough to get through and I often feel like my ‘positive outlook’ is slipping through my fingers, I’ve made it this far, I’m not ready to quit yet.
I’m still getting used to the bald thing. I haven’t quite worked out a pattern of when I wear something on my head and when I “bare the bald”, at this point I carry a scarf wherever I go and I avoid the sun like a plague. I suppose it’s going to take some time to figure that all out, in the meantime, I’m bald and I’m loving it.
I had such a fantastic weekend. I truly have the most amazing friends. I am still in awe of how they take care of me, spoil me, understand me and allow me to feel whatever it is I need to feel. This weekend away was exactly what I needed and it could not have come at a better time. I managed to really relax, take it easy and for the most part, forget about everything. I slept… a lot and it made the world of difference. Being in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and water and the most beautiful view was distracting and absolutely heavenly. I am so grateful to my wonderful friends for forcing me away from my reality for a few days and allowing me the time I needed to clear my head. Although I was quite useless and probably not as sociable as I should have been, they were unbelievably understanding and supportive, I couldn’t ask for more. It’s strange though… I felt so much lighter being out of town, away from everything that is my life. I didn’t worry so much, I didn’t cry and most of all, I didn’t feel like I was carrying the world on my shoulders. I really had such a wonderful time. The minute I arrived home though, reality hit again and all of a sudden I was exhausted, in agony and horribly emotional. It’s almost as if I was hit by a bus as I walked into the house and I had to go back to dealing with it all over again. I had pain over the weekend, it’s not like I left cancer at home and escaped for a while; it was definitely there with me, I had the nausea, the pain and a bloody nose or two but it was just so much easier to deal with. I could have spent the rest of my life in the beautiful farm house.
Now that I’m back in my reality and I’m paddling in the deep end if this huge swimming pool called life with cancer, just trying to keep my head above water, I realise the importance of being idle, taking a break and letting go. It’s not an easy lesson to learn and I have no doubt that I still have a very long way to go before I reach a point where I can honestly say that I have found the perfect balance, I will most certainly be making more time for good old R&R.
I will remain positive and keep my head up for as long as I possibly can. As difficult as this is and as weak as I am, I will keep going and I will not go down without a fight to be remembered. The outlook may seem bleak at this point and I am afraid, mortified and reduced to tears but tomorrow I will get up and try again, I will wipe my eyes, paint a smile on my face and carry on. This is what I have to do; this is my way of doing it. No matter what you’re going through in your own life, this is what you have to do too. Don’t give up, don’t let go just yet. Keep strong, keep faithful and carry on.
One Day At A Time