In June, 2010, I had a hysterectomy. They found cancer in the endometrial lining of my uterus, which was removed along with several lymph nodes—one of which showed three microscopic abnormal cells. They weren’t cancer, but there was no guarantee they wouldn’t become so. And there was the possibility that there might be other abnormal cells elsewhere. After conferences and committee meetings, with no protocol to base a decision on, the consensus was that I would have three radiation treatments and three to six chemotherapy treatments. The decision had a basis in my family history – lots of colon cancer, as well as glioblastoma and other cancers. Also, I had had a cancerous kidney removed four years ago. They suspect there is a genetic link to all this, for which I am now being tested.

I wrote this to friends and family, to update them as I went down the chemo highway.

Monday, June 28, 2010

I met with a radiologist/oncologist last week and will start a short course of radiation in two weeks. It’s a 15-minute zap every other week over six weeks. I am meeting with a medical oncologist this week to talk chemo/hormone therapy. I say, Blast the suckers, but will wait to hear what she says. And next week I will meet with a geneticist; Michael always said I came from a murky gene pool. All it will probably mean is more tests, more often. I intend to keep my remaining parts!!!

Thursday, July 1, 2010

We (the medical oncologist, the surgeon, Michael and me) have agreed that, based on my history and my family history, chemo is the way to go. They are still not sure what the three abnormal cells signify, but I say, Let’s kill whatever other suckers are out there. So I start on July 9. The number of treatments will depend on how I react to the drugs. It also means hair loss—head and everywhere else. I’m thinking of fun hair things, but my granddaughter, Renee, has claimed veto power. I am not unduly upset by the program. I look at it as getting ahead of the curve.

Friday, July 9, 2010

We, who are about to begin chemotherapy, salute you. I am bringing my Kindle, iPod, fruit salad, cookies and Michael (not in order of importance). I expect it to be an all-day affair. This should be the “easy” one. It’s supposed to become more difficult with each session but let’s take one at a time.

I have my new wig in hand. Red would have been a little weird. I thought things would be strange enough without passing a mirror and going “Who the hell is that,” so silver I’ll stay.  They will give a me buzz cut before the final fitting. If isn’t too strange, I’ll take pictures.

During the day, I’m optimistic. Four in the morning, not so much so, but hopefully (it’s daylight) I will start sleeping later.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The first chemo went well. There wasn’t as much wait time as I’d heard, but it was still an all-day affair. They get all the prep done, including blood work and pre-chemo drugs, and then actual chemo starts at an incredibly slow rate, with a nurse watching in case of side affects. The first drug takes about three hours and the second lasts about an hour. So this morning I feel a little hyper from steroids, but that should wear off. Radiation is Tuesday but that shouldn’t be a big deal.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The next chapter is when I lose my hair before Michael loses what’s left of his. I am getting it buzzed off today because I don’t relish the idea of waking up with clumps of hair on my pillow. And while it hasn’t started falling out yet, anything I have tweezed, shaved or waxed two weeks ago has not grown back. So the good news is, I won’t have to tweeze, shave or wax for a while.

I really think Michael should shave his head in sympathy or solidarity or just to keep me company, but he’s not buying. My 10-year-old grandson told me what number the buzzer should be if I want it to look like he does, and that the sides should be shorter than the back. Very sweet to offer advice, but I think he’s trying for a pseudo-mohawk, or as close as his parents allow, which isn’t very close at all. But he thinks he’s cool.

I’ll let the guy at the wig place figure it out. He calls all the wigs “she” as in, “She looks great on you.” What an adventure!

And so, onward and upward…

Friday, July 23, 2010

The next chapter, part deux. Well I am shorn. “Baldino” is not my best look, so no photos. But I will bare all in person…above the neck only!

The wig (“she”) is great, but my head got cold when I took it off, so I have a little night cap like the ones infants wear, and a selection of scarves. I also bought a bright pink rectangular wrap when I was shopping with my granddaughters and thought it would look great around my head. But Renee wanted to know if I was getting into fortune telling. The scarf will hang around my neck.

And so it goes.

Friday, July 30, 2010  Chemo #2 (more better living through chemistry)

No matter how they try to make it shorter, it’s an all day affair. We arrived by 8:30 and were called for blood work in five minutes. About 20 minutes later, we met with the oncologist. My blood work is all great. The oncologist calls me a rock star. She is quickly informed that with my voice, it’s not within the realm of possibility. And I should also continue drinking the vast quantities of water I consume, contrary to some people’s opinions (no names) that I was overdoing it. By 10, I’m in the chemo suite, a fancy name for a series of cubicles, some curtained and a few with doors. By 10:20, I am wrapped in a warm blanket and the IV begins. First are three pre-chemo drugs, including Benadryl to prevent an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, I got “jimmy legs,” so no more Benadryl.

After more than five hours, all tubes were removed and we left about 3:30.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Radiation went quickly, but after checking my blood work, the powers that be decided I am drinking too much water (some people may have been correct) and depleting my electrolytes! When were they invented and who discovered them? I am 63 years old and never knew I had them or that they could be depleted.

