I’m lucky when it comes to lots of things in life as long those things don’t involve money. I won’t bore you with brags about being lucky but my latest luck is totally worth a brag. Not only did I finish my first round of chemo last week–12 infusions of Taxol and Herceptin– I finished it WITH HAIR. Yes, hair. ON MY HEAD. And blood counts that were never *even a bit* affected by treatment.
To put this into perspective, my wonderful and amazing chemo nurse, Nurse J, said she has treated hundreds of patients with Taxol and only a couple haven’t lost their hair. Same with the blood counts– it is rare that someone makes it through chemo without dips in white blood cell counts.
Before I started chemo, I had no idea what to expect. When would I be bald? How fatigued would I be? Would I be able to get off the couch? Go out with my friends? Continue doing yoga?
At the outset of my treatment, my family came over and did an insane cleaning of my house, surely expecting that I’d be too tired to do that sort of stuff.
My talented and beautiful cousin Caitlin, who does makeup and styling to the stars, came over to cut my long locks short in anticipation of impending baldness. She kept my hair and started researching how to make wigs. My lifelong friend Sheryl, a professionally-trained fine art photographer, came and documented the event.
And then I never went bald.
In fact, the months of chemo turned out way easier than I imagined in pretty much every way. I continued doing yoga and exercising. I still saw my friends and had fun and even went skiing. I was perfectly capable of cleaning my house (even though I rarely show off my full capabilities in this arena).
The ease of my chemo experience was thanks in part to the fact that only one of the two drugs I received was the typical carpet-bombing, kill-everything-in-sight-including-hair-cells-and-mouth-cells chemo drug. The other drug was a “targeted therapy,” which means it attacks only the cancer cells. And attack it did. The Herceptin I got shrunk my formerly-gigantic breast tumor to the point where my oncologist can no longer feel it manually.
I have struggled intermittently with depression, but in general, my cancer angst has lifted. For now, I’m not worrying about dying. Living, however, can get complicated and overwhelming while raising two young kids, especially when you throw cancer into the mix. But one thing is certain: Kids have a special foolproof way of making sure you don’t dwell on cancer and your own needs. Depending on the moment, this can be either a very good or a very bad thing. Luckily the scales usually tip toward good.