Wednesday, March 15, 2023

Third Line Failure

Yesterday, I learned that my third line of treatment has failed. It only worked for about 3-4 months, and during the last two months, the cancer must have been growing. The drug (Trodelvy), which was just approved for breast cancer last year, held tremendous promise, and I hoped to be one of the small percentage of people to ride it to remission. Now I'm left wondering what is left. How many lines of treatment do I have left? Maybe a few more? Maybe a handful? And of those, which will work? And for how long? 

As with the first and second failures, I feel panicked for my family, for my children who may grow up without me. I do the math in my head. If the doctor who gave me my original average prognosis is right, my children will be 15 and 13 by then. I am grateful they will be older, not in the throes of toddler years or even younger. But I'm greedy.  

I don't want to leave my family. I don't want to exit early. I want to see my children go through the awkward teenage years and experience unnecessary drama over short-lived romance. I want to help them decorate their graduation caps. I want to help Skye when the messy period arrives. I want to advise them with college choices and majors.  I want to know what they look like when they're adults. I don't want sensitive Tyler to withdraw even more into himself. I don't want them to face the world with this punch in the guts. I want to grow older with Jeff and help him if he gets Alzheimers. 

I feel trapped in an incomprehensible maze. Why is this happening? What is this? How do I make sense of this? And then I realize that I'm asking the wrong questions. Somehow, we have convinced ourselves that mortality and sickness are exceptions to the rule. But they are all around us. I am surrounded by sick people these days, at the hospital, on Facebook, in the stories I hear. I am hyper-aware of death. 

In my mind, I determine to accept my fate. Somehow it feels like that will be easier than hoping for an unusual exception to the average. I have stage 4 triple negative breast cancer, the most aggressive breast cancer. When I asked for my prognosis, my oncologist told me, "Three years on average, maybe five. We're not talking about a decade." I've already lived a year and a half since I was told the prognosis. 

Maybe this is how it goes. Treading water until something big comes unexpectedly. I've spent the past year and a half just trying to function daily, swimming out from the drowning sensation of chemo. On the good days, I've met with friends, cooked for the family, and traveled. All I want to do these days is hang out with the kids and feed them. 

I have a lot to do. I still have not made my children's baby books. Or Jeff’s and my wedding book, although we have the most stunning photos. I want to make a book of my children's artwork from pre-school on so that they have something to remember when they finally throw out the over-stuffed bin of all the art work I painstakingly laminated. I think about buying presents for their future birthdays for when I'm not here. I am writing a blog for the kids so I can communicate with them from the past. 

I wish I could take time back and go back to when they were 2 and 4. I would hug them over and over again. Do whatever I could to stretch out the days, instead of lamenting having to hang out and feeling so impatient for my own career. I miss the days when they were infants and I could sit with them in my arms as they nourished themselves. 

The good thing is I still can. I sit next to them when they do their homework. Lurk like someone who has nothing better to do. I bring them snacks and cut them fruit. I bring them cups of juice even though I used to restrict their sugar intake. As my nurse told me when she found me crying in the ER when the cancer returned, "You're still here. You're still here."