Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A year down the road: still raising a middle finger to cancer (and the IRS)

Happy Tax Day, everyone!

Just kidding. Fuck the IRS. Those bastards make it damn near impossible to claim healthcare costs on your taxes.

The out-of-pocket expenses for my cancer treatment made a huge dent in my cash flow, but noooooo, it wasn't enough for those sadists at the Internal Revenue Service, who apparently want you to experience catastrophic medical bills before they'll entertain the notion of throwing you a couple of tax-relief bones. So this year, I have the insult-to-injury situation of actually owing the government money.

But seriously, enough about those asshats. I'm ready to celebrate.

Hard to believe, but today marks my chemoversary. Yep, it's been a year since I had the last infusion. Compared to then, I'm feeling a whole lot better obviously. My normal skin color (fishbelly white) has returned and my hair kinda looks like Rod Stewart's now (OK, I don't feel better about that). I still get bouts of fatigue during the day, although it's hard to say whether that's from the lingering effects of chemo or the tamoxifen I'm now on - or maybe a combination of both. (The tamoxifen keeps my body from being able to utilize any remaining estrogen, which fed my tumors, and I'll be on it for at least the next 10 years. Yay.) In any event, it's nowhere near as bad as chemo fatigue.

Yes, what a difference a year makes.

This time last year, I was getting the equivalent of toxic Hudson River water pumped into my veins (that would be chemo) and subjecting myself to needle-stick bruising and the pain of white blood cell boosters. My tear ducts were inflamed, leaving my eyes constantly running and red-rimmed. On most days, me and my Humpty Dumpty head were draped over my recliner like Spanish moss.

Fast forward to this past weekend: I was able to take my son to the American Museum of Natural History's "Night at the Museum" sleepover to celebrate his 6th birthday. At least, it was under the guise of being totally about his birthday. A little part of me also made the reservations as a middle finger to cancer and a celebration of my health slowly returning. None of that "I have to schedule a trip on my 'chemo off-week.'"

From 6 p.m. till midnight, our family and about 450 other people had free rein of the museum. We played tag in the dimly lit halls populated by long-dead animals. I held my son's hand and skipped through the museum's ode to the Pacific Northwest's native people. I screamed along with him as 3-D spiders creepily reached out to us in the movie "Tiny Giants." I smiled at every "That's sooo beautiful, Mommy" as butterflies flitted gracefully around us in the Conservatory. And I sat back, a little teary-eyed, as I watched him speed around the Hayden Planetarium, forcing his scientific knowledge on anyone in earshot, and later, as he sat enthralled by a teenage girl with autism who took the time to tell him everything she knew about space matter. I stared at his little face and the faint smile on his lips as he fell asleep, tucked cozily into his sleeping bag in the Hall of North American Mammals.

Being able to experience these moments, to recapture a little of that lost childlike wonder myself, was truly amazing. And it made all the pain and suffering I had experienced during treatment so unbelievably worth it. I live for these moments.

Whether I have ultimately finished the war with my genetic foe or whether I will have to eventually suit up again for battle remains to be seen. But all I know is, in this moment, I'm alive and I plan on living like I'm alive, making memories cancer can't take from me.


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