- I have taken a total of 13,080 milligrams of Temodar chemotherapy, with much more to go.
- It made me throw up once.
- My "mange" is growing back -- hooray -- but my roots are definitely growing faster.
- I have had 21 blood tests since January. I have another one tomorrow. (My veins seem to know when it's Thursday, and they start perking up.)
- Only one blood test showed low white blood cell and neutrophil counts.
- No blood tests have shown decreased red blood cells or platelets so far (knock wood).
- My surgical scar looks great (if you can even see it), but my head is still really tender and my skull feels really bumpy where I was carved open. I still avoid sleeping on my right side as much as possible.
- I still have jaw discomfort from the surgical incision (I rarely chew gum and I dread eating anything tall.)
- I can count backward from 100 by sevens REALLY fast (100, 93, 86, 79, 72, 65, 58, 51, 44, 37, 30, 23, 16, 9, and 2: it took longer to type it than to say it...)
- I have a 4.0 GPA on my monthly neuro tests. Maybe higher, since they usually tell me I got an "A+"
- I can sight-read music better than I did before surgery, but my reading comprehension is (slightly) worse.
- I have taken three different anti-seizure medications: Trileptal, Dilantin, and Keppra.
- I have had 2 C-T scans and 8 MRI scans since last November. My next MRI scan is scheduled for August 10.
- I have said the words "avocado", "tree", and "no if's, and's, or but's" in my neuro-oncologist's office about a half-dozen times each.
- I have stuck out my tongue at some of the best doctors around -- and at their request.
- I have forgotten where I put my keys, shoes, wedding ring, and watch more times in the past seven months than I had in the previous 38 years of my life.
- I can still sing most of a one-hour Handel's Messiah performance and anything I ever recorded with Evening Song choir -- from memory -- and I can usually recite most of the opening paragraph of Gone With the Wind ("Scarlett O'Hara wasn't beautiful, but men seldom realized it when caught by her charms as the Tarleton twins were. In her face were too sharply blended the delicate features of her mother, a Coast aristocrat of French descent, and the heavy ones of her florid Irish father...") as well as the FDA's definition of a medical device complaint ("any written, electronic, or oral communication that alleges deficiencies related to the identity, quality, durability, reliability, safety, effectiveness, or performance of a device after it is released for distribution"). I can remember some phone numbers that I rarely call and/or haven't called in years. I also remember the address of the house I lived in when I was five years old (98 Stonegate Road, Buffalo Grove, Illinois) and the three "test words" from my last neuro exam ("tree, monkey, avocado"). But my short-term memory is sometimes frustratingly flawed. ("Dangit - did I take my medication today?")
- I can walk a straight line on my toes or heels, even with mules on.
- I have submitted four magazine articles for publication. One has been accepted (with modification).
- For at least three months I went without cooking a single meal, but I ate better than ever.
- I have had all four of my bathrooms professionally cleaned (for free) at least four times each.
- (Too many acts of service to number)
- I have had more than a dozen out-of-town family members and/or friends come to visit me in the past seven months.
- I have sung five different solo or duet performances this year.
- I have clog danced to "Duelling Banjos" with my husband more than a dozen times this year.
- I haven't missed a day of exercise in 68 days. My previous streak lasted three years, and I am determined to live long enough to beat it.
- This year I have watched exactly zero episodes of "American Idol" - my once-favorite show.
- I have purchased more than a dozen books about cancer.
- I have read less than one.
- I have raised nearly $1000 for the American Cancer Society.
- I have spent about $150 on Lance Armstrong "Livestrong" merchandise.
- I received three free copies of Lance Armstrong's books: one from a cousin, and two from the cancer center.
It is a time of reflecting back on seven months' evolution from "shock and awe" to feisty fighter. Seven months ago I had no idea what chemotherapy and radiation would be like; now I feel like a seasoned veteran. I am doing a lot better than I expected at this stage. My treatment has been amazingly tolerable. I am aware that it wasn't so very long ago that the prognosis for this type of cancer was half of what it is today. Technology and prayer have easily carried me this far with no end in sight (so far - knock wood).
This is also a time to realize that -- oops -- I still haven't done everything I wanted to do while time is a-tickin'. I've done some great stuff, and I have found so much more meaning in every day that passes. I give thanks for every day of my life, and I am blessed to realize how precious life is. But I am anxious to get some things finished and tied up, especially since I find that the more prepared I am for something, the less likely it will happen. Even so, I try not to be too concerned that I have eaten up half of that 14 month timeline. As I said in a previous blog, I can think of myself as being halfway through "the rest of my life", or I can think of myself as being halfway toward beating my prognosis.
And finally, I must report that these past seven months have taught and given me much more than I have time or space to list. Suffice it to say what a friend (and fellow cancer survivor) said to me shortly after my diagnosis: "Cancer gives more than it takes."