Chemotherapy #6: The Doppler Effect

It’s taken me a few days to get this post up, and I apologize for that. There are a few reasons:

First, I’ve just felt like complete and utter crap, which of course is par for the chemotherapy course but doesn’t make it any less miserable.

Second, I’ve been sorting through a lot of emotions and coming to terms with what being done with chemotherapy means for me, both good and bad.

Third, I saw 6 Fast 6 Furious which is the first movie I’ve seen in theatres in FOREVERRRRR and it’s totally insane, so yeah, that’s been taking up a lot of mental real estate. Do you know how weird it is to get in a car and drive along at a totally normal speed slash not go up into any cargo airplanes or drift around anything or flip your vehicle over a bridge after you leave a Fast and Furious movie? Super weird, guys. Super weird.

But back to the first and second points, which are probably more salient to this blog. (Maybe? Would you guys object if I turned this into a 6 Fast 6 Furious fan page?)

The thing I keep coming back to is time. It just…passed. And events happened. And now I’m here. I know, I know, time heals all wounds – how many times did I roll my eyes over that phrase when my middle school boyfriend broke up with me and my mom tried to comfort me? But now it’s the thought I can’t get out of my head, because for so long I thought this day would never come and that I’d be stuck in the chemo vortex forever and ever, and now here I am, on the other side of it. Healed. Sort of.

I remember back in December when I was first diagnosed, and in January when I went for my first set of scans and IV pokes and other medical BS, and how the doctors kept reminding me that it was going to be a shitty six months, but that was all – six months, and I’d be able to start getting back to normal. Six months felt impossibly long to me then. I mean, to be honest with you, I’m not an especially patient person – if a date is further away than the release of the last movie trailer I saw, it’s probably too far away for me to be even vaguely aware of its existence or anything I need to do to prepare for it. But now I feel like those six months have gone by in the blink of an eye. Is it June already? How?!

It reminds me of all the other important things in my life that blew by before I had time to register they were even approaching, like college graduation and my entire adolescence (why was I never cool like today’s tweens? They make it look so awesome and trendy but I ruined it by being a big nerd the whole time!). There’s actually a term for it, or rather, a term that due to my faulty knowledge of physics and English-major propensity for metaphor I’m going to appropriate for it – the doppler effect – the way a car’s engine gets louder and louder as it approaches and then zooms by in one moment of fantastic sound and fury and then fades into the distance while you’re left on the side of the road like, WTF was that thing? Basically, my whole life – and not least of all this cancer experience – has been the doppler effect.

I can’t believe that I’m finished with chemotherapy. In one week I’ll move to New York. In ten days I’ll start my new job. On July 6 I’ll watch my beautiful friend Caroline marry the love of her life. In early August Gordie and I will go for a summer beach vacation. I see all of these things coming, like the doppler effect car engine, but I know that no matter how hard I try to stretch out all of these moments they’ll blast by me fast enough to give me whiplash.

Let me clarify, though, that although I’ve finished with the whole pump-your-veins-full-of-poison thing, I’m not done with cancer treatment. Cancer cells can go haywire in a variety of patterns, and I was fortunate that mine decided to go berserk in as many ways as possible – meaning we can throw the kitchen sink at me and keep on treatin’ me for years to come. I’ll have twelve months of Herceptin infusions, which are given intravenously and require me to sit in a hospital but don’t cause hair loss, sickness or any of the other chemo nastiness. (So whatever, sign me up – a couple of hours every three weeks dedicated to reading Us Magazine in what’s basically a budget pedicure chair? I’m there.) After that, I have five years of Tamoxifen, an estrogen blocker that’ll keep me in the early menopause I’ve been enjoying so thoroughly these past few months.

Knowing that I’ll be actively “fighting” cancer for at least five more years saves me, I think, from a bit of the emotional distress that typically accompanies the end of chemotherapy treatment. I don’t feel unprotected – rather, I feel as though I have an army of some of the world’s best doctors and drugs at my back. And don’t fret, readers! I still have so much to say about life post-chemo, post-boobs and post-hair (and I guess pre-hair, now, since I expect to get it back eventually), this blog ain’t going anywhere.

If there is anyone out there reading this blog who is just starting their own awkward and crappy journey with cancer, I hope I’ve made it clear that my main point about chemotherapy is this: WAIT, IT’S OVER ALREADY? I THOUGHT WE JUST STARTED??

If that doesn’t give you some hope about getting through treatment, then you need to buy some Ben & Jerry’s stat. ‘Cause Ben & Jerry’s is always my plan B.

I’m going to have to work on that patience thing, though, because there are so many other things to wait for now. Like my hair, which won’t start growing back for another month or two, and won’t be acceptable to take out in public until sometime around my birthday in October. And my boobs, which will be officially replaced with gummy bear implants near Christmastime. (MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ME, AM I RIGHT?) Not to mention 7 Fast 7 Furious. Hurry up, 2014!

7 thoughts on “Chemotherapy #6: The Doppler Effect

  1. ubensmom says:

    So happy for you. Now return to your previously scheduled life without a chemo chair and sick-making cocktails. You did it. Fist pump.

  2. I get new boobs for Christmas too! Lol. Good luck on your post chemo life and new life in Ny! What an change your life has been through in 6 months!

  3. Steph says:

    Hey Michelle – sounds like we have very similar diagnoses. I am 7 treatments into herceptin now, and doing radiation right now. I have filled my tamox prescription and have been putting it off for awhile because I hate the idea of more side effects. Should get on that soon though. I’ve also done my reconstruction (implants). Let me know if you ever want to chat. And you might go out with your hair before your birthday. Took me about 11 weeks after chemo to do it… just looks kind of like a buzz cut now. Pretty butch, but whatever, I was getting sick of covering it up, and it’s so hot out. You can see some pics on my blog if you’re curious what it looks like.
    Congrats on finishing chemo, and hope you feel better soon.

  4. Barbara says:

    End of chemo?! New job in NYC?! The world is your oyster, young lady. Carpe diem! And best wishes for a beautiful life.

  5. fransiweinstein says:

    At one of our hospitals here, in Toronto, patients get to ring a bell when their chemotherapy is over. It is a celebration and also, I think, a positive message to other patients going through chemo — that, like you, their treatments will also soon be over. All the best with your new job. Can’t wait to read all about it!

  6. My friend Susan, who’s going through chemo, pointed me to your blog. You are eternally entertaining while also merciless in tugging heart strings. I worked in NY ‘back in the day’ (when there was a WTC to work in) and loved living in a place with diversity reflected by more nose types than anywhere else in the world and paying huge amounts of money to live barbarically in a cultural mecca. Thanks for the great blog. You can make it anywhere, baby!

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