Thursday was my final....FINAL herceptin treatment. I have not completely finished my treatments for cancer. I am now officially, on the other side.
I made bags up for all the nurses in the chemo clinic. I had canvas bags made at Vistaprint with a picture of the tree of life on the front (I thought that was fitting) I filled the bag with lotion, sanitizers and soap from Bath and Body Works, a big box of chocolates and a gift card for the coffee shop in the hospital. I wrote a nice card and brought in boxes of chocolates for the secretaries and volunteers as well.
I was giddy.
My own doctor was away on vacation. He's semi retired now so he's away often. His replacement was a younger woman, very friendly, and judging from what I overheard in the other room, very well versed in oncology. In fact, one of my nurses suggested I approach her to take me on as a patient when my own oncologist retires. I liked her and think I will do just that.
I wrote in my journal one final time too. I wrote about how 16 months ago I walked out of that hospital newly diagnosed with cancer and terrified about the road ahead. And today (well, Thursday) I was was walking out a survivor. And I owed that all, quite literally my life, to my medical team.
And yet, I'd admit, part of me had a touch of survivors guilt. Because I know that while I am able to walk out of there again, smiling, happy and above all else, cancer free - I know there are lots of people who don't. People who may have even been there at that time. So though I was celebrating I was trying not to be boastful about it. I was trying to be sensitive to the others there.
I was in 'my' chair. It's off in a corner - away from most of the other chairs and quite. I like it there. I can read and relax. While I was there, the nurses were coming over to congratulate me. One of them, while hooking up the IV on the man next to me commented that after a year and a half I was finally done.
The man looked over at me and said, "A year and a half, you're lucky, two years for me!"
The man introduced himself as Murray. He's 84 years old (and he looked fantastic, I wouldn't have placed him at 70) He asked me what type of cancer I'd had and if I was scared. We talked about his cancer (lung) and how he'd already done one bout with cancer and thought he'd be done with it but nope - no such luck. We talked about my husband and kids and parents and his wife and kids and grandkids. He cracked a subtle joke about marriage, I laughed and agreed with him and he told me I was quick and that he liked me.
But mostly we talked the way cancer patients talk to one another. About the simple fact that while everyone around us does their best to understand, no one really quite gets what it is we're going through. It really is a game changer. We put on brave faces or we don't because we agreed that there are two kind of cancer patients - those who lament and those who accept it for what it is and try to keep positive) We manage our pain both physically and emotionally and we support our families. Because in that too we agreed, it can sometimes be harder on our families than it is on us.....
I enjoyed my time with Murray and I was a little sad to go. He was funny and interesting he called my husband Michael (I don't know what made him think my husbands name was Michael but I didn't see the need to correct him) His wife was lovely too. He introduced me to her just as I was leaving (she had been upstairs) and he told her "we talked at length about this cancer business but neither of us solved a damned thing!"
I think I'll think about Murray often. I don't know his prognosis. I didn't ask. But I'll wish him well and say a prayer that no matter what happens with him, that he greets it with open arms.
And for me. I can finally put this cancer business behind me and look forward again.