I had my fourth round of this new chemo a week ago today. After some adjustments to my side-effect medications - a little less steroid here, a little more anti-nausea there, taking Claritin the night before my Neulasta shot to minimize bone pain (which is apparently caused by a histamine reaction) - and I almost felt like a new person this time around. My side effects were very minimal; I just got hit with some bone pain and fatigue today, but I also went to bed late last night after chasing Quinn all around the train park yesterday so that might have contributed.
One of Chris' friends asked him how we were holding up lately, and I think Chris summed it up well: we're probably not any more tired than if we had a second child. I still have the energy to make it to yoga two or three times a week. I cook dinner about twice as often. I'm still working full-time, although it's nothing compared to Chris' full-time. We're both tired, so I'm not really sure I can blame cancer entirely.
Quinn is nineteen months old now, and has learned how to tell us "no" - always twice, as in "No, no." He continues to be a perpetual motion machine, climbing everything - the back of the couch, the barstools that lead up to the kitchen counter, the higher the better - without fear or hesitation. At the park, only the highest, most-inaccessible-to-moms slides will do. Even better if they're connected by mesh-enclosed footbridges ten feet in the air. It's a good thing that kid's got coordination.
The truth is we're finding our groove in this new reality. Sure, I wish we could go back to the life we had before cancer, but that is not going to happen. We were given a monumental diagnosis that is not leaving our lives anytime soon. We are living with this beast, which doesn't seem like so much of a beast anymore as much as a pest problem. (I should know - I lived in DC for eight years. In one apartment, my cats literally chased the walls because they could hear the rats running around inside them. It's like I was being trained for life wih cancer.)
Soon after my recurrence, other women with Stage IV disease told me they lived their lives normally, pausing for treatment every few weeks and scans every few months. They didn't let cancer rule their lives, and I didn't quite believe them. I was puzzled at their responses to living with chronic illness. One friend said simply, "I've never felt sick." Luckily, neither have I.
Still, I didn't really think it was possible for cancer not to occupy the most space in my brain, but slowly, I've gotten to that point. I'd rather focus on Quinn's antics, meal planning, working on a book proposal, and our travel plans for the holidays. While I miss my hair, this new normal is okay. Today, I feel pretty great, and that's enough.