This summer I went through this phase of researching long-term disability insurance options, rewriting our wills and reviewing life insurance policies. We also got a new dog, not only because we missed our old dog, but because I didn’t want to regret getting another dog for the kids in case something happened to me. I also started studying constellations – my youngest son had “studying stars” as part of a summer project, and I just kept going. So each night while walking Joe I’d look up, see how many more constellations I could identify, and try to think beyond my small little world. You see where I am going with this.
When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2015, I was indeed upset, but I wasn’t concerned with the prognosis. It was when I was restaged after surgery that I went downhill. In light of all of these preparations I took on this summer, I was absolutely convinced I was dying. Intellectually, of course, I knew this was not true; I still have so much treatment ahead of me, one drug that is new, the other changing the HER2+ diagnosis from one that was extremely poor before 1998 to one that is very treatable. But every day in the pit of my stomach, I thought it had to be more than just a coincidence that I would start prepping in the case of my death and wondering more about the notion of heaven only a few months prior to my diagnosis. I was convinced my actions were signs of things to come, and I became more frustrated than ever that I logically could not get passed it. This despair and obsession lasted for weeks. Then, this week a social worker called from Dana-Farber. I told her this story.
“That’s called intuition,” she said. “I hear stories like that all the time.” No kidding. And then I remembered the last time I took a Myers-Briggs test, I came up as INFJ. Of course I was freaking out. But it was completely normal. There was comfort in that, and in the past few days, I haven’t really thought about it.
I decided the first week of January to be treated in Boston at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. It’s a bit far from where we live, but nothing unmanageable. And Boston is my hometown. It would be a disservice to me and my family if I didn’t go to one of the best cancer clinics and research facilities in the world that happens to be two hours away. So as of 1/7/16, I have been (and will be) in Boston every week for twelve Taxol infusions, receiving Herceptin and Perjeta every third week. Once that’s completed, I’ll receive four rounds of the Adriamycin / Cytoxan cocktail (also affectionately known as “the red devil“) over another twelve weeks. Then I’ll receive more surgery, then radiation, and more Herceptin every three weeks. 2016 will certainly be a long year, but we’ll definitely make the most of it.
The crazy part, so far, I feel fine. I get tired a few days after treatment days, but nothing absolutely unusual, and I love going to Dana-Farber. Tomorrow is my fourth round of Taxol, and just yesterday my hair started to fall out – not in big chunks, but lots of noticeable strands everywhere. Just as well, really, it was going to happen eventually.
I’ve thought pretty hard about sharing ongoing details. Things on the internet live forever. And of course I realize what will come up in search results under my name (beyond the other Monica Wright, of course.) It’s hard to be public about something so personally frightening, while maintaining strength and composure. But last week while looking at the Dana-Farber site I came across Tara Shuman’s blog, she articulated so many things I was feeling, there were too many similarities to our stories. I asked her about her book and read the entire thing in one day. I wasn’t alone. I realized that there are thousands of us at any given time, and when I can give back (not IF, but WHEN), I hope somehow I’ll be able to guide others through this journey, too.