It definitely feels good to feel good. However, I certainly wouldn't say I'm 100%. I still get pretty tired at the end of every day and don't have my full pep back. Turns out it could take up to a year for that to happen. Other than that, I just get some occasional chest pain and a lot of chest tightness.
Nonetheless, everything still works. We went on a very, long hike today and once my heart rate leveled off I was fine and very proud of myself. I've had to do a full eyebrow shaping and am back to shaving my legs and underarms (the one negative in all of this)! My hair is now fully covering my head. So much so that tomorrow I'm going into work without the customary head scarf I've been wearing for so many months. You can still see my scalp a bit as it is very thin, but there are no more obvious bald patches. I can't believe how fast it has all grown back. It really seemed like one day eyebrows and hair just reappeared. It's not red and it's not curly like Shirley Temple as many warned it would be. But it is very dark and I love it. I suppose that this is in fact my natural color. I guess I didn't really expect it to grow back with vanilla blonde highlights.
I've been working a normal schedule and keeping up with the busy schedule of holiday parties, shopping, snow shoveling, Christmas tree trimming and everything else that comes with this season. It's very hard to even remember when I couldn't do these simple things.
But it all came rushing back when I had a follow-up appointment at the cancer center this week. I suppose this is what's going to happen for the rest of my life while I'm constantly watched for any signs of cancer coming back. Hopefully it will get a little easier as time goes on.
As soon as I walked into the waiting room it brought my right back to my treatment days. Vulnerable. scared. uneasy. lots of anxiety. But I was able to recognize the fact that this time I was there as one of the post-chemo survivors I had always seen bopping in for quick check-ups, hugging and catching up with the nurses. And that's exactly what I did. It was great to see the team even though doing so meant I had to get my finger pricked and my port stuck.
It was most surreal to see my oncologist. I got all welled up sitting there in his room waiting. I could literally feel all the emotions swirling back throughout me. I thought I was going to lose it and just start crying as I remembered my own journey and watched so many others pass by the door at various stages of their own. But I held it together and just felt so incredibly grateful to be there painless and with a clear head.
Dr. Dailey sat down right next to me in his little exam room in the Hartford center and he asked about my post-chemo progress. He felt my lymph nodes on my neck and collar bone, under my arms. All signs point to the all-clear. But even so, he still wants to do one more PET-CT Scan before removing my port. Sigh. January 15 is the big day. If the scan is completely clear then we schedule a port removal surgery and I'll then be followed with a CT-Scan every six months. We talked about planning a pregnancy around my scans (very romantic) as I can't be exposed to radiation while pregnant. He advises that we wait until at least next January to start thinking of trying to build a family to be sure that my body is strong enough and all the toxins are out of my system. It all sounds like a great plan.
Then it was in to see the nurse to have my port flushed. Since it's not being used, I need to come in every month to get some saline and special concoction pumped through it to ensure there are no chances of clotting or build up of fibrous tissue within or around it. So it was another deep breath and needle jab ... hopefully I'll only have to go through that one more time.
After that appointment it's been back to holiday happenings, and I'm very much looking forward to Christmas and Hannukah with the fam. So much to be grateful for this year ... the gifts of the season take on a whole new light. Like all the cards and commercials say, I really am looking forward to a happy and healthy 2010.