Thursday, August 22, 2013

FINISHED with Chemo!

Last night I took my final dose of ATRA, almost two-and-a-half years after my AML diagnosis.

It's hard to believe the end of treatment has finally come. We haven't received my quarterly PCR remission test result yet, but once that does come in, knock on wood, we'll be able to celebrate the end. Until I hit the five-year mark, I'll still be seeing my oncologist quarterly, and having my blood tested at each of those appointments, but NO MORE PAIN, NAUSEA, AND INSOMNIA!!!

Today, my family starts a new phase in our lives. For as far back as my daughter's memories go, she's been aware of me taking medicine and feeling sick, and having lots of doctor appointments because of the "Tiny Bad Guys." As long as I stay in remission, these memories of hers will slip away.

For me, despite episodes of forgetfulness that I attribute to "Chemo Brain," all that's happened won't disappear from my memory bank. Nor will it be forgotten by the rest of my family. My doctor says it's very common for cancer patients to experience a form of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Also, many patients feel somewhat lost post the end of treatment. There's comfort in following a treatment plan, and knowing that the medicine is actively fighting on your behalf within your body.

That said, it's also very liberating to clean out the medicine cabinet and toss out the schedule. I'm happy to be moving on. In general, cancer survivorship is a term that connotes pride and accomplishment. It's a label that helps to define a person. I haven't yet figured out how much I want it to define me. True, our experiences shape who we are, and I'm not the same person I was before my diagnosis, yet I'm ready to get on with life.

My anxieties about relapse and latent side-effects from the treatment didn't disappear last night with my last dose. Will allowing my survivorship to be a bigger part of my identity help me cope with these anxieties, or worsen them? I haven't yet figured that out. Nor do I need to yet. For now, I can just take things one day at a time.  And enjoy it.

Thank you to everyone who's been so supportive during these treatments. A special thank you to Rob and my parents, and to Mary Lou and Aunt Mary for all of their cheerful cards, filled with words of encouragement.