10 May 2011

I Kicked Cancer's Ass

Yup, that's right. I. Am. Done. I finally had my last chemo treatment this morning. Now I just have one more appointment with my oncologist and I can receive a clean bill of health.

I know I should be excited, so forgive me if I don't sound like it at all. Believe me, I am celebrating on the inside. The me on the inside is doing a cute little happy dance as I type this. Right now though, I just feel tired. Of course, I have chemo-induced fatigue to thank for that.

Prior to today, I had thought that this last session would end in excitement. I had hoped to leave the infusion room with a huge smile on my face and plans to celebrate with a huge pizza and a beer. (After all, I haven't had any alcohol since Thanksgiving.) The reality was, I was still way too tired to do anything but stay in bed - not to mention the fact that I'm still not allowed to drink any alcohol for another six weeks.

As for the chemo session itself, I slept right though it, like I had done the last few times. Both my mom and Lucas were there with me the whole time, and I can imagine how boring it must have been for them to just sit there and watch me sleep. My nurse, Joy, only woke me up when it was time to remove my PICC line. It didn't hurt when I had my last one removed, but I had been afraid that it would hurt this time because my arm was more swollen and scabby. But nope, I didn't feel a thing. One, because she pulled it out faster than I could notice, and two, I was way too groggy to care.

I remember when I wrote my last LWC post, Even the Small Victories Count, how positive I was. I remember writing that getting through each week was a victory, how enjoying my weeks off was a victory, and how being able to eat a pulled pork sandwich without throwing up was a victory. Looking back now, I realize my ideas of "victory" were a little - I don't want to say selfish - but maybe superficial is the right word. After all, I am extremely lucky. Hodgkin's Lymphoma has over a 90% survival rate...and here I am, perfectly healthy apart from fatigue. Some people aren't so lucky. There are some people, younger than I am, who have had to deal with much worse things. And sadly, not everyone is as lucky as I am. Three days ago, I attended the memorial service of a classmate I've known since fifth grade, who was diagnosed with another type of cancer. He passed away at the age of 21. I know that people even younger than that die everyday, but frankly, 21 is still way too young.

If you had asked me several months ago what I expected to learn from this experience once I finished chemo, I regrettably would have focused on my appearance. I probably would have said something like, "I want to show people that I can look fabulous even while going through chemo." And I'll admit it, I was proud to run into people - new friends and old - who would tell me that I have perfect hair and that I must spend forever making the strands fall into place. Let's face it though, kicking cancer's ass is about so much more than deceiving people, making them believe you're healthy when you're really not. If you had asked me in the beginning what I expected to learn from this experience, I probably would have said something bitter like, "Having cancer sucks. And I could have learned that without getting it myself." Fortunately, I have a lot more insight about it now. As cliché as this may sound, what I learned is that the most important thing is to have hope and surround yourself with people who love and care about you. Whether you're religious or not, hope truly is a powerful thing. To anyone who is reading this who might still be going through treatment, remember, you are more beautiful than you realize. Hope is more beautiful than any vintage dress or wig you can put on.

[image source: printfection.com]

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