I have good news. Very good news. I have finished my cancer treatment. It consisted of eighteen weeks of chemotherapy beginning March 1 and ending July 6. Major abdominal “debulking” surgery on September 7 and six more weeks of chemotherapy that began October 12 and finished up in time for a week off before Thanksgiving.
Really, things could not have gone better. After that first week of the diagnosis where I just kept laying out the best case scenario and just kept getting hit with the worst case scenario, treatment went better than expected and the surgery was a complete success and the recovery not difficult and Wednesday, November 30, I learned that, as had been happening all along, the chemotherapy knocked my CA 125 marker down by halves each round, finishing up at 20.4. All that matters is that it was below 35, but I like that number. A friend said it reminds him of the little “26.2” stickers marathoners have in their car windows. The cancer treatment was certainly a marathon. And so now I am free to have the port removed and not required at the oncologist until the end of February, when I will have a scan and blood work to see where we are. Hopefully this monitoring will become routine and continue far into the future, with longer and longer intervals as we go along.
Yet I am a permanent member of the “living with cancer/survivorship” community. And I am glad to be a member. This fall, as I was getting ready for surgery, my college friend Phil Cantor’s teen daughter was diagnosed with osteosarcoma. I wanted to jump in and send her something, as so many people sent me gifts in those first days. I sent her a couple books, including a graphic novel by a cancer survivor that may have been inappropriate for a teenager and my own book of poems. Here is Moey’s introduction of herself in a comic book she made about chemo side effects.
This comic has a lot of information about side effects, including something I had not thought about. She informs her readers about the effect of chemo on the ears.
I had ringing in my ears, and the ghosts here really do it justice. The sound kind of swells and subsides and is in the far back of your ears. It doesn’t block out normal sounds. I came to associate it with low red blood counts and fatigue, but Moey is right, it probably had more to do with losing the little hairs in my ears.
This is the page I liked the best:
First of all, I’m not sure if this is a ghosties fiesta but it is the coolest drawing of the inner ear ever. And it also reminded me of the strange experience I had of hearing music while undergoing chemo. It happened three times.
Twice I was in bed and there were people talking downstairs. I knew the music was somehow a distortion of their voices, but it was gorgeous. The experience lasted a long time, and made me feel really peaceful and happy. I just lay there and listened to the music, a kind of jazz with multiple instruments and no dissonance, all harmony. The music was real enough to wonder if it was playing downstairs, but I knew it wasn’t. I had myself a private performance in my head– or in my inner ear.
The other time it happened was on the drive home after surgery. I told my parents: “I hear organ music.” I knew it was from the sound of driving on a highway with a metal median strip and wires. I could remember, of course, the normal sound outside the car of rushing through the landscape with other vehicles and tires on the ground and wind…
But for me, there was organ music. Rich and deep and again, comforting.
There is grace everywhere. Even in the odd, surreal world of chemotherapy. Thank you to Moey Dworkin Cantor for putting some science behind it for me. And for the incredible way she is creatively dealing with her disease and the terrible treatment. I’m grateful also for Phil, the way he is sharing his family’s journey with his friends on Facebook and helping all of us understand the life and love that are also present in this terrible, difficult time.