Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Closing Another Chapter

This past Monday was a big day.   After just over two years to the day that I had it put in, I had surgery to remove my port.   I figured the closing of another chapter was a good opportunity to dust off this blog since it’s been well over a year since I’ve written anything.  Part of that has been intentional as I’ve been focused on getting back to normal life and not thinking about the ‘C’ word, but I also just haven’t had the time.  Since my last post, we sold our house in NH, and then moved to NC, living in an apartment for 5 months before moving into our new house in December.  We found schools for the girls, a new church that we love and have been settling in to our new community.  It’s hard being away from friends and family in NH, but we really love it here.   

Life is an adventure with this crew

I was still getting the Rituxan treatments every 2 months, so I transferred to an oncologist here at Duke University Cancer Center.  That part was relatively smooth and the treatments were mild compared to “real” chemo.  After a day or so I was pretty much back to normal.   The one problem I’ve been having is a lingering cough/ respiratory infection for over a year.  Increased respiratory infections are a common side effect of Rituxan, but it was mild enough that it didn’t have a big impact; it was just more of an annoyance.  The doctors weren’t really concerned as my blood work continued to look normal, so I planned to just tough it out.  It would usually get better a couple weeks before treatment, then worse a couple weeks after, but over the winter it seemed to be getting progressively worse.  I had my last treatment in January and was scheduled for 3 more, but after doing some additional research and getting the OK from my oncologist, I decided to cut it short.  I had a CT scan to make sure there was still no trace of the lymphoma (there wasn’t) and scheduled the surgery to get the port removed. 

The good news

 On the day of the procedure, Tiffany and I arrived at Duke and I checked in as usual.  I had my blood taken at the lab and then we walked to another building where the surgery would take place.  We cut through the emergency room entrance and had to pass through the metal detectors and armed guards, which was….different.  We made it to the outpatient surgery area and were brought right in.  After 4 failed attempts at getting the IV in, the nurse gave up and said they would do it in the operating room.  Once I was in there, they hooked me up, gave me some medicine to take the edge off, and it was over in about 20 minutes. 

Eyeing the nurse suspiciously as he preps another IV (with both wrists bandaged)

It was an emotional day knowing that this part is finally over.  The port has been a physical reminder of this experience – something I saw and felt every day.   It marks another milestone in the journey – truly going from a cancer patient to just getting annual checkups; a survivor.  I feel like I can once and for all get back to life without knowing there were still days to be spent in the infusion room.  It’s one more weight lifted and it feels amazing.  I’ll still have the scars and some of the other physical effects, but I’m better and more grateful for life than I was before.  I still get anxious over trivial things in life, which is ironic and dumb, but overall I’m just overwhelmed with gratitude at the goodness and faithfulness of God.   

Celebrating no more poison being injected into my heart! ;)

I've ended every blog post on here with a song and this one has special meaning like many of the others.  For some reason I listened to a lot of Bastille during this ordeal, so now every time I hear one of their songs it brings me back.  It didn't occur to me until much later that the name of their album was "Bad Blood" (blood cancer = bad blood, get it?).  I know that's not what they were talking about, but still.  This song starts with the chorus "I don't want to hear about the bad blood anymore..." which is exactly how I feel - ready to move ON!