I can’t believe it is already May 1st. My residents here in Martin Hall are packing up, and over the course of the next few days, they will finish their finals and head out toward summer adventures.
Sentimental tears have filled my eyes several times recently. We have been through a lot together! Most of this building is occupied by students who started out in Rice Hall with me last year. They were brand new freshmen in college, ready to take on the world (and totally terrified at the same time). We talked through finding their way to classes, navigating roommate conflicts, changing their majors, crushing on that cute boy in bio, and a million other “firsts.”
Then came my decision to move over to Martin Hall, and most of my Rice girls came with me. Last fall, round 2 of our life together began. I loved that I already knew about 100 of you. I knew your names. I knew what you struggled with last year. I knew your laughs, your shrieks, and the faces you made when you were holding back tears. I loved getting to have a second year with you!!
Then, just a few days into this academic year, I finally went to the doctor to get that spot checked. You didn’t know when you showed up to AU Olympics that I had 3 stitches hiding under the sleeve of my t-shirt. Just a week after that came the diagnosis – the C word (and soon 3 stitches would feel like nothing in comparison to what I went through!).
I didn’t want to scare you, so I kept it a secret for a while. I waited to find out how far the cancer had spread before sharing the news. When we learned it was in a lymph node (automatically pushing me to Stage 3), I didn’t know if I was going to be ok. I thought it was important to tell you before I got obviously sick, so I finally notified you.
Then came the outpouring of love. You – Martin girls, my sisters, my friends – you helped me in so many more ways than I could ever express. You loved me through an incredibly difficult year. I’m so grateful for the flowers and cards, drawings and emails. I especially loved when you dropped in my apartment to check on me.
I am so proud of the women you are becoming. From timid freshmen to confident upperclassmen – you are all amazing. I am so blessed by my two years with you!
And even though I’ve bragged on them before, THIS GROUP OF LADIES –
This is my RA staff from the current year. They walked through every moment of this crazy journey with me. When I hired them last spring, we had no idea what was coming. They handled it all in stride, staying so strong for me in the midst of extremely hard circumstances. I could brag about them for pages and pages and it wouldn’t be enough. My heart hurts just thinking of the year being over after this week…
Ok, time to change the subject before I start sobbing! But let me end the love letter portion of this blog with this: All of you Martin Girls – all 132 of you – I love you from the bottom of my heart. For those of you staying, I can’t wait to start Round 3 with you next year! For those of you moving on to apartments and houses, come back and see me. If you ever need anything, you know where to find me!
May 1st Medical Update
It’s been a very long time since I posted. I remember in the very beginning, I read a bunch of other people’s blogs about their experiences with melanoma treatment. After the first few months, all of their writing petered out. Now I understand why! As the schedule becomes more and more routine, it’s hard to remember to update the world. I also struggle against my fear of becoming a constant complainer. Interferon treatment is not fun. It is terrible. But I don’t particularly want to share with you every moment of the terribleness. I just can’t stand being that negative! So, I will bundle it all up and tell you about it in this one update.
My routine has stabilized, but my side effects have not. I still do an interferon shot at home every Monday and Friday night, and I still feel cruddy every Tuesday and Saturday. I go into the cancer center for blood work every other week.
Several weeks ago I had an MRI done of my head. As I wrote in the last blog, I had very weird headaches and a fuzzy feeling in my brain. There were a couple of times it was so bad that I couldn’t do anything but lie on my couch. Then, the fear of what could possibly be wrong made it even worse. The brain is a common place for melanoma to spread, and I was pretty terrified.
I’m thankful to report that the MRI did not show any spots on my brain. Woo hoo! The only thing the doctor could come up with was that the minor headaches were normal with my interferon treatments, and they worsened due to anxiety and fear. Possible proof that he is right: I haven’t had nearly as bad of headaches since getting the results that my brain is fine.
While my liver, pancreas, and white blood count are all stabilizing (great news), my side effects the day after treatments have been getting worse. My fevers spike higher and stay higher throughout the day, and my headaches and body aches have brought me to the edge of endurance. Personally, I think the worst part is that even my teeth ache on those days, and it is impossible to get comfortable when even your mouth hurts. This past Tuesday I experienced nausea, and that was something new on these “bad” days. I was hoping it was a one-time thing, but then I experienced it again on Saturday. Both times it hit me later in the day.
As the side effects worsen, my mind has completely rebelled against me. No matter how positive I try to remain, I deeply dread my injections. It’s proof of the simple psychological concept of conditioning… Lucky me – I’m exactly the same as Pavlov’s dogs! My mind has associated the smell of rubbing alcohol and the preparation of my medicines with how terrible I feel afterward. Now, as I know the time of my injections is approaching, my stomach violently lurches and I’m overwhelmed with my hatred for this medicine. It’s extremely difficult to inject it, even though it doesn’t hurt. I feel weak, my brain goes foggy, and every instinct in me screams, “DON’T DO THIS TO YOURSELF!”
I know that is not a fun update. I promise my entire life is NOT miserable! Between my amazing friends and family, the warming weather, and end-of-year festivities, I’m able to totally forget about the shots for a few days at a time. This is a really good thing, as I don’t want to just drift through the next 7 months, waiting for it all to be over and thinking about how much I dread these shots. It is a total of one year of interferon treatment, and that is just too long to sit by and wait for it all to be over. I’m glad I’m able to have “normal” life 5 days a week… even if an RD’s life is never actually normal!
- I have a CT scan coming up on May 10th. This is a standard scan (I have them every 3 months). Praying that there is nothing to be seen (but as always, if there is something in there, I pray that it IS seen!)
- That my side effects lessen and Tuesdays/Saturdays become more bearable.
- That I would stop dreading each shot so much (peace that surpasses understanding!)
- We are almost at the 8 month mark since my diagnosis. A HUGE praise that I have made it this far without a recurrence.