Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Time Flies When You're Not Doing Chemo

Last sesh : July 10, 2012

I'm hitting a lot of milestones these days. Buying our first home, hitting my first cancerversary, getting married, just did my 50th blog post recently, turning 30 in a few weeks... Today is another one of those 'big days' for me because it is exactly one year ago that I completed my final Taxol chemotherapy session. Yes, once again, I am choosing to note any major cancer anniversary date that has meaning for me. Who knew there would be so many of them? And who would have thought I would have been able to retain exact calendar dates in my head too! (Take that chemo brain!)

Really, I can't believe a whole year has gone by. It feels like yesterday that I was getting flowers from my chemo nurses and marching out that door all semi-proud, confused and high. As I think back to it, I recall that last treatment not being a good day actually... Not that any chemo day is good... but there were definitely better and more comfortable ones than my last one.

First off, my regular attending physician was on holiday, as was my favourite chemo nurse who never had issues with starting my IV and could always tell when I needed an Ativan. For some reason these two ladies had become my human security blankets during treatment. So you can probably guess that having them gone on my final infusion made me a little sad and a tad more anxious than normal.

Not only were my two 'regulars' not there, I had a really ignorant doctor 'subbing' in who talked about my 'rare' case to an intern as if I wasn't even in the same room. He spoke about my diagnosis as if it was a death sentence and I remember an intense panic taking over as I received my pre-meds. Ahhh yes... those fun pre-meds... To make things even more crappy, the nurses who started my line also had troubles due to my collapsed veins and ended up having to poke me 3 times and much to my dissatisfaction, finally had to settle with the inside of my wrist. (hurt like a biiiiiaaaatch!)

Chillin' in the 'big girl' chair.
And finally, the last bit of let-down was that no one else was getting treatment that day. Nobody. Just little ol' me. I was all alone whereas I would normally have 3 to 5 familiar chemo friends to chat with for added company.

Yep - It was my last day, the day we had been waiting for... where people cheer for you and you anticipate some kind of celebratory send-off.

And there I was... solo-ing it.

This was not how my usual chemos rolled. And other than getting to do the final drip countdown at the very end - it was truly awful. As was the entire four and a half month experience of course. But this day took the cake for being worst chemo day ever. How sad I was that it just happened to be the last one that had to be so shitty.
Stoned Chemo Graduate.

I know at the time it was a bittersweet feeling being told I was done. I definitely felt the safety-net pulled out from under me and have quite honestly struggled with a mixed bag of emotions ever since. I can remember feeling so lost that week after it was all over. I felt like I was being set free from jail but couldn't leave my cell.

Getting through the strange unexpected emotions of completion has not been easy and I learn more and more about navigating through 'survivorship' each day.

Looking back at the last year as I have recovered from both chemo and radiation I know I am a changed person in more ways than one. Each month I would gain a little bit more physical strength but I would feel discouraged quite often at the slowness of my progress. Although I would like to say I am now back to the way I was strength-wise before treatment it is hard to tell if I am. Some days I feel like I have several hours of energy and others I am frustrated that I can't keep up or do more in my day. And when it comes to big events like our wedding day I really feel it. I didn't even get drunk and I felt totally bagged and excitement-hungover for 3 days after the weekend!

Even Monday morning as I walked to the post office, down to the beach and back home again I felt exhausted. What used to feel like a simple light and easy walk now feels more like a tiring trek. Maybe it's the Tamoxifen. Maybe it's the combination of all of the treatments. Maybe I have been over-doing it. Or maybe I have just not conditioned myself enough. Either way, it drives me nuts and I seriously wish for my early 20-something pre-cancer body.

If someone had told me that one year post-chemo I would still feel ancient getting up in the morning or standing up after sitting for a long period of time... Or if I had been warned that chemo brain would linger and I would be struggling with spelling the simplest of words a year later - I would have bawled. Actually, I still feel like crying about it. It bloody well sucks!

But one thing is for sure, I am just so happy to be passed that mind-f%$# of a time in my life that was chemotherapy. That shit ain't fun and I hope to hell it is the last and ONLY time I ever have to go through it.



  1. AMEN! One year and counting up, you're doing great Ashely.

  2. Ashley,first Congratulations on your marriage to Mike. It has been a tough time for you , reading what you put on your blog has helped me realize, that the feelings I get at times are normal (what ever normal is .)
    I Know that I am a lot older than you and the cancer is different, but regardless cancer is cancer and it sucks. We live so close we must try to make time for tea. I want to see your wedding pictures :)

    1. Hey Sharon.... thanks so much... I am glad that I was able to help you feel more normal by sharing... I would love to get together for tea some time... I will message you soon on fb. Big hugs. xo

  3. The lonely picture of you in that chair makes me really sad, Ash. It's also an important visual. I'm damn glad those chemo chapters are in the past, but you went through far too much. I'm grateful that Mike was your fearless partner (and even happier now that he's your husband for life), and I know you've been able to draw on support from family and friends far and wide. I just wish you never had to experience all of the pain, fear, discomfort and uncertainty. As always, I'm very impressed and profoundly proud of you.

    1. Your message was so sweet... thanks so much Ben. Feeling grateful.

  4. Thank you for sharing this post - and your blog. I'm only finished with my first cycle of chemo. 7 more to go. And it's hard to find/connect with younger women going through this situation having similar feelings. I appreciate your words.

    1. Hey there... I hope that your tx is going ok... as ok as chemo can go. Sorry you are going through this. It does help to connect with other young ladies though. Please reach out whenever you need to.