I knew this day was coming, but on so many levels I have been able to ignore the inevitability.
MY WOUND HAS FINALLY HEALED.
If you saw pictures of my gaping flesh at its worst and compared them to today, you would be amazed. The human body is extraordinary. Mind you, I am still disfigured, but so much less so than I could have imagined. And there is more healing to do...scars will fade, indentations will fill out. One would hope in terms of my mastectomy reconstruction that the worst is over.
But this wound closing also means I can start chemo now. The week after Thanksgiving I will begin poisoning my body in order to make sure no stray cancer cells that may or may not be lurking can ever survive to set up housekeeping -- or at least that's the hope, anyway. Today I am a completely healthy woman with a full head of, yes, I'll say it -- pretty darned nice hair. Within about two weeks time that will all change dramatically. I do not know, nor can anyone predict, how physically devastating chemotherapy will be for me.
During the last few weeks there's been a flurry of doctor appointments to various oncologists that I haven't blogged about. There's been some choices to make between two different drug regimens, along with dosages and actual locations for treatment.
I will receive my treatment at the local hospital, the doctor there is as good if not better than any of the rest, trained at Sloan Kettering, etc -- plus it's only about 15 minutes from home (either home, btw).
I have reluctantly chosen the potentially stronger of two different drug regimens, meaning it will take longer and could possibly make me sicker, cause more side effects -- but it has a better proven track record. However there is one drug of the three that I may use the newer version of in hopes that it will leave me with a lessened risk of permanent side effects -- particularly my greatest fear, which is neuropathy.
It has also been suggested that I take the first phase of drugs in shorter rounds, as in every 2 weeks. Although that leaves my body less time to recover between rounds it might have a higher success rate. This is called "dose dense". I haven't decided that one yet. I think I might try it -- I can change my mind at any point and slow down the time between rounds if my understanding is correct. There is a slight chance of heart problems with one of the drugs and I need to know if dose density increases it. Although because I am young it is believed to be a very, very low risk.
The particular chemo regimen I've chosen will take anywhere between 4-6 months, depending on dose density and my individual tolerance. The other regimen would have taken only 3-4 months. In the scheme of life that's not a huge difference in time but in the midst of suffering...well, you get the idea. This was a tough choice.
I swing back and forth between calm, purpose driven multi-tasking and literally laying in bed with the covers pulled up over my head and hiding from even the simplest of requirements. I find my mind tracing mental pathways back to other times I have endured...from the emotionally devastating to the physically dangerous. While former evidence of my apparent ability to overcome adversity gives me comfort, it also terrifies me. Is there a limit? Where is the line between what strengthens or diminishes us?
What will this all look like on the other side, will I even recognize myself? Having come thru some major traumas before I know that I might not. I also know that change wrought by ordeal is a double edged sword that can transform our lives for the better or for the worse. It takes sheer strength of perspective to determine which it will be.
That is what I wish for, what I need now: an unending source of industrial strength perspective.