I didn’t hear what I wanted to hear today. I wanted to hear that the breast surgery was the end of my struggle. But that was not meant to be.
I will need to undergo chemotherapy and radiation treatments. It wasn’t a surprise. Those words have been spoken more than a few times since my diagnosis, but when they’re used in terms that are hypothetical and alongside “if” and “maybe,” they’re still safe and harmless. Now, they sting. It seems even more real now. This cancer is very real, and it’s going to be a long, long time before I can count it as a memory.
My oncologist, Dr. Huy Nguyen, described chemo, and thinks that given my age and relative good health, it won’t leave me sick and weak. He told me about all the various precautions against nausea and secondary infections that come along with the chemo. He said to expect a treatment every two weeks for about two months.
He also told me that radiation treatments take only a few minutes, and that I’ll spend more time on the road on the way to the appointments than in the office itself. Apart from it being done every weekday for a few weeks, he made it sound pretty manageable; definitely not as hellish as I’d pictured, for sure. He described the fatigue I’d experience, but assured me that I won’t be helpless or bedridden.
That made me feel hopeful. Maybe this really will be just another story to tell; another anecdote. And on top of my normal course of chemo drugs, I might even be participating in a clinical trial.
After my meeting with Dr. Nguyen, I had my post-op appointment with Dr. Yee, my surgeon. She removed my drains. That certainly improved my mood. Having the drains wasn’t awful, but they were always in the way and awkward. It was hard to sleep with them and definitely hard to shower with them. I thought I was facing another week with them, but I’m healing quickly enough, I guess, to warrant early removal. I’m grateful for that.
I’m grateful for a lot of things, actually. I’m grateful that I don’t have liver cancer. I’m grateful it’s not one of my kids who is ill. I believe an important step in facing adversity is to find gratitude even in the smallest things, and I’m trying very hard to do that. But the fear is also still there.
But I took an important step in eliminating the fear today, too. I talked to Hubert Hayakawa, a psychiatrist at Kaiser. It was good to talk to somebody outside the situation for a few minutes; someone who doesn’t know me or my family, and if I get nothing else from him, I think I have some relaxation tips. I’m going to join a support group, too. The first meeting is in late April, around the time I start chemotherapy.
I know I have a happy, healthy future. But it’s further away than I thought.