Letters

During the bouts of cancer diagnosis and treatments, Rachel writes e-mails to keep her friends and family updated on her thoughts and spiritual walk.

Love, struggling and hot water

August 22, 2004

Well, I’m two weeks into the first course of chemo.

 

The first week was nasty. It felt like having a terrible flu or, for the women, the absolute worst day of your first trimester. Sick and so so tired. I had the anti-nausea drugs but only used them to manage the nausea, not eliminate it. Eating helped but it was really really really hard to even think about food much less get it down. I don’t know if eliminating it is possible but I think I’m going to give it a shot this next time by eating more regularly and taking more drugs. I haven’t really had any other side effects so far other than headaches and some gastrointestinal “issues” – side effects from the anti-nausea drugs. They say that the first round is indicative of how you will respond each time to the drugs so hopefully there won’t be other side effects later on. If anything, the coming rounds may be easier as this first round was harder, I think, because I was still recovering from the port-o-cath surgery and thus was in a fair amount of pain in addition to the effects of chemo. The chest pain, by the way, abated finally and all the test results were negative.

 

The hardest thing was not knowing how long it would last. They (doctors, nurses, books, etc.) said that Day 2 and 3 would be the worst but Day 3-5 were by far the hardest for me. By Saturday evening I was starting to feel good again and this week I’ve been able to do most everything while still being careful to rest. Made a trip to Costco (on a Saturday – madness even in the best of health) and have been to church which, although I get tired more easily, are things that allow me feel “normal.”

 

Everyone wants to know about my hair – well, it’s still hanging in there. Hanging on for dear life as I seem to be losing less than normal!! They said 2-3 weeks and this coming week is week 3. I find it quite curious that losing my hair doesn’t seem to be a big deal. I’m a chick and hair is important to chicks ergo I should care. But I don’t really. If anything I’m just irritated because I spent the last two years growing out a really bad haircut and finally got it to where I wanted it, oh, about two months ago. Of course, I haven’t lost it yet and I might not be so cavalier after it’s gone. Stay tuned.

 

I had another follow-up appointment with my surgeon on Wednesday. Was supposed to be just a “drop by and see how you’re doing” thing so I went alone. (My recovery from surgery has been great, by the way – I have full range of motion and the residual pain caused from those roughed up nerves is already gone.) After the chit chat about how I was feeling, he asked if I’d seen Dr. Gelmon (my oncologist) recently. I told him that I hadn’t seen her in the last week and he proceeded to tell me that my case had been brought up for discussion at a recent breast conference. (Ahhh…my 15 minutes of fame.) Long story short – the BC Cancer Agency has pathologists who review the specimens of patients referred to the BCCA and that doc found another small (1mm) tumour in the tissue they removed back in July.

 

This doesn’t change anything – I don’t think. I still have to meet with Dr. Gelmon this coming Friday prior to my 2nd round of chemo (30 Aug.) and she’ll discuss it with me then. Some of the doctors at the conference were recommending that I have a mastectomy now but my surgeon didn’t agree and felt that they were in the minority. It was a bit of a blow to learn there was another tumour only because it continues to reinforce that this is something I’m going to deal with for the rest of my life. And that so much is still – and will remain – unknown.

 

Strangely, I have found that I have become more thankful through this experience. I don’t say this to boast because I am not a very contented person to begin with and I still complain (far too often and about things that are unimportant) but, in the face of cancer and the accompanying pain and discomfort that comes with treatment, sometimes my first reaction is to be thankful. I actually find it quite odd that I can be doing something simple, like having a shower this morning, and finding myself being grateful for the fact that I have hot water to bathe. Hot water. Not exactly up there on the list of things to be grateful for when you have cancer. But there it is. Hot water. Realizing your mortality has a certain way of making you appreciate life. That’s no surprise. But what does surprise me is how I can struggle and still be thankful.

 

And I am struggling. More emotionally, in many ways, than physically. During the worst of the first week I was so down as I looked at the long road ahead and thought, “I don’t want to do this. And I’ve only just begun.” I am often frustrated and easily irritated. I feel, too often, unsettled. Not at peace. Ask Neil. Ask my mom. They bear the brunt of the storm that rages in my body and in my head. I feel like I’m in a battle. More for my heart than against this cancer. So, in the midst of my struggling, I cling to this: “He will quiet you with his love.” (Zephaniah 3:17). His love. That allows me to know Him. That has given me so much – even hot water. And so He quiets me. With his love. And I am thankful.

 

love,
rb

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