Yesterday I had a huge blow to my confidence, and my spirits. I finally saw the oncologist, and what does he say we need to do? Not just chemo, but 6 months of chemo, at two days per week intervals. I haven’t even heard of chemo lasting more than a few hours at a time, and I get it for 48. How did I ever get so lucky? Yes, I sound glib, but I’m not really sure what else to do. I feel like my recovery, the 5k, everything has now been compromised. Everything.
I’m going to try to explain, to the best of my ability, how the oncologist explained my specific treatment. My cancer turned out to be a stage II, but a “late stage II,” meaning 2B. This means that the cancer has not only penetrated the muscular layer of my colon, but it has reached the outer lining of the colon. This makes it scarier, simply because the cancer was not necessarily as well-isolated as I had thought. This alone is a big enough blow to upset me. So, normally at stage II, with an older patient, the doctors do surgery and hope for the best. At an older age, chemo is not always a good option and often makes things worse, rather than better. But, since I am the ripe old age of 26, my doc suggests a more aggressive treatment. “We will treat it as we treat a stage III colon cancer,” he says. At this point, whatever the suggestion is can’t be good, right? So, then we get into specific drugs, mine being “Folfox” or a combination of Leucovorin Calcium (Folinic Acid), Flouroucil, and Oxaliplatin. Possible side effects to this treatment: thinning hair, extreme sensitivity to cold, rashes on the hands and feet, fatigue, sensitivity to sunlight, weight loss or gain, numbness, burning, or tingling in the extremities, and a change in the ability to taste food. All of the great stuff you think of when you hear chemotherapy, I get to enjoy for the next six months. Oh, and my treatment involves receiving a port, which is essentially a semi-permanent I.V. that goes underneath the skin in the upper chest. Yes, it will make a lump under my skin, and yes I expect to be fully repulsed by it. When I go get my treatment, they will hook a tube up to my port and give me a bag that contains the Folfox, which I get to wear over my shoulder for two days out of every week. The doc tells me to expect to be worthless when I’m actually on treatment, and just see how it goes otherwise.
I met with one of my bosses today to discuss the action plan for me for the rest of the school year. Biggest upsetting decision: my class is being taken from me. I only got to teach one day – the first day. I haven’t been in the classroom since, as I found out the following day that I had cancer. This really hit home in terms of my feelings of worth and well being. Now, I can’t say that I teach. I just do piddly tasks for the Communications Director for the school website and public relations. I’m no one and I mean very little to anyone, in terms of my employment here. I have said it before, but I am so lucky to be here, at Asheville School, now, instead of anywhere else I have ever been. Though my class is gone, I am being fully supported by the school, in every way. I can’t say that any other employer would do the same.
Oh, so after the bad news yesterday, I decided to get a nice, new haircut. Verve A Salon is where I went and Jola was my hairstylist. She was fantastic and put a happy note on my otherwise unhappy day. Thank goodness for kind, and talented, people.