Saturday, April 27, 2013

6. The Finish Line

It's been a while since I've updated this blog with any cancer news. That's not because there hasn't been any, it's just that all my energy has been focused on these last few miles in the marathon that is fighting cancer.

As I write this, I have one more chemo appointment scheduled. On May 10, in theory, if nothing else goes wrong (more on that in a second), I will have my pump disconnected for the last time. And then it's recovery and vigilance, watching for (and hoping against) a return and getting back into the shape after the beating that chemo has administered to me, body and spirit.

I thought that the surgery was going to be the worst of it, and in many ways, it was. It was the most pain, the longest recovery, the most frustration and certainly the most permanent damage. While I got used to having a colostomy faster than I thought I would, there isn't a day that goes by that I don't notice I have the damn thing and hate it. It's a permanent change to my body that is always going to bother me. Sometimes a little, sometimes a lot. Better than being dead, but really pretty awful. And I've still got plenty of residual pain from the surgery, which I hope will eventually go away... it's been over six months, and thanks to all the radiation and chemo, I haven't fully healed up. Not to be too indelicate, but it still hurts to sit for any decent amount of time, and I still feel pain in my rear whenever I walk or stand around for too long. I hope that eventually that goes away... I honestly don't know if it will.

But the chemo follow-up after the surgery has been super hard. My immune system has more or less given up on me. I've been in the hospital numerous times. Once with a 105 degree fever which turned out to be a blood/urinary tract infection. Again about a month later with less fever, but a return of the blood/urinary tract infection that came with acute kidney failure. Acute being the key word, they're restoring to normalish now. Once for a planned blood transfusion because chemo was/is making me anemic. Once when I started bleeding from (again, not to be indelicate) my ass and it didn't stop, but that thankfully turned out to be a minor blood blister thing. Still, you don't want to feel like you're re-enacting The Shining hallway scene in you bathroom one Wednesday morning. Especially when that Wednesday morning is your daughter's birthday.

Holidays seem to have it in for me. I spent my birthday in the hospital again this year. Hopefully my cancer doesn't recognize the impending Free Comic Book Day as a holiday, because I sure as hell don't want to miss that. I already spent STAPLE! in the hospital this year, the first time I've ever missed that show.

I've been told by my oncologist that the infection could return, because my immune system is so busted. So we're keeping an eye out for fevers, hopefully I'll get through all this without one or two more hospital stays, but I wouldn't be shocked if that isn't the case.

Fighting this thing has been the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and every time I think I've turned a corner, a new wrinkle develops. Like this week. I've been having trouble with my port, which was installed in my chest back in May, for the last month or two, basically ever since the hospital stay in March. It was hurting me, and causing me pain in my shoulder. This week, before administering the chemo, the nurse decided I should get a dye test to see if the line was broken. Guess what? It was. So despite being only two more treatments from the finish line, I had to have a Picc line put in through my arm to get the rest of the chemo. And my surgeon, the one who put it in, called me up on Friday worried that I should get it taken out sooner rather than later. But he's always been a bit alarmist, and he's the one who put it in (possibly not entirely correctly) in the first place, and he's not a specialist in that area (he's a colo-rectal guy), so I'm planning on having someone else take it out.

At any rate, though, for the next two weeks I've got a line in my arm. The good news is, it works, my shoulder doesn't hurt, and it'll give blood, something my port gave up on months ago, so that means no more sticking needles in me twice a week. The bad news is, it's kind of uncomfortable, and I'm not allowed to get it wet, so I have to wrap my arm in plastic wrap and be real careful taking showers, which is another fun inconvenience.

Even once the chemo is over, there's still some healing to be done from the surgery to get me back to relatively normal. Like I said, I'm hoping to eventually be able to sit and walk around without pain, and I'd sure like it if the various peeing issues I've been having would resolve. What is it they say about bladder control? You don't miss it until it's gone? Something like that.

I'm tired. I'm frustrated. I'm ready to be done. Two weeks might as well be two months, it's been so long struggling with this. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and I'm looking forward to a summer of healing. With any luck, by the time we're taking the family trip in August, I'll be feeling much stronger and more like myself. Hell, I'm hoping to be more or less on my feet and ready to have fun in late June for the All-Ages Awesomeness event.

Then it's just a matter of the fear of it coming back. That's going to take me years to get over. But we'll watch and hopefully catch any return early, and not have to do anything quite so strenuous to get rid of the cancer if it tries to come back.