As of this coming Monday, it will be three weeks since I had my last treatment for any sort of cancer-related evil lurking in my body (or face). Three weeks ago was my last infusion of Rituxan, which was/is supposed to attack and Destroy! the lymphatic tumor that was growing in my face. So, the good news: I am pretty positive the treatments worked. My face doesn't hurt at all anymore; I can just about speak completely normally now; I can hear out of my right ear. And the best part is that I can actually sing again! My voice is super rusty, and there is still something taking up space in my sinuses prohibiting optimal vocalness, but it is still much better. So, the bad news: I don't have my final PET scan until the middle of December. I won't know for another two and a half weeks whether or not this damn thing has shrunk sufficiently. If the scans show that it has disappeared completely or mostly, then I am good to go. That will be it. Two years and a whole lot of nonsense, but it will be over. On the other side of things, if for some reason the tumor has not disappeared or shrunk enough, then, once again, the proverbial wrench will be thrown in to the machinery of my life. If all is not well, then my doctor and I get to figure out what to do next. More chemo? probably. Radiation? possibly. Washington DC? definitely not. Like I said though, I feel so much better, and I am positive everything is going as it should in my face. The reality is that there is a chance this isn't over yet. Truth. But, and this is a big but, I am confident everything will be fine.
To that end, the past three weeks have been mildly ridiculous by Caroline-standards. I spent the first two weeks after I finished my drugs staying up way too late, partying a little too much, and being just a little reckless. I spent the next few days trying to figure out why on earth I had done the things I did. And now, after some soul-searching and a few epiphanies, I think I have reached a sort of happy medium. I am not going to detail the specifics of my actions for fear of reprimand by my mother, but suffice it to say that I was acting like the thing I have so often maligned: a "normal" college student. I didn't understand for a while why I was acting so seemingly out of character. Even while I was having an awesome time, it was bothering me. And then I realized something: I feel healthy. I haven't felt even vaguely healthy since the middle of July. I had been in pretty much Constant pain since September, and I was mostly nonfunctional for the first two and a half months of my senior year of college. And then it ended. The pain went away. I could speak again; I could hear again. I still have a whole lot of leftover mucus that keeps finding its way out, but other than that, I could be any other person. I started running again. Just like that. I haven't run since July! This past Wednesday, I ran 2.5 miles. It felt fan-freaking-tastic. All of a sudden, I felt how I wish I could have felt for the past two years. I could drink again because I wasn't taking any conflicting drugs. I could stay up late and wake up early because my energy had returned. I could think and contribute to conversations and classes because all of my thoughts were no longer focused on the pain in my face. If you've ever been sick or injured or somehow incapacitated for any length of time, you know how amazing it feels to return to life again. If you haven't ever felt that, you are super lucky, but please take my word that it is pretty wonderful.
This weekend is the Thanksgiving holiday. Thanksgiving has, at least for the past three years, been a sort of Caroline-gauge. My freshman year, I had a really bad cold, and I was struggling with food issues (I didn't want to eat any). Sophomore year, Thanksgiving was awful. Refer to last year's post if you need a refresher. Basically, I was one week away from my cancer diagnosis. I was So sick, and I was still struggling with food (I think I had a Dr. Pepper and a couple of Doritos on Thanksgiving Day). Last year I was in a really strange place. I was back at school; I was eating, thank God. But I was terrifically unhappy, which I say in retrospect because at the time I thought I was doing pretty well. But no, I was lost and lonely and struggling to figure out who I was: college student or patient. So now it is one year later, and once again, Thanksgiving is a pretty good gauge for how far I've come emotionally and all of that. For the first time in three years, I didn't feel ill on Thanksgiving, which is kind of funny, considering. Yes, I was mostly by myself on the day itself, although my friend did stop by and bring me a pie she made me (mmm, pie). I do not, however, feel lonely anymore. I have come to terms with the fact that I am both a cancer survivor and a college student, although I am more than ready to be not a college student. I am more comfortable with myself than I have ever been. Oh, and here's the really strange thing: I actually feel happy. I know I've said that for years, but this feeling isn't one I've really ever felt before. I've never walked down the street smiling just because. For the first time, maybe ever, I am enjoying my present. My present has basically sucked for the past two years. My coping mechanism was to look to the future and ignore the past and present. But now my present isn't that bad.
So I finished chemo, and on the assumption that I am finished forever, I started living in the present and having a grand old time. This whole business isn't quite over yet, and I still have a sore throat, but Monday brings a new month and a new set of possibilities. I have a Ton of work to do before my semester ends, work that I really do not want to do. Somehow, it will get itself done, and I will be finished with class, and life will be pretty much freaking awesome. And right now is pretty damn good, too. Alright, waaay long post, but thanks for reading, and I hope you can enjoy your RightNow because, most of the time, it is worth it. I love you all; thank you for supporting me the past two years. Peace.