Today, with Dr. Gharavi’s approval, I made the decision to stop chemo at least for a while and hopefully much longer than that. The idea first popped into my head when I had a brief time following radiation and during my week off from chemo when I felt surprisingly close to normal. It was incredibly refreshing and made me realize how far from normal I’ve strayed since starting back on chemo in January 2015.
While I have been tolerating it quite well, the simple fact is I’m just not nearly up to par while I’m on chemo. Fatigue has been a huge factor. I’ve had to carefully map out my time and turn down lots of things I’d like to do or pay the price by getting sick. My feet, allthough much better, still burn and hurt most of the time. And the chemo keeps my stomach upset a lot of the time, too. I’ve basically been operating at probably 70% of how I would normally feel.
I realized how problematic the side effects were getting In early July, when all the Ironsides had a family lake outing at my sister’s. My foot was still split open from chemo, so I couldn’t get in the lake for risk of infection. I basically sat in the shade the entire day other than a boat ride. Nevertheless, I ended up with a whale of a headache and was sick the entire weekend. After that, I started wondering how much more chemo I could stand and how much of my life I was trading for the chemo safety net.
Since then, I’ve talked about it with my family and some friends. When I told Evan about it, he lit up and said with a big smile, “Then we could go horseback riding and hiking.” Yes. And I can start walking in the neighborhood when my feet are better.
On Monday morning, I called Dr. Gharavi’s office to let them know I wanted to discuss with him the possibility of stopping the chemo. Monday night, I had what I believe was a divinely inspired conversation with Kim Bumpas, a lady in EWA who is a ball of positive energy. She told me about problems she had with her hip years ago and how she had to make the decision to take a leap of faith to live life at the fullest for however long that would be. Her story resonated with me. I again weighed what I’ve been giving up and wondering if the price has been too steep.
Dr. Gharavi was immediately on board with stopping and acknowledged that I’ve been on chemo a long time without a break. We were already planning to do a PET scan in September to confirm that the radiation worked as well as we think it did, so that will be a good way to stay on top of the cancer should it rear its ugly head when there’s no chemo holding it back. As long as the cancer stays away, I stay off chemo.
If the cancer comes back, radiation for small tumors is still a very viable option. Dr. Patel says we can safely radiate small tumors as many times as necessary. I like the sound of that because the radiation causes no side effects. Even in the worst case scenario of bigger tumors showing up, there are still chemotherapy treatment options open to me.
Recently for work I created marketing messages to encourage families to eat healthy. One of my suggested slogans was, “Say yes to the best.” That’s what I’m doing. I’m risking the possibility of more cancer later in order to live my life to the fullest now. Yes, it’s a bit of a roll of the dice, but my gut tells me it’s the right thing to do and I’m ready to take the chance.
Please don’t feel sorry for me or think that I’ve been leading a pitiful existence. Thanks to mom’s pool, I’ve been thoroughly enjoying summer – working out three days a week and swimming for about an hour or two after that. And don’t worry that I’ll overdo it now that I’m off the chemo. I am fully aware that it will take a while for it to work its way out of my system, so I’ll continue taking it slow and steady.
Finally, tomorrow David and I celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary. The “yes” I said on July 30, 1983 was certainly a good decision, and I think this one is, too.
Saying yes and feeling blessed,