Monday, March 26, 2012

At last

This morning I had my final Herceptin treatment.

As much as I love the ladies in the oncology suite I fervently hope I never have to set foot there again until the day I die of natural causes at the age of 84.  I made them a plate of chocolate gingerbread which somehow seemed inadequate (not to say unhealthy) for all the great care they had provided to me.

I feel like I have run a particularly gruelling torturous marathon. I sat down the other day and did my 'out of pocket' medical expenses table for the accountant (thank you, evil Medicare and health insurer for not paying me for any of my Chinese medical expenses and no it is NOT a lifestyle choice).

It made me feel quite unwell to revisit all I have been through.    It was almost like going through it again.  And of course I felt relieved that I was even around to be doing an Excel spreadsheet of medical costs. Because that is what people say don't they?  That we should be thinking 'well at least I'm not dead'.  But really you could say that about any crap experience. It doesn't make it any less horrendous.

A particularly satisfying rainbow down at the beach

When I look at my treatment course I find it hard to believe I found the time to keep working.  And cooking. And being a wife.  And raising two occasionally temperamental children who have been through something no child should have to (as much as I tried to keep on an even keel and keep it hidden, they knew, as all children do, that things were not quite right last year).  

I certainly didn't have the time to write here as much as I could have or should have.

You see, it's not just the chemo which is distracting.  It is all the miscellanea, or paraphernalia which comes with a cancer diagnosis.

As a test, I thought I would see if I can remember what has in fact been keeping me busy since 20 December 2010. And lo and behold, I could.  Engraved on my soul, I guess you could say:
  • two major operations
  • two breast biopsies
  • one MRI
  • 2 CT scans
  • 2 bone scans
  • one liver ultrasound.
  • two mammograms
  • two breast ultrasounds
  • 4 x fortnightly AC chemotherapy (average length - four to 5 hours)
  • 12 x weekly Taxol chemo (average length 3 hours)
  • 12 x weekly Herceptin infusion (with Taxol)
  • 15 x 3 weekly Herceptin infusion (average 2 hours).
  • 5 heart scans (MUGA and EKG)
  • 1 stereoscopic biopsy.
  • 4 self injections of Neulastin (for blood count)
  • 6 x injections of Zolodex (don't ask)
  • 11 surgical consultations
  • similar number oncology consultations
  • monthly acupuncture and Chinese herbal consultation with the Professor.
  • countless, and I do mean too many to count, blood tests. 
And I hasten to point out my treatment was relatively straightforward with very few complications.

It's a full time job, having cancer.   These things take time.  Getting the referral, booking appointments, sitting around waiting waiting.  Drinking something awful or having blood taken and waiting a bit more.   Trying not to stare too much at the other people.  Burying my nose in a book or my IPhone.   Waiting a bit more. 

I have sat in many waiting rooms.  Waiting rooms with nothing but four year old golf magazines. Waiting rooms with ugly flower paintings.  With silly background musak. With morning TV.   With people sitting staring at the wall trying to come to terms with unspeakable news.  With people crying. 

But I have also made wonderful friends, and shared many many jokes with all kinds of people, because when things are black one can often still find a reason to smile.  

THANK YOU ALL for your words of encouragement, support and friendship.  What I would have done without you all, I do not know. 

In a horrible kind of symmetry, last week a lovely fellow blogger, Annie, who is from Queensland was diagnosed with breast cancer.  Please visit her here and give her lots of support.


Makeminemidcentury said...

Thank you for mentioning Annie. Life can be completely crap sometimes. I can't believe you've managed to keep working and being a mother either, but then maybe that's the key ... to just keep going.

I'm glad you blogged about your experience because it's been valuable for me, not ever having experienced such an horrendous diagnosis, and it'll be helpful for anyone who has to face the unimaginable.

Beautiful House said...

Jane, you are amazing. Have a fabulous week.xx

brismod said...

I thought of you when I heard about Annie. It's heartbreaking.

I'm glad to hear that you've had your final treatment. I hope the c word will be a distant memory and perhaps your story will give Annie some hope.

The world is less lonely when you have someone to compare notes with. xx

Sarah B said...

What a journey. I'm amazed that through all that you still worked and mothered. It was so good of you to share it with us as I'm sure it has helped many people, even those of us like myself who is close to someone going through a similar experience.
Onward and upward!

JOE. D said...

'Congratulations' is such a tiny word in relation to all that you have been through. But. It also sums up a 'finale' of sorts on making it through. So, the HUGEST of CONGRATULATIONS to you and you reach far more than 84. Take care (-:

LPC said...

You're back! And you're OK!

BabyMac said...

It's amazing what you have been through...I'm so glad you made it I hope there is a bucket of champagne somewhere waiting for you!

Jenny said...

