Her hair is gone now. In only four days, she has lost half of her long, thick red mane. She donates the rest to Locks of Love and shaves her head. She thinks that losing her hair will make her incomprehensibly sad, and yet, it doesn't. She finds a way to rock the G.I. Jane cut and realizes that she doesn't need her hair to be sexy.
Prior to her second round of chemotherapy, she calls her oncologist and has her internist do the same. She is not going to go through such a horrible round of chemo – complete with three days of vomiting and IVs – again.
Her oncologist finally takes her seriously and appreciates that her health history makes her a unique patient. He orders three days of IVs after chemotherapy, but decides to administer those IVs proactively (before she gets sick), rather than reactively. He also gives her five new drugs to take during chemo week.
She hopes that the second round will be better, but it's just different. Side effects from the drugs cause her to be irritable and suffer from temporary amnesia. For five days, she walks around like a moody, forgetful zombie. She has little, if any, memory of conversations she had or emails she sent during those days. The Type-A lawyer who is used to being in control is anything but that.
Her body responds to chemotherapy in the opposite manner of most people. The average patient is exhausted. She can’t sleep for more than six hours a night and isn't able to nap much. The typical female never gets her period again following chemo. She starts to hemorrhage. Most people lose weight from chemotherapy. She gains weight. In 20 days, she has only one day without a chemo-related side effect. Her body is drained.
On October 26th, she loses her friend to colon cancer. He was her partner in the fight against this disease. In three days, she cries more than she’s cried in months. Her heart is heavy.
Four more rounds of chemotherapy and six weeks of radiation await her. And, she knows that nothing about the next four months will be easy.
This experience is the toughest thing that she has endured physically. But then, she reminds herself that:
She will get through this, and she is so very lucky that this was caught at Stage One.
Since early detection is what is saving her, she feels compelled to encourage her friends and readers to check the American Cancer Society’s Early Detection Guidelines.
If you notice an abnormal growth on or under your skin, get yourself to a doctor!
For the female readers:
Breast self-exams every month starting at age 20. If you’re not sure how to do a self-exam, watch this three-minute video;
A clinical breast exam at your annual gynecologist appointment. You should be screened for cervical cancer via a Pap smear three years after you first have sex or by the age of 21 (whichever comes first); and
Annual mammograms starting at age 35 if there’s a history of breast cancer in your family and at age 40 if there’s not.