Numb But Here

Unless you have been there, I suspect it is impossible to understand the emotional release one experiences on your last day of chemo treatment. After all the tubes and bags are disconnected the nurse says, "you are free to go.” Then you quietly say to yourself, "So that is it? No bells, no horns, no cheers, just a smile, and see you in a few weeks for your follow-up."

Somehow I anticipated more would be happening, but then again all of this was happening in the time of COVID. No guests, no visitors, and no family member could be with me. Heck, I could not even leave a thank you basket of cookies for my infusion nurses. So here we are – a nurse, a chair, an empty chemo infusion stand, and me, feeling alone and emotionally disconnected. Rather than being overjoyed, I felt numb. It was not only my fingers and toes that were numb (thanks to neuropathy) from the many weeks and months of chemo treatments, but I was now experiencing a deep and unexpected sense of emotional numbness.

My last chemo appointment

When I arrived home, my wife gave me a hug and we had dinner. A celebratory glass of wine would have been nice, but NO – there was still chemo in my system. And I was told that the drugs would be circulating in my system for some weeks to come.

The next day I saw an enormous emotional release of tension that hit me like a ton of bricks. "IT" was over and the realization that my CHEMO journey was now history was too much to take in. I broke down in tears as I recalled the days of isolation following my first treatment in early August. I reflected on the many sleepless nights and countless trips to the bathroom. I thought back to my many nights with just 3 hours of sleep due to the many episodes of leg and toe cramps. Finally, it was done, or was it?

At the time of this writing, I am just a few days before Christmas and for the first time in 50 years, my wife and I will not be visiting with our son and daughter both of whom live some distance away. Nor will we see our grandchildren in person. Thanks to the chemo, my immune system is still compromised, and the oncologist indirectly suggested it might not be the best decision to be driving for hours and stopping along the way to use public restaurants and restrooms.

Hopefully, a healthier year ahead

My final check-up with the oncologist was today December 22, 2020. Apparently, my white blood count looked good and I was probably looking ok. He went on to tell me that the next step will be a PET scan in early January. The purpose is to see if the scan shows any hot or warm spots which if present could indicate either the cancer was still in the process of dying off or that my lymphoma was still with me. He offered some reassurance that my cancer was caught early but we still needed to wait for the results.

In our closing conversation, we discussed the wisdom of receiving a COVID shot following chemo treatment. He noted that given the nature of COVID, it would be good to consider the shot but pointed out that no one really knows what impact R-CHOP chemo treatment will have on the effectiveness of the shot. His best advice was to keep in contact with your oncologist, get tested for antibodies in the weeks and months ahead, and stay tuned for any updates.

We ended our final visit in 2020 with him saying, “Have a Merry Christmas and best wishes for hopefully a Healthier and Happier New Year in 2021."

I am still a bit numb given the many unknowns. That said all I know is I have done all I can do at this point in time and at the end that is all any of us can do. :)

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