Self-consciousness attack Chemoville, then vanish without a trace

August 2001

August2, Group Email. Subject: Countdown

Well, things are wrapping up neatly. I said good bye to the blaster yesterday. It wished me good luck, good fortune, and good karma through a farewell 15 second buzz. I tried to record in my memory exactly what it feels like to be focused in the crosshairs of radiating, multi-million dollar beast: the hulking scraped up metal, the accompanying warm fuzzies.

Then I had a CT to verify that all systems are indeed normal and that it's okay to remove the catheter in my chest. Right after I explained to a friend on the phone how I'd have to wait till Friday to hear the results, another friend at the hospital called and said that the scan looked good, and that after Friday, I would indeed be tubing free!

So the catheter is getting yanked tomorrow. I don't think I've ever looked so forward to a procedure in the angiogram room. I'm so ready. "Stand with both feet on my shoulders and yank the thing out, please!" I want to go swimming, to immerse myself in coolness. Before the treatments, I always felt like I was suffocating when I swam so I'm really looking forward to seeing that this sensation has left with the tumors.

So that's about it. Now daily home care consists of picking the occasional ingrown hair. I see doctors tomorrow to be released from the care of the Bone Marrow Transplant Team. With the catheter removed I'll no longer need someone to always accompany me. I no longer have constant appointments with doctors, nurses, and techs. My irradiated lungs need to recover a little more before I hit the dust, about a month (two weeks), then I'll be eating sashimi in no time! The "100 day" check-up, which sounds like a virtual party of scans and blood screening happens in a month, then it's on to check ups every three months, then eventually yearly. If I make it two years without a relapse, I'm golden.

That's how it goes in Chemoville. An uneventful ending to a treacherous, year long journey. But hey, that's what I'm ready for; uneventfulness.


Quote of the Month

"Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards"~Soren Kierkegaard.


Hair farming.


August 7th, The End.

Ha! There is no end to my story, or any other story about cancer for that matter. Whether cured or just enjoying remission, my life has changed for good, no matter how much I want things to be just like they were before cancer.

But I like the new me. I'm proud of the new me. I fought for it, and finally got it. I'm out of the proverbial tunnel and into the light. Now that I'm here, I want to see what I can do. Luckily, I don't have to win the Tour du France three times to prove anything to you guys. Thanks Lance!

So things have continued to wrap up slowly. Friday the catheter came out. It hurt as they prepared the tube for blast-off, but the actual yanking was pretty uneventful. I wanted a picture of the disembodied contraption, but forgot my camera, so I brought the derelict thing home with me for a farewell photo shoot. Bye, bye. I've never been into jewelry, anyway.

Friday night I went to a Stem cell transplant survivors' reunion. Crazy to see all the ages, all the survivors, all the stories. We're all just like anyone else, but different at the same time. Picking up conversations with strangers was a no brainer. No one could believe that I was only two months out from my transplant. I started to get the feeling that I've been really lucky. Then, when I would share my excitement about how I just had my tube removed, some survivors who were one or two years out would sigh and say, "Oh, I can't wait to get rid of mine!" Oops, I felt so bad. I thought it took me forever to get rid of it. Apparently not.

Then Sunday I took kuma for a walk and she must have stepped on some glass somewhere. She came back to me with a limp and a bad gash in her paw. We went to the emergency pet hospital where I had a crash course on being the nervous onlooker instead of the patient. I didn't do well. I felt every needle, suture and tug poor Kuma went through. Knowing how it is to be part paralyzed, part stupefied while doctors hurriedly prod away didn't help. I made sure the Doctor was supplying enough pain relief. So much pain. But the worst of all was holding Kuma as the tranquilizers began to work. I felt Kuma's essence leave her body as she succumbed to the drugs. Suddenly I was alone holding this mostly lifeless body. I cried as I realized that this was the same horror that Christine and our families must have gone through with me on too many occasions. It took me so long to understand this simple truth that I'd heard so many times before: everyone involved suffers a pain of their own, equally intense, if not more so.

That's how it feels to be left behind.

After the operation they injected an antidote to wake her up. She drunkenly got up and stumbled on three paws out to the car. Back home Kuma and I both crashed hard into a worn out stupor, like an iceberg into the Titanic.

This morning she got up slowly, as if from a bad dream. She got used to walking in her bandages, and she seems mostly back to normal. (Though she's not real happy with me for enforcing her recovery routine, which doesn't involve exercise.) She loafed around today as I cleaned up the chest in the guest room that has been my informal altar of syringes and cancer paraphernalia. This is where I performed my daily rituals of flushing the catheter, drawing blood, giving neupogen shots, changing dressings, or whatever. Not entirely convinced that I'll never need the stuff again, but happy to get rid of it, I boxed the leftovers up and put it out on the front porch for pick-up. The space that was once there for cancer has quickly disappeared underneath the clutter and accoutrements of a nondescript thirty year old....

Alas, If the Lymphoma Journal has an end, this is it. Further adventures will happen. Doctors. Hospitals. I'm sure I'll have no shortage of nervous moments waiting in the examination room at my future periodic check-ups. I have to get used to needles again now that my catheter is out, and then there are the CT slurpies to look forward to.

Yes, there will be additions, updates, and appendixes, but hopefully, no sequels. . .


My triple lumen catheter, free at last.


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