Yesterday was my last radiation treatment. It marks the end of cancer treatments going back to the January 29th procedure to have the port placed in my chest. Five and a half months of chemotherapy or radiation.
My conditions is okay right now overall, but the local pain and irritation from the x-rays is quite bad. I’m fatigued beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. I can’t do much at this time other than stay home, rest, and tend to whatever I can to stop the pain and help the healing begin.
Someone asked me the other day if I was going to celebrate. I said I didn’t feel like there was anything to celebrate. After all, I have no idea if this last 5 months has eradicated the cancer or not. I won’t know for another month or so. But this friend pointed out that I should feel accomplished because I didn’t quit.
Quitting never entered my mind. I have cancer. The doctors prescribed a series of treatments. I endured them. That was the plan.
I knew from the beginning that this wasn’t going to be easy. Some of it was harder than I expected, but the doctors and nurses were pretty accurate when preparing me for side effects, no easy feat considering how differently each patient reacts.
But it still doesn’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything… yet. I’ve endured pain, sickness, and some very weird neurological effects of the past 5 months, but I didn’t do anything remarkable. There is a basket full of drugs in the bathroom showing just how much help I’ve had through this process.
No. I don’t feel accomplished. In fact, much of the time I’ve felt fortunate. I see other cancer patients at the hospital who are wheeled into the rooms in chairs and even on gurneys. I see patients who have lost their hair, or can barely walk, those who are so gaunt, they look like a breeze might knock them into a fall that’s certain to break something. I have none of these problems. Sure, my cancer is in an unfortunate and very uncomfortable location which has lead to changes in my bathroom routines. But there are patients far worse off than me.
I don’t even think I will feel accomplished if I learn a month from now that the cancer is gone. I’ll be happy. Ecstatic in fact. But the accomplishment will belong to the doctors who developed a plan to eradicate the cancer.
There is one possible outcome that may leave me feeling accomplished. There is statistically a 75% chance that I will need surgery to finally remove the tumor. That surgery will leave me without the lower part of my colon and rectum. It will leave me to rely on a colostomy bag for the rest of my life.
When I come to terms with that life, when I overcome the challenges that will allow me to return to the active things I love doing, like fencing, hunting, biking, and hiking, perhaps then I will feel like I’ve accomplished something.
Failing that accomplishment is my only real fear right now.