I’m tired. Fatigued really. It’s a side effect of the chemo, targeted therapies, the week before finals, and the general craziness before the holidays. There’s a million things to do, it seems. My daughter, S, was the lead in her school winter play, and the performance was last week. This week, she has her winter dance recital…on a day when we have three other major events happening. It’s been one of those weeks for my husband for the last three weeks at work. The only one not causing us to rush around and adding to the million things to do is my son. AJ’s content to stay at home and read Goosebumps or play Lego Star Wars. To add to the craziness, I will graduate with my master’s degree this week. So, I’m tired. I haven’t slept well in weeks. Again, it’s a side effect.
When it comes to side effects, I’ve been fairly lucky. The chemo regiment I’m on is a hard one. I’m on TCHP (Taxotere, Carboplatin, Herceptin, and Perjeta…a new-ish regiment). Thankfully, it seems to working the way it should, but some of the side effects are brutal. The fatigue and the taste of I-just-brushed-my-teeth-then-drank-orange-juice really gets to me. I’ve dealt with hair loss. I haven’t lost all my hair, but I’ve lost enough that I will not go out without wearing a hat or one of my wigs. I’m just not comfortable otherwise. I’ve dealt with acne breakouts. I’ve dealt with digestive side effects. Thankfully, I haven’t (yet) dealt with nausea, mouth sores, bone pain, or flu-like symptoms. I’ve only missed one day of work (outside of days for treatment) and that was because I developed laryngitis and could not talk, at all, one day. That’s a problem for a teacher.
My treatment schedule is TCHP every three weeks for six rounds then Herceptin every three weeks for a year. So, next September 28th, maybe I’ll be done. Hopefully, I’ll be done and this will just be a bad memory. I’m scheduled to have round 5 next week, and then one more in January. Then, surgery. The double mastectomy.
I have friends who think it’s cool I’m going to have a double mastectomy because I’ll get implants. They ask me if I’m excited to get new breasts, and I don’t know what to say. No, I’m not excited. No, I don’t want implants. I want my breasts. I don’t want to have major surgery and miss weeks upon weeks of work. I like my job. I want to be at work doing what I love. I don’t want to deal with surgical pain and drains. I don’t want to wake up from surgery to find out that the cancer is in my lymph nodes. We know the screening tests have not shown anything in the lymph nodes thus far, but we won’t know for sure until surgery. So, am I excited? Are you crazy? No. I don’t want to have breast cancer, so why would I be excited to get a mastectomy and implants? Would you be excited? That’s what I want to ask them. But, I don’t. I just look at them because we are friends, and I know they’re saying it to make me feel better or to encourage me to see the brighter side of this surgery, but it doesn’t. My life is so different, and it will never be the same again. I will never look like “me” again, or that’s how I feel. It doesn’t matter if the implants are the same size as what I have now, which is what I plan to do, even though one of my friends jokingly thinks it would be awesome if I got big implants. Again…no, are you crazy? There’s nothing awesome about having a mastectomy and getting implants. There just isn’t. And, I wish people would realize that. It’s not the bright side of this journey.
The bright side is having surgery and finding out the cancer isn’t in my lymph nodes. The bright side is Herceptin and Perjeta doing their jobs and letting me live long enough to see my children grow up so I can be there for them. The bright side is growing old with my husband. The bright side is all the things I’m afraid this cancer will steal from me. But, I know Herceptin and Perjeta are wonder drugs and have done amazing things for women with my subtype of breast cancer, so I’m cautiously hopeful. I want to be one of those women.
I have a friend who just celebrated her 10th anniversary of surviving Stage 2B HER2 breast cancer. I want to be her. I have a friend who just celebrated her 11th anniversary of surviving Stage IIIB HER2 inflammatory breast cancer. I want to be her. And, I know to have the chance to be either of these women, I have to suffer through the side effects and little annoyances.