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Fourth of July

Its the 4th of July and almost 11 PM . K tells me something that makes me smile and wonder.

He says ” Remember 4th of July , last year?”

4th of July 2012 .

It had been a month since I had been diagnosed with cancer. A month of docs, tests, scans, biopsies, more doctors, second third fourth fifth opinions. And 4th of July 2012 , was the day I would begin the dreaded chemo.

The day begins bright and sunny as most days in Singapore , but the inside of my head is cloudy. I cant form a coherent thought. I consider praying for something, except I am not sure what. That the chemo be easy on me? But what if that made it easy on the cancer too. No, I want the chemo to hit me (and the cancer )with everything it had. Would I be able to hold up? So in the end , I look up at the heavens and say ‘Make it okay in the end.’

The day before I had had a day surgery to get the port installed in my right fore arm , which was a very traumatic experience with a quack doc.  So in addition to the nervousness of first chemo , I am wondering if the port will work as it should.

Its 8:45 AM and K is still washing up after breafast. We are late for the 9:00 AM appt.

‘”If you are going to be late , lets not go!’ I say. I am only half-joking.

As I wait for K to get ready, I look at the sheet the doc gave me with a list of side effects I could expect . I had read it several times before , but still reading it on paper is one thing, actually facing the prospect was completely another.

So we go to the GMC. After a brief meeting , with the doc , they take me to the ‘Infusion Lounge’ . Comfy chairs, blankets, cusions, and rhythmic beeping of the regulators.

The nurses get the bright red coloured Adriamycin and the colourless Cytoxan hooking it up with saline to dilute it , and the drip starts. I watch the fluid comes slowly down through the maze of tubes and into my arm.

I looked at K. He looks terrified,  like he might pass out  any minute. He has been watching the drip come down too. He sees me looking at him and manages a brave smile. He reaches out and holds my left hand.

15 mins later, we are halfway through the infusion. I dont feel any different yet. But I need to pee. So I get up and make my way to loo, dragging the IV with me. My pee is red. This is very expected, but it takes me by surprise nonetheless.

I come back to the lounge. K is looking at me expectantly. I just nod and say ‘red pee’.  In the next 5 mins, I begin to feel the effects. My energy seems to physically seep out of my body. I start feeling tired and drowsy. When JK Rowling , wrote about the Dementors giving the Kiss of Death, she didnt know how accurately she describes the feeling of the chemo effects coming on.

Soon we are done, and I am unhooked from all the drip paraphernelia. The nurses tell me to take care cheerfully, but I dont really register. I get up and walk slowly , K holding my hand.

Back home , I curl up on the sofa.  K props me up with  cushions , a quilt, and some books and my laptop in case I want to read. But reading, thinking, browing , writing emails everything seems like too much work. I just want to sleep.

“I will remember the Fourth of July, year after year, every year, for the rest of my life ,” I promise as I drift off, weakly, but sincerely.

Its today , 4th July 2013.

My prospects that seemed so bleak, sad , unbearable even, have so dramatically changed just a year on.A recent scan found no cancer in me, I feel fit and strong and healthy, my lovely and wonderful and awesome boyfriend K and I are married, K has an awesome job that he loves and despite many challenges our love and laughter has only increased, we are looking forward to a bucket list type trip in August. Until 11 PM today I didnt even think about the  Fourth of July, last year . My fervent promise to myself  didnt last even one year, K had to remind me.

I smile now. I wish I could have known this then, could have known how much happiness, excitement, and love was coming my way. It might have made the day a little easier on me.

But C’est la Vie! Its okay in the end!


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True Story

This is the story of how my life changed last year…. I had previously shared this on a different forum. Most of the story is completely, painfully exactly true. A couple of minor details are changed.

I was 30 years old,  in a job I loved, in a country I loved living in , with friends around me . I had kind of started dating a grad school friend, lets call him K, who moved here. I really liked him , but K was not very open about his feelings, and so I had no idea what he felt about me. But I wasn’t too worried , sure that in time things will work out. Life was perfect.