Well done Jane and thank you for sharing your journey, I am sure it has opened a lot of peoples eyes to what really is involved. It certainly did for me. xx

Maxabella said...

A triumph, Jane. This post has me in tears - happy tears and tears of relief. x

Ann said...

What a list indeed. A truly awful year for you and your family and friends. Thank you for sharing some of it here, I 'm hoping never to need to go back and read it all again for a friend (or me) but the stats say otherwise.

Now go forth, cook, read, decorate and muse - you'll have hours and hours more time in your wonderful healthy new life. I hope to read a little of what you get up to - I always feel better informed after your posts!

A x

Jane said...

Ann - Yes! And what about that coffee? email me! xo

The House That A-M Built said...

Oh Jane, what a journey. You have handled it all with such dignity and grace. Celebrate girl, celebrate! A-M xx

jules @ The Diversion Project said...

woohoooooo! good on you darl, you've endured it all. Now, as A-M says, time to celebrate. And no more waiting, go out and do everything you've not had time for or have been putting off.

so happy for you xxx

Mise said...

Well done, Jane. What an arduous time, and I hope you feel some triumph, albeit a tired triumph, at having reached this point and overcome so much. I really, really hope that your life will get a bit easier now, and that you will have time to flit about and enjoy yourself. xx

Jane said...

Oh Jane, you darling girl. This is the post I've been waiting so patiently for - just brilliant. I am so relieved that phase is over for you.

Your indomitable strength and quiet dignity throughout have been extraordinary to observe.

Thankyou for sharing your journey with us - it's been incredibly informative as Ann says.

Now, the rest of your life starts now! J x

Jacqueline @ HOME said...

I cannot imagine the feeling that you now have Jane. To have finished your treatment must be such a huge milestone after all that you have had to endure.
Now it's time to get on with everyday life, but without that big cloud hanging over you. Enjoy everything that life brings now.
I cannot express in words how much admiration I have for you in the way that you have dealt with everything.
Wishing you many happy, healthy and wonderful times ahead and sending much love to you and your family. XXXX

Amanda (Small Acorns) said...

It sure has been a year Jane. And like everyone else, thank you for sharing so candidly. At times I've felt part voyeur, but so genuinely wanting everything to have worked out just as it has for you. Go give your kids and husband another big cuddle. Amanda xx

annie said...

That list is daunting , Jane. I feel like I'm at the bottom of a mountain you've just climbed down and you are handing me the map. I have so much to ask you but not yet. The next few days are the inevitable ones. I hope to be in touch after I come out of the tunnel.

Thank you x

MFAMB said...

thank YOU.

i think you know (or you should) that your journey has helped a lot of people.

that's important in the scheme of things.

many many many many more years of awesomeness for you.

NessaKnits said...

So glad that you have come this far!

Millie said...

Dear Zena Warrior Princess, take that dodgy costume off & chuck it in the bin, you'll never have to wear it again. Love from your #1 fan. xx

Unknown said...

Gosh Jane. Pity health care isn't like high-end designer retail. For the price, and the gut-wrenching experience, you'd think it would come with first class lounges, complimentary gift wrap and a limosine service. Now go sneak the Zena costume out of the bin and parade around in it before Millie sees. Big Tarzan shout to you. Deb x

JMW said...

Jane, you have been through so much over the last two years. How wonderful that your treatment has come to an end. I continue to think about you and your family and wish you happiness and good health. I will keep Annie in my prayers as well.

Elsa May said...

Oh Jane - congratulations. Although that sounds kind of odd. I don't about you but I was kind of bleh about treatment ending....I just wanted to move on from it rather than celebrate. I have to take my hat off to you with your working through everything - really that is quite astonishing! Wishing you many, many, many years of happiness and health ahead. Love Annie x

Anna said...

Jane, I'm not sure if I've commented here before, but I have been one of those readers who found you not long after your diagnosis and didn't feel quite right introducing myself - the same way some people are now feeling about Annie.

Just as Carmel has thanked you for your information and insight, so do I. I have one other close friend going through chemo at the moment, and before her I only knew what I had read on your blog, and in "Salvation Creek"! Now, being so close to Annie, we're all learning more than we ever wanted.

Carmel and I are collecting photos of rainbow toes for Annie (to make into a book), and if there's anything you could possibly do to help, that would be wonderful. It seems so insignificant, but I know it will make her smile.

Congratulations on getting to this side of all this. And THANK YOU SO MUCH for everything you've already done to help us.

SamT said...

I am very glad that you are still here to share our world with Jane. Your strength is amazing. I am glad you can put the treatment behind you and hopefully the awful moments will not take too long to fade away. Stay strong, choose happiness, you deserve it. X Sam

Samantha said...

Cancer. Some excuse for not blogging. (J/K of course.)

You should definitely party after your last treatment.

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