Shakespeare ~ A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Act 3, Scene 2
I am mostly fearless.
I meet cancer head on and don’t flinch … which is exactly how I have always approached life.
Tomorrow is my third of four chemotherapy infusions with the AC combination of drugs: doxorubicin (Adriamycin), and cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan).
Once the AC combo is complete, I start Phase Two … 12 doses of Taxol in twelve weeks.
After the first AC infusion, I spent four days bouncing in and out of the emergency room with protruding lymph nodes and a red hot breast from cellulitis. They admitted me to the Oncology Ward after realizing my immune system hit rock bottom … no white blood cells, no neutrophils, no platelets.
I spent six days in the hospital in isolation waiting for Visiting Hours. On the fourth day, Dr. F, my Oncologist visited me to check on my progress and let me know they would drop the next chemo dose by 20%. When I asked if it would still be as effective, she avoided eye contact and told me that people in the clinical trial had to have their doses reduced. That told me squat.
I cried when she left. Triple Negative Breast Cancer is fierce … one of the fiercest cancers in terms of growth aggression and recurrence. It has a 40% death rate – if untreated – over two years.
I have to be more fierce than it is.
Today when I went to the Cancer Centre for my bloodwork and to see my Oncologist for my pre-treatment consult, I went in with a mission. I wanted her to boost my chemo back up. I was prepared to argue for at minimum a 5% increase but would start my negotiation at 10% (can you tell I am in sales?!). Go big or go home.
I even went in with the big guns. Dress, heels and Foxy Roxy!.
My determination – and excellent health – made it an easy sell. Without much argument, she threw her hands up and said “OK! Not many people ask me for more chemo, but how about we meet in the middle at a 10% increase?”
As I walked out, I leaned into my nurse and whispered, “I won.”
During my first consult with Dr. F, she laid down the odds and I responded with “When do we start?”
“When are you ready to start?” she asked.
“Yesterday” I replied.
I can’t say that I felt fear before my first chemotherapy infusion.
Anxiety? Yes. Anticipation? Absolutely. Let’s do this.
I’m game for almost any adventure, even cancer.
It’s not that I am without fear. I have felt fear in my life … several times. While still with my ex, I took up running to manage my stress levels. I knew something was wrong with our relationship, but hadn’t figured out that it was abusive. I was stuck in the continuous cycle of abuse. I compare it to the spin of a figure skater … the tighter you pull in your arms and legs, the faster the spin … and the less you see of the outside world. I felt fear when he came home.
I pounded the pavement in running shoes to release that pent up fear, frustration, anger, stress, despair and resignation. Some weeks I ran over 50k. Uphill. It felt good to be numb.
One morning I got up extra early to get a run in before work. I was out the door at 4:45AM and followed one of my usual routes that would give me a 7km run. Two kilometres into the run, I am on the industrial side of Harwood Ave., just south of a Tim Hortons coffee shop.
I turned around. I am still not sure what made me turn around … sound, sense, fear, knowing. Someone was about 50 metres behind me.
And he wasn’t a runner. Runners don’t run in jeans with their hoodies up.
Read my thoughts on our connectedness in Night & Day.
Have you felt the true fear response of fight or flight? I instinctively knew he was a threat. Within a split second, my entire nervous system activated.
My body released the cocktail of stress chemicals into my bloodstream … Adrenaline, Noadrenaline and Cortisol. I can feel it’s release into my veins as the “pinprick of fear”. You can literally feel the hormones hit your bloodstream. I felt that cold sweat as my blood left my extremities – including my head – to get ready for the flight … or fight.
My mind goes on high alert.
My heart races.
My lungs dilate and my breathing increases to deliver more oxygen.
My pupils dilate.
My body grabs stores of energy and my legs prepare for the flight.
I race across the street to get into a residential area … and my would-be attacker follows.
I zip down one street and up another, launching over a hedge like a horse to shave seconds off my run. My heart is pounding so fast I can’t hear, but with a slight turn of my head I could see he was still behind me.
Finally … finally … finally … someone was coming down the steps of their home to start their car and leave for work. I ran to the right and my chaser went left.
I stop. My hands on my thighs to brace myself as I try to catch my breath. I am shaking uncontrollably in fear and exhaustion. But I am alive and unharmed.
I later wonder what that kilometre clocked in at … I knew I was FLYING.
I reported the incident to the police and they were concerned but not surprised. It happens in the middle of the day. Wrong place, wrong time.
Did I run with an iPod they asked? No? Good … always know your surroundings. I almost never ran at the same time and had various routes, so this was an (almost) crime of opportunity rather than planned. Great. I don’t have a stalker.
It changed my running routine drastically and even today … almost 15 years later, I mostly run on a treadmill rather than outside.
Cancer has not activated my flight response … but I am sure as hell in the ring for the fight.
I AM the storm.