So, it’s been a while… yet again I have been too quiet for too long and even though I have thought about and even tried to write a post for a while now, it has been a really, really tough few weeks and in all honesty, I haven’t had the strength to do very much, writing has seemed like an impossible effort and I just haven’t been able to face it. I have had so much to tell you, so many ‘events’ to talk about but I just haven’t been able to find the words to get it all out.
Today has been both wonderful and awful. I celebrated the 1st birthday of my son but then felt the shock and mourned the death of my daughter. I call them my son and my daughter because that’s exactly what they are. Our animals are our children and I love them in the same way as I believe I would a human child. Diezel, our beautiful, adorable bull-terrier is a year old today, we celebrated by feeding him Tinkies, singing Happy Birthday and showering him with love. It felt like a good day. Unfortunately this evening was a different story though. My husband and I were visiting my parents when I got a frantic call from our maid. All I heard was little cat and come home.
Marnewicke arrived before i did and he found Bella, my beautiful baby girl, the gorgeous grey tabby cat that I fell in love with the moment I laid eyes on her, lying lifeless on the front lawn. Apparently she had been out of the yard; the maid saw her jump over the wall and collapse onto the grass. When I arrived Marnewicke showed me my lifeless little girl with blood dripping from her perfect little nose and we examined her for any injuries to try to figure out how she died. Judging by the smell that came off her little body and the fact that she had absolutely no external injuries, we assume it was poison. I’m pretty sure it was poison. Whether some sick excuse for a human being intentionally poisoned her or she ate something, I don’t know.
Bella was always the little hunter; she always brought her ‘trophies’ to show me before she ate them, whether it was a bird, a mouse or some kind of insect, she always had to show me first. She always laid whatever it was in front of me and then looked up at me with those big beautiful, “Look what I got Mommy, aren’t you proud” eyes. I suppose it’s very possible that one of her ‘prey’ had poisoned her; I suppose I’ll never know. I am so going to miss my little girl though; I have such wonderful memories of her. Tonight I’m more than a cancer patient, tonight I’m a mommy who has just lost her baby and I’m heartbroken.
Although I didn’t really plan to write a post today, Bella’s death made me realise that I actually have quite a bit to say and considering what the past few weeks have been like, getting it all off my chest might actually be a good idea. Burying my little girl tonight came with the harsh realisation that I may be joining her soon. I thought that I should probably chat about that a bit.
Lately I’ve been involved in quite a few conversations about life, miracles, destiny and death. I think that’s pretty understandable considering my current circumstances. Even so, it is a rather uncomfortable conversation to have. The other day, my mother asked me if I’m afraid to die. Needless to say, that question really got me thinking, even though I have thought about that a lot, hearing the question coming from another person, especially my mother, makes it very real. Let’s take a few steps back though; these conversations haven’t come out of nowhere. Allow me to take you back to how this question and all of these conversations came about…
My last post was written just before I started my 2nd round of chemo. I was supposed to have treatment 5 days a week for 6 weeks. This was a desperate attempt by my medical team to slow down the rapid progression of cancer through my body. After the very unsuccessful 1st round, I didn’t get my hopes and as I’m sure you will have picked up from my last few posts, reaching the decision to agree to a 2nd round was incredibly difficult for me. I had serious reservations about going through chemo again and the only thing that convinced me to go ahead with another round was my promise to do whatever it takes to fight this thing.
In all the research I’ve done on chemotherapy and in almost every conversation I had with various doctors about the treatment, the risk of a ‘serious’ infection came up every single time. Unfortunately the risk of a deadly infection comes hand in hand with the possible treatment and even cure that chemo offers. Chemotherapy, like most treatments for terminal illnesses, is a temperamental treatment, it doesn’t affect everyone in the same way and it’s impossible to predict what side effects any given person will have. I knew beforehand that it was going to be horrible; I knew I was going to be sick. No one could tell me exactly how my body would react or what side effects I would have, everyone’s different. Even though I couldn’t compare it to the 1st round because it was a different treatment, a much stronger dosage and my body was not the same as it was in the 1st round, I prepared myself as best I could, I psyched myself up for the nausea and even the pain.
I had my first 5 sessions and then a break for the weekend, I won’t lie to you, it was horrible, I felt even worse than I expected but I felt like I was getting through it. Sunday evening was a very different story though, I was violently ill and even though I had been warned about the high dosage and i really did expect the worst from round 2, I knew something was wrong. After a very long night, I finally fell asleep in the early hours of Monday morning. After a few short hours, I woke up to a vicious panic attack, shaking violently, in a cold sweat and feeling the entire world closing in on me, I fought for each breath. I managed to rip the catheter out of my arm in my state of panic and I honestly thought that was it, the end had come and I was completely and utterly alone. My husband had already left for work and it was just me.
When I finally made it to the hospital for what was supposed to be my 6th session, the nurses were as shocked and horrified by what they saw as I was. Needless to say, I didn’t have a chemo session that day. The doctor was called immediately and the tests began.
Anyone that truly knows me will tell you, I never do things halfway and I always seem to be the exception to the rule, especially when it comes to my health. If something can go wrong, it will go wrong with me, if there is a risk of some unlikely event, I will almost always experience that event. You know when you read the little package insert that tells you all about the possible side effect of the medication it relates to, the side effects are usually listed in categories like, ‘most common’, ‘less common’ and ‘rare’… well I usually concentrate on the ‘rare’ category because those are usually the side effects I experience. True to character, I got the dreaded and relatively rare infection that I read so much about. The tests showed that the infection is in my blood and had caused my body to reject absolutely everything. I’m not sure if my body thinks it’s helping itself but it refuses to take any nutrients from food, any treatment or relief from medication, I don’t even get any hydration from fluids. Basically, my body has a serious, possibly fatal infection but I’m unable to fight it because my body refuses to absorb the medication, I am dehydrated and malnourished because my body refuses to take in the nutrients from food or liquids and my immune system is pretty much nonexistent because the extremely high doses of chemo have broken me down to almost nothing.
