I was having a hard time falling asleep last night. This is not entirely uncommon. I tossed and turned for a bit and was playing back the events of the past 9 months. I basically rewinded from today to the day I was told Elena has cancer. I cringed at the God awful memories, but for the most part, had this overwhelming sense of relief as I looked back at how lucky we have been in terms of how quickly she progressed and responded to treatment and how well, for the most part she has bounced back each time from chemo.
Then I replayed the conversation with Elena’s oncologist after her first scan at CHOP. I’m not sure why, but the term “Stage II” sent me into a panic attack. Cancer. Stage II cancer. What???? Not that I don’t think this word and say the word and hear the word on a daily basis, but saying the staging of it at diagnosis was like a slap in my face at 1:15am.
My chest felt suddenly heavy and my breathing became fast and shallow. What the hell? It’s been 9 months since hearing the diagnosis and staging and for crying out loud, we’re almost DONE with treatment. But here I am, laying in bed, not sleeping ready to have a heart attack over it.
I’ve been told that the end of treatment surfaces a lot of unsettling feelings. As if all the emotions you haven’t felt come crashing down on you. I figured I could skip this part, as I’ve been trying my best to deal with the emotions as they come instead of bottling them in for another time. But that’s not the reason for the unease as we approach the end of chemo…
From the start, I think I’ve somehow separated the emotions from the actual cancer. Weird, I know, but hear me out. In terms of “cancer,” I’ve become…I don’t know, a nurse of sorts. The names of each drug Elena receives as a part of her chemotherapy- Vincristine, Dactinomycin,Cytoxin and Irinotecan. Her medications and antibiotics she takes at home and the dosages of them. More than I ever thought I would understand about platelets, hemoglobin, white blood cells and ANC. The difference of each of them and symptoms to watch for when they are respectively low. Cancer- Rhabdomyosarcoma. Got it.
The emotions have been seperate. A direct cause of course, but not necessarily dealt with together. Anger…a lot of that. Heartache of epic proportions. Fear. So much fear it’s suffocating. No parent should ever have to question the life expectancy of their child. While we were fortunate enough to have that fear quickly negated, it was there…most especially during the first week of diagnosis. But it wasn’t until her first scan at 6 weeks on treatment, when I saw the images of the drastic change in the size of her tumor, that the fear was quelled. And then there is the fear of what’s to come. I know I can’t live in it and let it define our lives, but it’s there, and will be forever. A hundred thousand other emotions in the meantime. All felt and “dealt” with.
Stage II. CANCER. As we draw nearer to ending chemo, having her end of treatment biopsy and removing her port, the weight of it is hitting me. Hard. Upside the head. The diagnosis and emotions are intertwining and befriending each other, while I’m tossing and turning trying desperately to catch my breath in the middle of the night. Here’s to findings my balance, footing and strength for this next stage of “new normal.”