One Tuesday morning in May, I was showering , running late as usual for work, and I felt a lump in my breast. It took me by surprise, but I thought nothing of it. But somewhere some nagging made me go get it checked out.  So I went to a clinic at lunch. They ran some scans and told me to come back later at 4 for the results. I needed to call someone . I called K.

He reassured me that it will be fine and to let him know what would happen. I had a couple of hours to kill, so I wandered about , browsing bookstores and music CD’s. At 15 min to 4 , I slowly walked back. I was pleasantly surprised to see K there. He had skipped off work and come down all the way. We went to see the doc together. The scan results looked bad , ‘sinister’ was the word the doc used. She recommended a biopsy. I looked at R, his face was dark. As soon as we left the doc office, he exploded, how could the doc say such things, sinister, did she not understand the impact of her words? I had nothing to say, nothing to think.
The next day, I went to get a biopsy, K once again came. And a few days later , a Tuesday again, the results were due. So far I had not told anyone else, and on Tuesday I went to the hospital. I reached 30 min before the appointment and K wasn’t there. I wondered if I should go to the clinic and ask by myself, but I could not bring myself to do it. So I waited for 30 excruciating minutes in the hospital lobby. K showed up and we went to the clinic. He hugged me outside , saying its going to be ok… you’ll see.
We went in and asked for my report. I opened it and saw the word no one wants to see on their medical report – ‘carcinoma’. I looked up at K, I didn’t need to tell him what was in the report, tears had started flowing from my eyes even without me knowing. In his eyes , I saw all the same emotions I was feeling – shock, devastation, fear, anger all rolled into one. We had to wait 40 mins to see the doc, and we just sat there in silence, tears flowing down my face and K hugging me , occasionally getting me a new tissue. I have no recollection of what the doc said to us that day…. but the gist was that we would have to undergo a few more scans to check how far the cancer had spread.

The next days, K moved in with me. We would sit and research continuously. I was convinced that every ache and pain that I had ever experienced was cancer. K would patiently hug me and tell me that couldn’t be. I was angry and would yell and scream and shout, and he would stay calm and gently tell me it would be ok. One night I asked him, what if it was not ok, what if it was not curable, what if i died? I still remember the pain that came into his eyes as he momentarily thought about this. But this look vanished as his mind refused to consider this a serious possibility. He just hugged me and said that he knows that wont happen.

All the scans for the spread were negative, making the cancer an early stage one with a good chance of a cure. We were so thrilled with this positive news we went out to celebrate. I dressed up, put on makeup, styled my shoulder length hair and we went out. I looked beautiful , and K told me that day over dinner and by the candles that he loved me. It would be almost a whole year before we were able to dress up and go out again, and before I would look anything close to beautiful.

We broke the news to family and friends, and I started the first of several long and painful treatments. K moved in with me completely. I had to undergo a surgery, 3 different chemo drugs , and radiation. It took 9 months. to finish treatment. In this time K was my rock. I had lost all my appetite and K would hunt, buy or painstakingly cook all my favorite food. Sometimes he would spend hours cooking what I told him I fancied eating, but once it was done I just couldn’t eat it.  My hair started to fall in fistfuls, he would clean the house, out bed everyday patiently. when it became patchy he told me I look like Pranab Mukherjee and after I buzzed it off .. he told me I still looked beautiful. The steroids had bloated my face and neck , soon my eyebrows and eyelashes also fell off, and I cringed when I looked in the mirror. How he could continue to think I was beautiful I will never understand.

He would patiently sit by my side and stroke my head every night, after I yelled at him for trying to hug me, (I was in too much pain). When the pain killers wouldn’t work and I had to bear the pain, I could look at the desperation in eyes and I knew he would take on all my pain in a heart beat , if he could. This was the simply the most romantic gestures , I have ever experienced.
In that difficult period, I felt a lot of things, fear, rage, insecurity, pain, grief, fatigue , etc etc… but what I felt most of all was LOVED, every single day.

My treatments were completed successfully, I slowly recovered from the treatments, and I am sure K is my soulmate now.