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Chemo during Covid

“I heard back from Dr Kemeny. She agrees that the lesions in the liver are new activity and that you should start treatment.”

“Ok,” I say. I’m not surprised, but somehow disappointed anyway.

I can’t decide if knowing what to expect makes things better or worse. And as much as I do know, there’s plenty I don’t.

It’s a new protocol: FOLFIRI, which replaces the Oxaliplatin in FOLFOX with Irinotecan—affectionately known by oncology nurses as “I ran to the can.” I’m also more likely to lose more of—probably all of—my hair.

In better news, Vectibix, the chemo rash drug, is not being prescribed this time around. I’ve debated long and hard about whether I would rather be bald or rashy (as if the choice is mine), and I pick bald.

Is a good wig considered an essential service?

Chemo during a Covid-19 lockdown is a mixed blessing, with obvious drawbacks: my safety being a critical one. No visitors at my appointments; no visitors period. For now, the kids still go back and forth between houses, but I’m bracing myself for the point where my oncologist asks that we stop.

On the other hand, there’s no travel—for any of us. Life is always a little easier when Per is around, and there’s nobody I would rather have by my side when I’m feeling sick—counting out pills, bringing me toast, administering fluids and disconnecting me from my IV.

We are all together more often, setting the dinner table for six so often the twins have stopped asking how many for dinner.

As crazy as life seems with Covid-19, I’ve spent the last few days purposefully enjoying what’s still normal:

Long walks on the lake in the sun.

Making the food we love and appreciating being hungry for it—and my ability to taste it. Pulling together salads almost every day for lunch (baby greens, apples, blue cheese and homemade sugared pecans—a combo that won’t be easily digestible soon).

Ordering sushi for the last time.

I maybe even snuck in a half glass of very good wine.

It’s been six months since my last round of chemo—and five since my last big surgery. Versus the last time I started chemo, I’m much stronger. I weigh more. And I’m less scared.

But more sad. The kind of sad that takes you by surprise when something little is frustrating or irritating and suddenly you find yourself sobbing for something else entirely: for only getting a few months of normal, for not having taken that honeymoon you said you were going to take, for the toenails that are just now falling out from the first round of chemo, for the hair and the appetite and the butt and the control you are about to lose. For knowing on some level that you weren’t done with cancer, but letting yourself be taken away by the idea that you were—for your family as much as for yourself. For just not knowing what you thought you would know.

I feel like this recurrence makes me tragic, which pisses me off—maybe the only thing powerful enough to combat my sad.

“Don’t count me out yet,” says the voice in my head.

I start the next leg of this journey tomorrow.

I’ll have to go by myself—no visitors allowed. I’ll pack my own lunch and maybe stop for a single donut. But I won’t be alone. That much I know.

Thank you, all.

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