I was dragging my feet this morning coming in for my 4th round of chemotherapy. I was trying to use all my positive thinking but was feeling down about having to go through another infusion. I knew I would be getting news about a cancer marker we are monitoring but I wasn’t worried about that, I was very optimistic that it had gone down. I think I just had another moment of realization of what my life has become, and knowing what this week would bring wasn’t too exciting. I sat in my swing in the backyard this morning and did a meditation while I soaked up the nice warm sun, a good dose of Vitamin D. I felt more at peace but still emotional… I was actually afraid I would sit in my lazy boy and wouldn’t be able to control the tears from falling… but we received such great news that my sadness transformed into strength, optimism, and an eager desire to get this next infusion that would continue to shrink all these tumors!
Throughout this treatment, we will be following a tumor marker called “CEA” which stands for “carcinoembryonic antigen”. The normal range for this marker is <2.5 ng/ml. Higher levels tend to indicate more advanced tumors, or tumors that have spread throughout the body, and a rising level indicates the progression of the cancer. It was expected (well we had hoped with all our heart) that this marker would go down with chemo. Right before I started chemo, my level was 194 and I was visualizing my doctor telling me it had gone to 130 BUT after 3 rounds of chemo, it went down to 38!!! I was so thrilled to hear this news and my doctor and I even talked about the possibility of being “NED” one day, meaning No Evidence of Disease, wouldn’t that be great! I know there is a lot more work and fighting to be done, but this is so encouraging, the feeling that everything we are doing is working! (and yes it is “we” because I feel you all behind me).
Everyone says that cancer is a life changing experience and there is no doubt about that. One of the biggest things for me has been to learn to be fine with slowing down and being ok not doing anything. I guess I am learning to implement in my life the tools I used to teach my patients. One of my mentors, Alice Domar, (who trained me in the Mind/Body program for infertility), wrote a whole book on “self nurture” and she explains very well how women really struggle to take care of themselves. We are really good at taking care of everyone around us, we always find time for our kids, husband, friends, family, colleagues, neighbors but when you ask women to take 30 minutes/day for themselves, they are at a loss and many will report feeling “guilty” for doing so. I was certainly one of them. I would always make sure everyone around me had their needs met before I would dare do something for myself. Paddleboarding was one of my only “me-time” that I was able to carve out for myself but because of busy weekends and winds not always cooperating it wasn’t steady.
I thrived on being busy, it was natural for me. Many of my friends here would ask me “how I did it” but pretty much every mom I know “up North” whether in Quebec or Massachusetts is a working mom and we make things work. With my personality, this is what I loved and needed for myself. I was always so happy to wake up early when I knew I had a full schedule at work ahead of me. I would make sure the boys clothes were out and ready to go, I would start their lunches so that Fred only had the last minute stuff to add (i.e. Pierro’s eternal corn dog!), and I would make sure the kids’ backpacks were ready. I would leave at the crack of dawn and always look at the end of street to peek at the beautiful sun rising on the ocean (often times thinking to myself that I should actually go to the beach to see the sun rising one day). I would then see my patients back-to-back, eat a quick lunch between two sessions and as I left the office, I would say to my colleagues that I was off to my “first or second job” (i.e. being a mom), I just never knew which was first or second (or it depended on the day!) Then I loved the evenings where we had baseball or whatever other sports the boys were playing. Sitting on those hard metal bleachers was never a drag, I loved watching every game and seeing my boys’ smiles when they hit a good ball, caught a hard one, or made an out. I used to do so much but it all just felt so natural, just like a conductor. I felt like the conductor of our family. I planned the meals, made sure everyone had clean underwear, organized the playdates, the social calendar, our trips, and I must say, I feel like our orchestra was pretty damn good!
I am learning a lot throughout this cancer and journey, I am learning to be brave and courageous, to be strong, and to be more compassionate toward myself. I am learning to slow down, enjoy the present moment, be grateful for what I have, and savor each moment I have with my kids, my husband, my family and my wonderful friends. Nothing I could have learned in my books…
“Don’t stop believin’
Hold on to the feelin'”