May 16, 2009

Daughter graduates to next phase of cancer battle

chemo postLike many proud parents, I bawled like a baby as my daughter crossed into a new phase of her life on graduation day.

Actually, I spilled the tears in the cancer center's family nutrition room while thanking a hospital volunteer. OK, I cried when she hugged me but that's another post.

Yes, my daughter has finished her 16th chemo treatment and we move on. The latest scans show the largest tumors have shrunk. In fact, Friday we spent about 90 minutes with a physician's assistant and nurse prepping for and learning about surgery, now scheduled for June 4.

Certificate marks end

On that last chemo day, she received a certificate signed by many of the folks who have helped pour the chemicals into her body since December.

There also was a nicely wrapped basket of her favorite granola bars - the kind she says still taste like granola bars - from the volunteer who brings a cart filled with granola bars, candy kisses, magazines, homemade hats to those getting chemo and those waiting with them.

Will it surprise anyone that my daughter now knows the volunteer was drawn to the center by a friend who has cancer and plans to volunteer more now that her paid job is history? She pulled that out when the volunteer found her getting the last treatment in a private room with a bed and not in the long hall of chemo chairs that made people watching easier.

Gifts mark start, end of chemo
It's nice that gifts marked the start and finish of her chemo treatments. At her first session, she sat next to a "veteran" whose brother Mark Slaven was visiting. The glass artist had brought along some pendants of dichroic glass that hospital employees were buying. He offered one to my daughter.

We were not sure if the last treatment would happen as planned. But a rushed visit to the family doctor the afternoon before for an infected toe started an infusion of drugs that got the infection and fever under enough control to allow the scheduled chemo. That's good because my daughter was hyper about finishing this phase.

I borrowed an idea spotted at a meeting of the Young Survival Coalition and made my daughter a bracelet marking this important day and journey. I wanted her to have something pretty to remember the positives.

Visualizing chemo at work

hatchetmanMy daughter visualized the ICP Hatchet Man chasing the cancer cells out of her body with his hatchet so I found that charm.

I pictured straight lines of liquids rushing through her body, slowly converting the bad into something beautiful. That led to an image of a butterfly emerging from a cocoon so 16 crystal butterflies end slivers of silver on the bracelet. Four of them are bright pink as the drugs for the first four sessions were bright pink. The rest are a pale pink.

Ironically, we shared the butterfly image as I learned a week earlier she was on the Internet looking for butterfly pins to give out on her last day. (She settled for pink ribbon pins.)

A cheerleader charm and heart-shaped bead represent the support that came her way. Praying hands hang there as a reminder of all the powerful prayers and spiritual resources sent our way. (Please, keep them coming)

Txt me please

A cellphone suggests the text messages that linked my daughter with me, my friends and me, my daughter and friends. The messages received as I drove from the Girl Scout conference in Indianapolis to my daughter's home in Tennessee ensured I regularly took road breaks. During the first days, the messages were the relief from the intense decisions as I learned to live in a town where I knew two people.

I believe we exchanged at least 100 messages - hey, I had questions and mom suggestions - the time I was too sick to go with her to the hospital for an infected eye. We could have done more over that 22-hour visit but her phone died. She left her charger at home because Ms. Optimist thought it would be a short visit.

newspaper purseCrafting toward cure

She has given my sewing machines quite the workout, embroidering towels and creating purses from newspaper and material. I hope the sewing machine charm also reminds her of the blankets, hats, blankets and bags she has crocheted. Oh, and the craft projects, which I will see whenever I see my dining table.

The symbol of breast cancer, a pink ribbon, encircles another silver heart that completes the silver bracelet.

Silver goes with the pink, yellow and purple rubber bracelets that alert all to her causes or condition.

The pink one is from her boyfriend, who walked in an American Cancer Society fund-raiser the month my daughter discovered a lump in her breast.

The yellow one is from the Lance Armstrong Live Strong effort, a gift from the people I was with in Indy when the diagnosis was made by a shocked doctor.

The purple one is from the maker of her port, implanted to make soften the impact of the 16 chemo treatments and a year of Herceptin.

Next up: Surgery

I'm glad that the first phase is over. Her hair and eyebrows are growing back in. She's lifting weights and doing yoga though she learned Friday that a lot of yoga poses will be banned for her soon.

She has decided to just take out the lumps and lymph nodes instead of getting rid of the whole breast. It means six weeks of daily radiation and we're told that recurrence rate is about the same. The surgeon can see the advantages of doing the first.

But I hear the surgeon also say that the option allows hanging onto the breast for awhile, through the all important 30s, perhaps the 40s. That is good news, you know, that we are talking of 30s and 40s. But I also hear the probability of another operation.

Plus, I hear the surgeon say her breast size would allow three attempts of ensuring the lab finds no cancer cells in the tissue removed.

I think I have poured all of my positive energy into my daughter and am left with the negative vibes that say just get it over with and take the whole breast now. But that's not my decision to make.

Changing priorities

Our optimism kroger purse has given way to a more practical approach - I'm not going to squeeze in the freelance job that would have taken nearly every daytime hour during the the "free weeks" between chemo and surgery and we are not going to travel the nine hours to her home to check on the job and catchup with friends in Tennessee.

Instead, we'll stay home. Katie hopes to stitch up some more purses, dishcloths, embroidered towels and other items to sell at our neighborhood garage sale and craft shows. We're also hoping to go through items and see what else might garner some cash during the event we've always been too busy to participate in before.

I'm thinking a little rest would be good too.

1 comment:

  1. Hope she is doing better now. I understand it's great pain to see one of our beloved ones suffer. Maybe you can buy her a new piece of hatchetman charm jewelry. She must be happy to get such a gift.