The anxiety builds up inside my body as the sun sets over the beautiful city of Tucson and the mountains fade into the darkness. For the third time I find myself staring hopelessly at the ceiling. Part of me wants more than anything to be readmitted to the hospital, to start chemotherapy sooner so I can return to my life. Then I remember the truth: I’ll never get to go back to my old life because it was stolen when I went to war with cancer.
The other part of me fears going back, endless days and sleepless nights. How could I want to go back and fill my body full of poison? It would be nice to hide from all our demons. I’ve learned that you’ve got to face your problems head on, all in. I’ve also learned there are some battles you’re going to lose, but winning the war is all that matters.
As I lay in my bed for what could be the last time, tears fill my eyes. Being home is the greatest gift in the world, but it’s also a constant reminder of everything I’m missing out on. The worst part is not knowing if I’ll be readmitted.
After being turned away twice for low counts I think we were all beginning to worry. You could say we were frustrated and exhausted, but that would be an understatement. I could say I walked into the hospital absolutely fearless, ready to fight, not a doubt in my mind, but that would be a lie.
I remember getting one last glimpse of the mountains, breathing in one last breath of fresh air not knowing if it would be the last time I would stand under the sun’s rays for another month. As we walked through the doors of the hospital to the clinic I prayed I would make counts. When we arrived we were directed into a room full of recliners and IV poles. My nurse came in, drew my blood, wrapped my wrist in a band and then came the hard part: waiting. Waiting for results, waiting for my fate. I tried to sleep, tried watching TV, I tried pretty much anything to keep me distracted. Finally, my blood results came back, the moment we had all been waiting for… I didn’t make counts. I was so overwhelmed and frustrated, but most of all I was scared out of my mind. My doctor walked through the door, we discussed my low counts and ultimately decided to start my third cycle because I was so close. Relief, right? I mean, that was what I was hoping for, but I still felt uneasy.
I always get scared before going under anesthesia, I hate giving up total control and putting my life in the hands of a stranger. This time I was especially nervous because I had aspirated in the previous cycle. I walked hand in hand with each of my parents to the pre-op room. Soon I would be wheeled off down the hallway into the operating room. The last thing I remember before blacking out was a bunch of voices coming at me from different directions. I woke up within 5 minutes of being in the recovery room. As I was pushed back up to the 6th floor I was ready to face 5 days of aggressive chemotherapy. This cycle is called “Intensification 1”. It was a mystery to everyone how I would react to the high-dose chemo.
My first night back was filled with headaches and nausea, constant blood pressure screenings, blood draws, eyedrops and way too many drugs to count. By the next morning I was having awful migraines and couldn’t shake the nausea. I was just miserable. As each day went by I marked the treatments off the chemo-calendar and started to see a tiny light at the end of the tunnel. After 5 days, 15 treatments of chemo, and an awful chemo rash I was finally done for the cycle.
Once again we wait. We wait for my counts to drop, and then we wait for them to rise. A week ago I was healthier, I could walk 10,000 steps in a day or cheer my brother on at basketball games. Now, I struggle to walk more than 2,000 steps and I’m in complete isolation from the rest of the world. As I find myself waiting I think about how I’ve just poisoned my body, how the chemo kills the good, the bad and the ugly. I wonder how I set myself up to be sick. To win a war you need to have patience, you have to be willing to sacrifice, and in the end, victory is all that matters.