When I went in for chemotherapy on March 4, 2021, the oncologist confirmed my suspicions about continuing treatment for (ahem!) three weeks ongoing for the rest of my life. Medical advances are still be made, so this is subject to change. This information was disheartening (I sunk back into depression) but it has also helped me to manage my expectations. Does anyone want to do this for me? I’m now taking volunteers. I laugh at this question knowing full well this is my “cross to bear” if you will. But I’m still hopeful. The medical advancements made this far are quite amazing and I’m grateful to still be here, sans breast cancer mass and lymph node mass. The liver tumors are still shrinking and now there are only two of the three liver tumors remaining. 

A couple weeks ago I connected with a new “Firefly Guide” (Firefly Sisterhood is a local nonprofit that connects women going through this with another woman going through a similar scenario who is further down the path of survivorship and living with cancer). She gave me some information that helped me to keep this bag of shit in perspective. In describing to her the results I’m getting from the treatment and the side effects currently maintaining their position in my life, she suggested that it sounded like I am getting the immunotherapy drug and not the placebo. For one thing, the breast mass that was the size of a grapefruit disappeared after five months of weekly chemotherapy and the lymph node mass wasn’t far behind. The immunotherapy drug may also cause any “itis” imaginable. Yay! (Not). That would explain the arthritis I’m dealing with. Sometimes every joint hurts in an almost debilitating way. I’m currently 45! I didn’t expect to start falling apart for at least another 20-30 years. My darling husband likes to remind me that I’m at the age where things start to fall apart. Gee, thanks, honey! 

So what’s the point in all of this? Well, once I reach 24 months of this clinic trial the immunotherapy drug will be stopped. My Firefly guide described the side effects she’s managing on Herceptin and Perjeta and it sounded like a walk in the park compared to what I’m dealing with. Currently I’m at month 13 of the 24 month trial. I’ve made it this far and the information given to me by my Guide has given me renewed hope that I will someday have a somewhat normal life. I cannot tell you how much I needed this information. It truly was a breath of fresh air.

I will say this about cancer, it can be a blessing. It has made me realize how much I appreciate the things that aren’t actually “things,” like friendships, family and keeping the fire of relationships glowing even when now longer residing in the same city. And I’ll go one step further and say this about COVID-19, it has also been a blessing (only in some ways). For one thing, it leveled the playing field for support groups, classes, and talking with friends and family by moving everything online. And if I could work, that would be from home. I’m currently looking for a program on “resocialization” once this thing has been managed with adequate vaccinations. Let me know if you find one, please.

Oh, and speaking of vaccinations, last week Freddy & I received our first vaccination shot, so cancer was good for something. It moved us up the line. I can start planning again! It will be so nice to see my family & friends face to face again. My sister gave birth to twins last week and I can hardly wait to snuggle them and smell that new baby smell. I’ve missed seeing my nieces and nephew! They are growing up so fast and I don’t want to miss any of it.

Spring has sprung. It’s official! Walking by the Children’s Museum yesterday here in downtown Saint Paul I saw shoots! Tulips or something is coming up in my neighborhood. Chemo brain will not let me recall any other names at this time. I’ll have to check on them in a few days to monitor their progress. Last week I saw buds on some trees when I was walking in a nearby park. I recall exclaiming out loud “Hello buds!” They didn’t answer me back except with a slight wave.

I hope you are finding ways to practice gratitude. It really can be a soothing balm in these raw and frazzled times. Earlier this week I noticed that my smile was broken. Has this ever happened to you? My posture was terribly slumped and I was just sad and couldn’t stop frowning. Sad about everything. Cancer, COVID-19, crimes against people of color going about their business, the latest 300+ young girls taken from their school in Africa, global warming, garbage everywhere, especially in the ocean, you name it. And then I remembered gratitude. So I got ready for bed and laid down, soaking in the good that brought my husband and me together, soaking in the intervention the universe performed to bring us to Saint Paul and downsize and simplify our life (and moved me 5 minutes away by car from the treatment center or 15 minutes by foot). Really soaking it in. Just letting my heart immerse in all the goodness that surrounds life. Letting myself go to that place where everything is alright. Have you been there? I highly recommend it. I can send you a meditation to help you get there if you need me to.

We’ve all gone through some really crumby stuff, but doesn’t it make you a better person and help you to grow (gain perspective and appreciate the life you have)? After a few minutes of this I was able to start smiling again. Freddy even noticed the change. Despite everything, there really is a lot to be grateful for. If I listed everything I wouldn’t get anything else done and the cat wouldn’t be happy about not being fed!

Here’s to hoping this update finds you happy, healthy and well (and vaccinated soon). I’m still praying for peace and healing. Will you join me?

Blessings to you and yours,

Annette