After a successful surgery that removed both breasts and 23 lymph nodes (2 of which were positive for Cancer), the real treatment began. The oncologist recommended 8 rounds of dose-dense chemo (because I was young & healthy…let that sink in), including a cocktail of Adiamycin (known as the “Red Devil” because of its cherry kool-aid hue) and Cytoxan for the first 4 rounds, followed by 4 rounds of Taxol. As if the poison from these life-saving toxins weren’t enough to cope with, they were accompanied by IV steroids, neulasta, and several other drugs. I finished out the school year in the classroom, getting my first infusion just a week before school was out for the Summer. Those four months consisted of side effects that were listed on the paperwork I signed, but had secretly wished would not apply to me. Hair loss was the least of my worries as I dealt with daily hot flashes, diarrhea so acidic it made sitting painful, deep aching bone pain, anemia that made getting ready to leave the house feel like I’d run a marathon, then constipation that made my face swell up like a water ballon. The scariest part of that process for me was the day I went to get chemo and my red blood count was too low. I was sent straight to the hospital for a blood transfusion. The weakness and feelings of fear I’d felt in the days leading up to that visit made sense, as there was physical evidence to back it up. I was able to go back to the plan a few days later. That was the last dose of my treatment, and I was so thankful that the truly scary part was over.
School started again in the Fall, and I went back to work until it was time to start radiation. For seven weeks, I would have to go to the Cancer center 5 days a week to be lined up in a machine inside a room with concrete walls, and have my skin burned deep inside to prevent a recurrence. I opted to take off work during that period as it just didn’t make sense to be at work half days and still have to plan for a Sub the other half. So instead, I chose to be “off”, which gave me the time I needed to rest while still keeping up with daily lessons and grading. This was the first glimpse I got of the demands on a teacher who experiences a health challenge. The fatigue that accompanied those treatments was debilitating. It was literally all I could do to make it through the days. The Holidays consisted of preparing myself mentally for going back to work. I mean, that’s the goal, right?
The rest of the year went by in a blur, with most of the days ending with my fiancé driving me home in tears because I felt like I couldn’t keep up with what I was doing in the classroom, much less at home. This was the beginning of my journey back to normal…one that I’m not sure I was intended to make at all.
Our wedding took place the following Spring Break (the life of a teacher…all events revolve around a school year & the breaks). It was a beautiful moment where we were able to celebrate as a family all that we’d made it through together.