Almost a month since the last entry. Diana has entered the world of chemotherapy. And it looks like we will be able to get by OK for the next six months or so.
Her chemotherapy is, I won't say gentle, but not the "inch from death" type that my mother endured. In particular, she is not expected to lose her hair (although they recommend against coloring it--my blonde Diana is likely to be pretty grey, if not white, by the end of summer). Her first session she was surprised by how good she felt--aside from being tired, a bit headachy, and constipated, she felt pretty normal. When we met with the doctor before the second session, he quizzed her about how she felt. Because she felt no nausea, and headache is a common side effect of the anti-nausea medicine, he cut back on that. And the second session Diana felt much better.
She goes for two weeks on, then two weeks off. That's one course. The two weeks off give the body a chance to rebuild its immune system. She will have a total of six courses--three courses, then seven weeks of radiation, then three more courses. So it will be late summer before she's done.
The good news is that the side effects don't get stronger as the treatment goes on. Typically, it gets easier, since they adjust the dosages better. You do get more tired, but not always. Diana is feeling really good now--she starts her second course this week.
Yesterday, we drove for an hour to a strip mall south of Boston, and she spent an hour and a half closeted with a warm and competent woman who fitted her for a breast prosthesis. I'm impressed at what a difference being symmetric had on her mood. We joked a bit about my having a silicone-enhance woman, but my heart wasn't in it--she seemed just more relaxed having it, and she was feeling so good. Wonderful to see.
So I'm thinking--here she is, with no indication that there is a single cancer cell in her body. And she, with the active collusion of the medical profession, and even of me, is putting herself through seven months of disagreeable abuse of her body. The end result, statistically, will make the probability of a recurrence drop from 35% or so down below 10%. For the average stage one patient with small tumors, like her. Of course, the averages are irrelevant for a given individual. So why does it seem, not just OK, but right, to do this?
The answer came in a flash. Chemotherapy is a purification ritual! A few thousands of years ago, she would have probably gone to live in a small hut outside the village for a few months, eating bitter herbs, fasting, and perhaps beating herself with willow branches. Nowadays, she goes to a large building outside the village, takes her poison intravenously rather than by mouth, and suffers some of the same effects as the bitter herbs and fasting. The common goal is to banish the disease, the devil, the evil spirit. Away! Away! This calls out to a primitive part of ourselves, and it feels right.
Believing, as I do, so strongly in the ability of the mind to control disease, or keep it away, I haven't mentioned this thought to Diana. Because if she thinks the chemotherapy will work, the chances are much greater that it will. I sure hope so. I think the key is to continue the transformation rather than reverting to "business as usual." And seven months is a good amount of time to transform. Counting the time from the initial diagnosis, it will be almost exactly nine months. One baby. I hope she keeps up the good work.
Thank you for reading.