June 2023

June 30th, 2023 
I know we should never wish time to speed up, but man… this month was brutal.
And we are all REALLY looking forward to the fall when this nightmare is over.
Our girl has now almost completed two of her four rounds of chemotherapy, and when I tell you it's been worse than any of us imagined… for once, I'm not exaggerating. 
Don't get me wrong, there are moments where life feels normal.  We get glimpses of our girl, her smile, her gentleness and her beautifully dark humour… but these moments tend to be few and far between.
I'm not really sure how to share this journey in a positive light… and maybe that's ok.
When we last chatted, I believe it was the first day of her chemo.  A day when I still wasn't sure of how this would affect Jess.
Would she be one of the patients that many convinced me that they knew of who's chemo “wasn't that bad…” 
Would she lose her hair like the doctor said?
…and maybe worst of all, would she lose her spirit?
Round One.
Monday May 29th-Friday June 2nd
Tuesday June 6th
Tuesday June 13th
The first week of chemo was maybe the rude awakening we all needed in terms of possible side effects.
By day two, we learned that one major one would be crippling headaches.
We also learned that a specific drug in the regiment (given on Tuesdays) causes Jess to spike a fever, which landed us in the ER the first two weeks.
Unfortunately for her, by week two her white blood cell counts were low and for precaution she was put on antibiotics… which would be fine if these drug companies could figure out how to make pills small enough for a sick person to consume without gagging.
They also made her pretty sick, and by the week's end, our girl was dehydrated and going downhill quickly.
Thankfully, through all this, we somehow were able to get Jess on home IV fluids… which in my opinion is the only thing keeping her home and not an inpatient at the hospital.
And regarding that hair loss… by week three, it was driving her crazy.
Hair was everywhere.
So by Wednesday night, she asked me to call my hair stylist (also family friend) to do the big shave.
…thankfully, Jess loves her baldness and maybe even more, what it represents.
She told me “now people can see on the outside the battle I'm fighting on the inside.”
She's a damn warrier, this kid.
Round Two
Monday June 19th-Friday June 23rd
Tuesday June 27th
Tuesday July 4th (next week)
As we ventured into round two, we thought we finally felt more prepared…  we had sort of strategized with the oncologist in how to better equip for these unpredictable side effects.
Monday, Tuesday and even most of Wednesday, we once again got our hopes up as she was so much more herself.
She chatted my ear off in the car, and even got her appetite back.
But by bedtime on Wednesday, we knew our girl was on the downhill slope yet again.
Thursday and Friday the car ride to and from treatment was quiet again.
And as I glanced over to the passenger seat, I knew she was somewhere inside her shell, retreating from the pain.
On these days, when we arrived at the hospital we sat in the car quietly, as she held her head buckled over in her seat trying not to throw up.
Then I escorted her into the hospital as a crutch because her blood pressure is so low, she loses her vision and stumbles. (more dehydration problems.)
When I catch our reflection in those sliding front doors of the cancer centre, I also catch my breath as I realize that this really is as bad as it looks.
This past weekend, we were hoping for some reprieve for poor Jess.
Didn't happen.
In fact, by Monday without going into too much detail, we learned of yet more side effects of anti-nausea pills mixed with dehydration… constipation.
And this week has been torture in a whole new way as both Mark and I have taken turns holding her and rubbing her back in the bathroom as she screams and quietly sobs in humility doing something most of us do on the daily without ever giving it a second thought.
So not only is this chemo stripping her of her hair, her weight and her spirit… this week has stripped her of her dignity.
This is the stuff not many talk about.
This is the stuff that is happening in the homes of millions everyday fighting this horrible disease.
Even the ones that may appear to be handling chemo fine… I would argue they are putting on a brave face for you, or they're having a good day.
I refuse to make light of this process, and yet, I don't want to scare someone who perhaps one day will have to go through it.
Everyone is different.
Everyone will respond differently… and everyone will cope differently.
As a chemo mom, all I can say is just how much I long to see my girl smile.
To hear her beautiful chatter.
To drown out the moans and heavy breathing when she's suffering.
To be able to give her a break, when she softly wimpers for one.
June was the hardest month of my life.
…and I'm not the one fighting cancer.
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