This is one of those posts that I end up debating with myself over whether I should post it or not. It's a meaningful post to me. I want to get it out of me. But, I worry that it's depressing, or overly dramatic, or something crazy like that. Today, I've decided to go with it. Life isn't always happy, so it seems silly for my blog to always be happy.
As I've mentioned several times now, my mom has (had?) breast cancer. I included the "had" in there because it's an important point. She had localized cancer that was surgically removed. All of her tests came back negative for the cancer having spread. It's very possible that the surgery removed all of the cancer cells and that she's cured. The chemotherapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapies she will be receiving are extra therapies in case some of those sneaky HER2+ cells slipped by. They are being given because they reduce the likelihood of the cancer recurring.
I know this is not the worst case scenario when it comes to cancer.
But that doesn't mean that I'm not scared for my mom. I am. I've read over all of the information on the medications that she will be given starting on Wednesday. They don't mince words. Some people do very well with the regimen. Many people do. But...of course there is always a but. With chemo, there is a pretty long list of them. Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, bruising, fatigue, fluid retention, risk of infection, mouth sores, cardiac complications, allergic reactions, death. Eek!
Clearly, that slight risk of death from the medications is a tad bit scary. But, when my mind starts wandering into that territory, I just go into distract mode. I need to know this, but dwelling on it doesn't help anything so I do my best to focus on areas with more benefit, like what things I can do now to make things easier for my mom in the weeks to come.
One thing that I can do, is consider the much more likely effects of Chemo, and find ways to help my mom through them. I've done some shopping to stock up on necessities for her. She may not feel great, but damn it, she will not run out of soda on my watch. I'm working out a mental schedule of when to stop over and check on her and do small tasks like changing the cat litter (which she's not allowed to do even if she feels great), picking up laundry and doing shopping. I want to make sure that the little things are covered, so she can focus on the big things.
From her point of view, I think one of the hardest side effects to deal with is the idea of hair loss. It's so much a part of every woman's identity, that just thinking of losing your hair feels like it somehow diminishes you. On paper, it seems like the easiest side-effect because it doesn't hurt, but in reality it's the most visible indication that something is wrong.
From my point of view, the common side-effect that disturbs me the most is the increased risk of infection. The first reason is because I don't want her getting sick while also dealing with the effects of chemo. The second reason is because it means that she is supposed to avoid being around crowds and people who may expose her to germs. And who spreads germs better than an almost five-year-old who goes to daycare, picks his nose, and still hasn't entirely grasped the concept of how tissues work?
Michael has spent at least two days a week with my mom since he was three months old. She has always been a huge part of his life. He looks forward to "grandma days" with excitement. And the feeling is mutual. To quote my mom, "He's the whole purpose to my life."
This week, Michael starts daycare full time. If my mom does well on chemo, somewhere down the line she may be able to take him for a day here or there. But I don't want to make promises to either of them. And it makes me really sad. Sad for my mom that during this difficult time she will not have the comfort of Michael hugs and giggles. Sad for Michael who doesn't really understand what is going on and who is going to miss his grandma terribly. She came over for Easter dinner last night, but it felt more like the last supper to me. Their last supper together, at least for a while.
The current treatment plan calls for four three week cycles of chemo. That's 12 weeks, or three months. I'm sure that those weeks are going to fly by for me. I'm going to be busy juggling work, my normal life, and caring for my mom. It's going to be July before I even know it.
But, I'm not foolish enough to think that those 12 weeks are going to fly by for either of them. Time goes much slower when you are five, so I expect those 12 weeks to feel like an eternity to Michael. Even worse, time goes very slowly when you feel sick and miserable, so I also expect those weeks to be painfully long for my mom. It makes my heart ache for them both.