One year ago today I learned a lesson I never thought I would.
On may 19th, 2013 I was scheduled to see my Oncologist and get the pre-chemo blood draw necessary for my fourth round of the Gem/Carbo chemo regimen. I had already endured six treatments (three rounds) since mid March. I had done well with the first two treatments, even taking an overseas vacation during the in-between week and managing very well. That is until the day we returned.
The day we came back from vacation, it was at the end of a seven day whirl-wind trip and very long flight.. As I began to wind down, I thought I had maybe overdone it and was looking forward to some rest. I wasn’t very concerned about how I felt, thinking it was only the trip.
It didn’t even occur to me to calculate the nadir for the regimen. During the chemo regimen I had only just completed less than a year earlier, those low days hadn’t seemed much lower than any others and so I never focused on the nadir. I went to work the day after we returned from the trip and lasted about half the morning. At about 11a.m. I packed my laptop, went by my boss and said, “I’m leaving.” I went straight home and crawled into bed. The next day was my regularly scheduled visit with the Onc and blood draw.
That day the NP came into the exam room. I had laid down on the table to rest because I didn't have the energy to sit up. She bent over and looked at me with concern, “You want to go to the hospital now? Or wait until tomorrow?” I just nodded but I said, “I can wait.”
You see, other than the mastectomy, I had never been hospitalized. I wished almost immediately that I had just agreed to go to the hospital that day. My white blood cell counts were low, and required me to get IV antibiotics but it was the red blood cell counts that had knocked me out.I needed a blood transfusion to return to acceptable health.
After that day, I didn’t go back to work. I felt pretty low for the rest of regimen. I had to push back the second treatment for the antibiotics and the third for low counts as well. When I pushed back the third treatment I was so upset at the thought of waiting another week to be done that I called the next day, as soon as I felt better, and begged them to get me in earlier.
Imagine that, I was begging to get chemo…. But that wasn’t when I learned the lesson.
I learned the lesson after the third round. During those two weeks following the sixth dose, I slowly slid into the abyss. Sure, the fatigue increased ten-fold but that wasn’t it… my skin became sallow and I actually looked gray, but that wasn’t it…. bruises appeared on my back and legs and I had two black eyes... but that wasn’t it either.
What was it? It was the depression, plain and simple. I never knew I could feel so low. I could be so despondent. I could be incapable of mustering the strength to go on. I learned I could be low enough not to care anymore. Despite the idea that I was ‘waging a war on cancer... a battle for my life,’ I no longer cared. It didn't matter if I was risking my life or if I needed the treatments. I didn’t know if I had received enough of the regimen and I didn’t care if it wasn’t enough. I couldn’t ‘live’ like that .
One year ago today I went to my oncologists office and begged NOT to have any more chemo. No, that’s not quite it. I outwardly refused to do any more chemo. I told the doctor, it didn’t matter the outcome, I wasn’t able to do any more. I was done.
And so one year ago today I learned it was possible for me to ‘give up’ to no longer care. From the day I was first told I had cancer until one year ago today, cancer took so much from me. I just never thought it could take my will to live. AND, that is a lesson I never thought I’d learn.