In a way, my grandfather and I are in somewhat similar places. We both have to do things we don’t want to do in order to live. Of course, right now, he doesn’t have any choice in the matter. I don’t really feel I have a choice, either, although I at least am fully aware of what is happening to me. With Grampa, we’re not really sure how much he understands.
It is still early, so soon after the stroke that they’ve classified as major/severe. He has had many ups and downs in the few days: shown signs of understanding by attempting thumbs up, wiggling his toes and nodding when mom asked if the shoulder that he fell on hurt; had some heart issues; now has pneumonia, which they are controlling; and exerted his frustration by one day pulling the tubes out of his mouth/stomach and the next pulling out his catheter. Sometimes he looks at us like what the heck are we doing, prolonging his life by letting them do all this, but we’ve told him, he’s really breathing on his own and we haven’t done any special life-saving measures, because we know he doesn’t want that. We just want what is best for him, and if he is here, to be comfortable and to have hope that he can completely come back.
It will be a long time until we know for sure the extent of the brain damage, which they say could be extensive. He doesn’t always respond in the same way I mentioned before, but we know sometimes it’s just Grampa – if he doesn’t like a witchy nurse or uptight doctor, he won’t do a thing for them, and then when someone he likes asks him to do something, he tries and sometimes succeeds! It is all in God’s hand – and up to Grampa’s will. So we take it one day at a time, and they tell us that it could be weeks, even months like this. We have a big family, many who are here (I’m writing this from Beth Israel) every day, and we will soon probably start to rotate so someone is with him every day, but not everyone. We are thankful my older brother Steven, who lives in Florida, has joined us for a few days. He is a respiratory therapist in a trauma center and has been able to translate quite a bit for us – and catch some things others haven’t.
For me, I thought the worst was over, but now I’m thinking I’m wrong. At my appointments yesterday (how convenient Dana Farber is across the street from Beth Israel?) we learned that I am not quite as lucky as I thought I’d be. I thought cutting off both my breasts would do the trick. And it did, from what they can tell. However, because of the cancer found in my lymph nodes and my being young for this, I need to have all the follow-up treatments: chemo, radiation AND tamoxifen. Ugh.
I am not happy, but I’m also not about to fight it. I figure I have done everything so far to make sure I never have to deal with cancer again, I am not going to stop now. I’ve already begun regaining my strength – the daily hospital visits to see Grampa and family have helped both my mind and body. Next Tuesday I start physical therapy to really get full range of motion back in my arms, and that day I also meet with the reconstructive surgeon and may begin the expansions, depending how I’m healing (although breast surgeon says it’s looking good).
The following Tuesday the real fun will start. Chemo. That will be most of the day, and then I will have one day of chemo, every three weeks for four rounds. After that, I will have a few weeks off and then start radiation, Monday through Friday, for five weeks. And then Tamoxifen for five years. I know I said it before, but ugh.
What I understand from others is that chemo won’t be too bad at first, and then will get worse each round. The first time I may be sick for a day, the second round for two or three days, the third round for a few days to a week and the final round for a week or two. But everyone is different and I already have prescriptions for meds to combat the nausea and other bad side effects. What is really hitting home is the fact that I will lose all my hair – probably about a month from now, around two weeks into treatment. Argh! It took me so long to grow it, and I actually like it now. Not fair! But what among this IS fair?
I guess what is fair is that I get to live. I was lucky enough to find the lump, pretty much just in time before it spread further, and so what, I had to have a bilateral mastectomy? I do get two new ones, eventually. So what that it’s painful, I’m limited for a while and I have to go through PT? At least I’m young and strong enough to push through it. So what if I have to go through those treatments and lose my hair? They will eventually be over, there are drugs to combat the side effects and my hair will grow back. And I actually, unlike Grampa, get to plan this all out and understand what I am facing. So I actually think I have a lot to be thankful for…