It is day six past my chemo session and the side effects this time are by far worse than before. I had been told that the affects are cumulative and that each time you will feel worse, for longer, but well, quite frankly I guess I didn't want to believe it. As I sit here with the most disgusting tasting metal mouth, sores all over my mouth and throat, nausea, depression and an inability to taste anything, I wonder can it get any worse. I also wonder does it ever get any better? Is there light at the end of this long, dark tunnel? Since I didn't have any answers I reached out to a few people who would.
I spoke to Terry, probably one of the biggest Inflammatory Breast Cancer (IBC) Education advocates in the United. I learned a few things I didn't know and also learned a few things I did not want to know. For example, did you know that IBC has been around for about one hundred years. Certain cancer agencies refused to put warnings up about it because by the time women find out it is too late and there is no cure. Imagine that! Not letting people know that something so deadly exists because you have no answers. I know there is no "test" yet for IBC, but there is a big difference in prognosis to find out at a stage III rather than a stage IV (IBC always presents at stage III or IV). The current prognosis for women with IBC is two to three years. We can save lives with early detection in this disease.
It takes a while for all this to settle with me, and I can guarantee it's still not settled, but what I do know is this. I now have an expiry date. I may live to be fifty. I may not. It's highly likely I won't see 60 so I might as well come to grips with this and "face it like a man," isn't that hilarious! Am I mad, yes! I'm extremely pissed off, frustrated, sad, angry, you name it. Those who know me know that I've always lived a large life. I have fun and am crazy and do crazy things and I love living, so I'm very pissed off that cancer has chosen me. I just want to fricking annihilate it!
Unfortunately I don't have that choice, so I have to choose how to live with it and make the best of it. Right now as I sit here feeling like a nuclear waste factory has taken root in my mouth, it's hard to be positive and enjoy things -- even Häagen-Dazs tastes terrible -- but I know things will get better with time. They will also get a little worse over the next four rounds of chemo. I may lose my ability to type, my brain will become more fuddled than it is and the heavy doses of steroids that I'll have to start taking soon may make me go postal. Still, there will be an end to the chemo one day and then radiation and surgery will take place and then hopefully I am done! I'm going to push through the shitty times and try to keep my eye on the prize. When I am feeling better then I'm going to start enjoying more family time and take some time to do the things I've always wanted to do, even if it means moving and downsizing and cutting back on certain things. I can't waste this time now, every day counts, even if it's just a day spent sleeping to give me energy for the days that follow, I need to do it.
I want to thank my close friends who have supported me over the last three days, especially to Michele who rescued me yesterday when I had a meltdown in the London Drugs parking lot. Thank you for not being afraid to care, for giving me a shoulder to cry on and a great cup of tea. What I'd like most of all is to go away on a Caribbean cruise with all my friends and family after all this stress and just chill. Sit on the deck drinking bubbly, watching the sunset and laughing about the Tiger Blood or the day my hair fell out. I want to wake in the morning to breakfast on my balcony, the smell of sea air, the sounds of my children laughing in the cabin next to me and my wonderful, kind, amazing husband by my side. I'd like my biggest decision of my day to be whether we are going to go on the Catamaran trip with the E family or Scuba diving with the B family. I'd like to spend time walking down the streets of St. Lucia, tasting the local cuisine and haggling over souvenirs with the vendors. If I had my druthers I'd become a travel writer and go to the most amazing places, have the most amazing experiences and share them with others via the written word. Now that would truly be a great life. Just don't send me to Vegas again any time soon.
Michelle Pammenter Young is a financial adviser turned writer and cancer warrior. She is the author of the novel The Year I Died. You can follow Michelle on her blog www.pammenteryoung.com or on her Facebook page www.facebook.com/MichellePammenterYoung.