I don’t want to minimize the plight of the last few months. It’s been rather daunting. Cancer suddenly raging out of control. Anemia. Lung problems. An inability to walk anything but a short distance. And then my oncologist suggesting I consider hospice or at the very least going off treatment. The human brain is not made for such madness.
It started at the end of May when I went in for a chemo treatment, tired and lethargic, unable to walk to my doctor’s office and in need of a wheelchair. When my doctor finally came in to the exam room, she was aflurry. My platlets were too low for chemo. I needed to go to the hospital for a blood transfusion. I’d be parked there for a while as my new medical team assembled. My oncologist would order my chemo. The others? They’d offer comfort, support and hope. They’d tell me tales of success. They would cheer me on and fight with each other on the best way to nurse me back to health.
There were several hospital stays, many transfusions and a lot of guessing about what was going on with me. Moreso, there were divergent opinions about how to best proceed. By the end of June, my oncologist was suggesting I consider life without treatment – that I give up. I wasn’t ready for that.
My mother and I drove home from Memorial Sloan Kettering in a stoney silence that day. I had been so healthy and now this. My dream for a better future was now over. The music stopped and I was without a chair.
For the next few days I knew only a simmering anger. I watched as people with no regard for their bodies lumbered in and out of the hospital while I sat in a wheelchair awaiting a transfusion. I could taste the bile welling up as I thought about all the exercise and healthy eating I’d done that hadn’t offered me any respite. The game was rigged against me. I just had to suck it up.
It seemed to go on like that for weeks, although looking back, it was probably more like days. It doesn’t really matter now. What matters is that it happened. My platlets, the glue that holds the blood together, started to shoot up on their own.
Then came the hemoglobin. It had settled in to the 7 range (11 or more is normal). High 7’s aren’t transfusion eligible while low 7’s are. Suddenly I found myself in the mid-7-range. And then the high 7’s. Then the 8’s.
Here I am in mid-August. My blood infection has healed. My platlets, which once threatened a bleedout, are now back to normal. My hemoglobin is returning to normal. My lungs are healing. I have a new swelling in my right leg, a form of endema. We’ll see where that goes. For now though, my body returns to normal.
I admit, I had my days over the last few months. Some of them were dark. Others were boring. Waiting for death is not fun.
I had a lot of company. When your friends think you’re dying, they come out of the woodwork to see you one last time. Do you think they’ll be disappointed to hear it was a false alarm?
A full recovery is in my future. Even if it’s not “full,” recovery is still part of the here and now. I’ll take it.
I’ve gone from more doctors than I could count to just one and even she’s giving me breathing room while we see how effective this 5FU chemo treatment is. I can’t explain all of the things that went into my success. I can say that staying active, even if it was just walking around the hospital concourse, certainly had its payoffs.
Now in the mornings I get up early with my husband and we go for walks in the park. I can do about 1,000 steps at a time before I need to rest. That’s today’s number. Next week, who knows?
I work out with loop bands and a spirometer. I eat fruit and vegetables from my garden. I consider getting a hair cut. Yesterday, I got a chin and eyebrow wax. The things you choose to do when you figure you’re going to live a while longer.
Maybe this is a lucky reprieve. Maybe I’ve made a few good choices in my life that are coming to roost. Maybe I just needed to relax and let life take its course. There are many answers I don’t have, that I may never have. But I’ll take this hiatus gratefully. Today is one day that I’m glad to be alive.