Needless to say, this is not good news. The doctors assessed the tests and even sent them around for further assessment by other doctors in the hope that someone, somewhere could come up with another plan. Unfortunately the unanimous consensus was that we had to stop chemotherapy immediately and that I can never, ever try it again. I was given yet another negative prognosis, more bad news and another heartbreaking death sentence. All of the doctors that viewed my file and the latest test results agreed that if I last another 6 months, it will be an amazement. 6 months… that is what my maximum life expectancy is. I’m still, after two weeks, not sure how to come to terms with that, I don’t know what to say to you or how to sugar coat that one. This could be the last 6 months of my life, what could I possibly say to that? Yes, it’s an opinion, but it’s an educated opinion, it’s the educated opinion of more than 1 specialist that deals with this type of stuff every single day. It’s incredibly difficult to stay positive when these curve balls keep racing at me with the speed of light. It seems like the prognosis gets worse with every test result and my life expectancy decreases with every doctor’s visit. This is not an easy time.
I have never been more afraid or felt more alone than I did on that Monday morning. It was strange though, I was filled with fear, completely and utterly terrified, but looking back at it now, I wasn’t afraid of death, I wasn’t scared of not being here anymore, I was at peace with that, my fear was for my memory. I was so scared that I won’t be remembered or that I’ll be remembered with bitterness and even hatred. I remember thinking, “what if I haven’t done enough in this life, what if I’ve failed, what if I’ve broken more hearts than I’ve warmed or destroyed more lives than I’ve touched? What if my existence has been meaningless and I haven’t done anything of value or anything worth remembering?” I can’t even begin to explain to you how it feels to search 27 years of existence in your mind, desperately looking for a moment or an action that has made your life worth remembering, anything that could possibly, in some small way, have made the world a better place. It’s so humbling to search yourself, your personality and everything you think you know about yourself for anything that makes you worthy of someone else’s memory or a passing thought when you’re no longer around to remind them of your existence. I came to the realization at that point that, it’s really not the destination (death) that I fear, it’s the journey. It’s what happens along the way and how I got through it. Once I leave this world, when I’m no longer around to influence people’s perceptions or make amends for the mistakes I’ve made, the only thing that will be left of me are other people’s memories of me. What I did and who I was will mean nothing if it’s not in YOUR memory of me. That is probably the most terrifying realisation I have ever come to.
I wish that I had something witty and inspirational to say now, something to soften the blow and make this news a little easier to swallow. Unfortunately, I don’t have anything like that, there is nothing that i can say or do that will make this any less real or any less devastating, trust me, I have tried to find the words to calm myself down for a while, there simply aren’t any. It is what it is and unfortunately, at some point, we all have to face the harsh reality that I may not get better, I may not beat this thing and ultimately, this may be the end for me.
What I can tell you is, death sentence or no death sentence, I’m not done fighting yet. Even if all I can do now is fight with my heart, I will fight with my heart. I’m not saying I am or am not going to make it, I’m just saying I’m not going to give up. I believe in destiny, I believe that we all have a ‘time’ and that no matter what; God will do what He wants to do. If it is God’s will for me to go now, if it’s my ‘time’ then so be it, I am comfortable with that, I’m not afraid of death and I am ready but that doesn’t mean that I’m done trying. I will do everything n my power to stay here for as long as I can, if he still wants to take me, I’ll go with the biggest smile knowing that I did everything I could, that I fought with everything in me. Yes, I do wish that I could have more time, there are still things I’d like to see and do but they’re not critical. I know that I may not get to say all of my goodbyes the way I would like to but I like to believe that those people know in their hearts that I thought of them constantly and I carried them with me every step of the way. My love was pure and true and I will always have the memories.
I can’t tell you that I’m not sad, I am, there is so much about this life that I will miss, there are so many people who I can’t imagine being away from and I despise the thought of leaving all the people who I love so dearly, but, in the same breath, I know I have lived. I am content with my life and my experiences and I am ready to be rid of this pain. As awful as it may sound, I honestly look forward to being free of the suffering that cancer has brought into my life. I’m not afraid to leave this world because I know that where I’m going, there is no cancer, no pain, no sleepless nights and no stress. I hope with all of my heart that you can take comfort from that.
I hope, I pray, with all that is in me, that I will leave a few good memories behind, that I have done or been something that warrants a passing thought when I’m gone. My greatest desire at this point is that if there are any memories left of me when I move on, that they are not all bad. I know that I have not saved the world but I truly hope that I have, in some minute way, had some effect on it or at least one or two of the people in it.
All that I ask of you is that you keep these thoughts in mind, that you become conscious of your actions and the effect that what you do and who you are has on the people around you. Be aware of the memory you will leave behind and do everything in your power to make sure that it is a good one.
Be blessed, be strong and don’t take a single moment for granted. You are forever in my heart.
I don’t believe that this will be my last post and so I’m not going to say goodbye just yet but just in case, always remember, I love you all more deeply than I can express and I am forever indebted to you for walking this journey with me. Thank you for the support, the motivation and most of all the love. If it is at all possible, I will stay with you forever and always and watch over you with the deepest gratitude. We will meet again. Stay strong.
One Day At A Time