So, I spent 2  1/2 hours being hydrated, and then went shopping. I am now the proud owner of several flavors of power/vitamin drinks. And in colors to match every outfit.

P.S. Renee suggested that I get another wig and we can get matching purple streaks. I doubt she has discussed this with her mother.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Big Deal on York Avenue: Got a call from the oncologist’s office to tell me that the committee has met and decided to call it quits after the third chemo session.

YAHOO!!!!

There is no protocol for dealing with those three microscopic cells, so their decision is based on . . . I don’t know, and neither do they. I was prepared for the chemo to continue into October so this is a great surprise.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Well, it appears that stopping after three chemo sessions was not written in stone. We had a long talk with my oncologist and an even longer stay in the chemo suite. She went over all the reasons to stop chemo now and all the reasons to continue. What makes the decision so difficult is that there is no protocol to follow. We left the final decision until after my blood work came back, and when all the counts were fine, I asked her: If I was her mother (which is possible, she is 33), what would she suggest? And without hesitating, she said she would go for the additional treatments. So will I. If my counts stay up and I continue feeling well, we will continue through October.

Sorry for the premature celebration. Needless to say, I am anxious about the possibilities.  But I really would rather go through it all now then regret not doing it in six months. And with my history, anything is possible.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Things I have learned:

Gatorade isn’t too terrible if you mix a couple of flavors.

Losing you hair means you get a bunch of great accessories – scarves, hats, and wigs.

Wearing a wig means getting ready takes about half as much time and it never gets frizzy. No eyelashes means no mascara, also a time saver.

Gaining weight means you look healthy, not fat.

It is okay to feel anxious.

Instead of senior moments, I now have “chemo brain.”

Monday, October 4, 2010

Five down and one to go. This session was postponed after my numbers last Friday weren’t good, so instead of chemo I was hydrated for four hours, which meant I peed for the next 24. In any case, we’re clear for Barcelona.

Wahoo!!!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Barcelona was fabulous. We ate and walked, then ate and went to museums, then ate and saw churches (including Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia, see left, which was incredible) and then we ate some more. In between, we sat in cafes and drank sangria. Had some minor aches and pains which led to naps (but then again, that might have been the sangria). Naps are good in any case. I have one week to get the alcohol out of my system before  we see the oncologist for chemo session #6.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The final, final chemo session.

The eyebrows were the last to go. It is incredibly difficult to draw eyebrows if there aren’t any little hairs to guide you. Fortunately I left the bangs on both wigs long enough to cover up the dreaded one- eyebrow-is-higher-than-the-other look. It also means that the glare I give my kids and grandkids is not quite as effective as it used to be. Sort of like Samson, according to my son, Alan. But if I keep them light in a vague sort of way, no one will be the wiser. Hopefully.

Since we got home, I’ve had enough water to wash out all traces of the sangria I consumed in Barcelona, plus some. At least I hope so.  Will see what the results say.

I can’t believe Michael told the oncologist how much sangria I drank. The man cannot be trusted.

Good news: they’re planning on only one or two scans a year, instead of the four they were originally considering. They want to keep my kidney happy. Bad news: there will be frequent blood tests, which doesn’t make me so happy.

It’s 3:20. The beeper has gone off and all that’s left is some last minute housekeeping.

I AM DONE!!!!

That is to say, I am done with chemo. November and December are filled with follow-up appointments, tests and scans on the rest of what’s left of my innards. But the biggest part of it is all over so YAY, WHAAAAA HOOOOO and whatever else you care to add.

This is gonna be some Thanksgiving!

Join the conversation

  • Myra Hall February 1, 2011 at 5:51 pm

    What a writer! What a sister! Pity pride can’t be measured because mine for Sus just overflows.
    my

    Reply
  • Ted Cohen February 1, 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Susan’s to be commended for her high spirits, her willingness to share so much, and her deft management of her panel of professional and familial advisors. My spouse occasionally refers WWVC articles to me, and this was truly an eye-opener, surely useful for anyone who undergoes chemo or knows someone who does – thanks so much Susan – Ted Cohen (no relation)

    Reply
  • Anonymous February 1, 2011 at 10:44 am

    Can’t wait to hear more about Susan’s recovery. Her candor and vulnerability in equal measure are an inspiration to us all. We welcome her voice to the constellation of WVFC.

    Reply
  • Dr Pat Allen January 31, 2011 at 10:39 pm

    Dear Susan,

    We are so grateful that you have shared your chemo diary with us. Many of us watched the first season of the Big C this year and learned the language of cancer treatment and patient choices. You are so lucky to have a supportive family who love you and have made this period of life easier.

    I know that you left out some of the unpleasant parts but your glorious optimism and resilience are a tonic to each of our readers.

    You are one of us now, Susan. And we hope to hear from you in the “recovery diaries” really soon.

    Best,

    Dr. Pat

    Reply