Today, I went back to the oncology ward for another round of Herceptin, mentally checking off my 8th of 17 Herceptin treatments (only 9 more to go!) Walking back into the chemo rooms, I realized that before my little escape to California to stay with my dad, I was running out of fight. After so many months of treatment, I had started spiraling into depression. But I’ve returned feeling stronger and I can once again look at the Herceptin treatments as one of medicine’s little miracles – one of my many weapons against this stupid disease.
Of course before being allowed Herceptin today, I had to pass another heart test, or “MUGA,” on Tuesday. They do these MUGAs every few months because Herceptin can be hard on your heart, and it’s not like you need to contend with any additional major health problems when you’re wrangling cancer.
I think of those old kung-fu movies, where the hero is surrounded by a circle of villains who rather obligingly wait their turn to attack, getting knocked on their keisters one by one. Wait your turn, heart problems, I’m still busy kicking cancer’s butt. The hero never focuses on the entire gang of villains edging ever-closer. He always keeps them in his periphery in case they get sneaky, yes – but his martial arts training has taught him to focus on one bad guy at a time. (Never mind that in the movies they always wait their turn anyway.)
So it is with breast cancer sometimes. There are so many questions and fears encircling you, so many villainous things to contend with: What will the test results say? How bad will the side-effects be? When will my hair fall out? Has the tumour shrunk? Was the surgery successful? And, of course, the biggest, meanest, most villainous question of all: will I survive??
Today, sitting there hooked up to my IV, surrounded by all the other women in various stages of their treatment, I was reminded that there are a LOT of us fighting this fight. There is Patricia, who in spite of enduring more than a year of extremely intensive chemo is always one of the friendliest, most cheerful people in the chemo rooms. She told me today that they’re finally starting to see some of the tumours shrink. There is Carol, my friend’s mom, who is holding her breath til Monday when she finds out if the lumpectomy was successful or if they will have to do a mastectomy. And as always there are new faces; today I saw a woman having her first round of chemo, looking scared and bewildered and brave all at once.
There are so many of us. I can’t believe how many of us there are, each of us swarmed by all the questions and implications of our unique fight with cancer. It’s overwhelming sometimes. But I really do believe most of us are going to beat it. Most of us are winning. We have to win. We’re the kung-fu heroes, and we’re tired, and maybe it feels like there are too many villains encircling us, but we kung-fu fighters never give up. That’s the one thing we can’t do. We have to keep fighting: Hi-eee-yah! One karate chop at a time.