I had my last round of chemo this month. It hit me like a steamroller. As a friend of my best friend recently described her own experience, it's like I woke up in a gutter in New Orleans after jazz fest, but somebody forgot to tell me how much fun I had and who I kissed. That was a week ago. And then, on Tuesday, I had a follow-up PET/CT scan to see whether all this poison had done its job. We wouldn't get the results for at least two days, probably three.
I wrapped my mind around the fact that, worst-case scenario, the news couldn't be as bad as it was in August. I felt like I was around the corner from the end of a marathon, and I really didn't want to be told I'd have to run another few miles. I was exhausted.
My best friend, Alana, flew in for the week to keep my mind off cancer, and for the most part, it worked. She finished baking my Christmas cookies, helped me plan Christmas dinner and shop for ingredients, wrapped gifts to go under our tree, and went with me to the dingy part of the hospital where they conduct the PET scans.
But I still had my moments. One night, Quinn pulled himself up on Chris' pant leg. Alana told him, "You'll be as big as daddy one day!" I lost it, just started crying right there in front of the Christmas tree while watching my boy stand next to his dad. Alana squeezed my hand tight and asked me if it was going by too quickly. "No," I said, "I just want to be here when he grows up."
And after six rounds of chemo over eighteen grueling weeks, I got a call from the oncology center on Thursday. I assumed they were confirming my appointment with my doctor this morning. "Jennifer, it's Leti," the head nurse said. "I'm calling with an early Christmas gift. Your scan looks good. The doctor will go over everything with you tomorrow." I was elated, but I didn't ask any questions. Alana and I had been baking cookies in our pajamas while Q napped. We started jumping up and down in the kitchen, tears streaming down her face, a giant shit-eating grin on mine. When I called Chris - always the more level-headed one - to tell him the news, I was squealing. He pointed out that a "good" scan could have a pretty wide range. We'd wait until we met with my doctor before we shouted the news from our rooftop.
Our meeting with my oncologist this morning confirmed the happy news: my scan was squeaky clean. All of the "hotspots" that had previously lit up - in my chest wall, my spleen, my lung - were totally gone, along with all signs of cancer in my breast. I'm cancer-free, and it feels incredible.
We still have my surgery on January 20th and six weeks of radiation, plus the Herceptin every three weeks for the rest of my life. For the foreseeable future, I'll also have follow-up PET scans every three months. Our fight isn't over, but our enemy is MUCH less intimidating now. As my husband so eloquently put it, "Our Christmas came early, with a gift that wasn't wrapped in paper or with a pretty bow, just a page-and-a-half pathology report, but what a gift it was."