I read recently that parenting is simultaneously celebrating accomplishments and milestones, while grieving each stage that is left behind. In the fall, London and Quinn will start kindergarten. May brought with it preschool graduation...one step closer to those long days where their giggles fill classroom walls instead of the Pink Door House.
When I was first diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer, I read that the average life expectancy was 33 months. The girls' first day of school came instantly to mind as the First Big Thing they might experience without a Mommy. I resolved to not allow that.
And here I am. Still standing.
I missed the last day of preschool...I was in Spokane following up with the cardiologist. I share my feelings about that at the end of this graduation video, in a special message to my baby girls.
The follow up was everything we hoped to hear. The break from treatment, in combination with heart medication (a beta blocker and ace inhibitor), raised my ejection fraction from 49 to 62, the level where I was performing early in my diagnosis, and improved the strain on my heart. The cardiologist supports my return to treatment, and expressed his desire to partner closely with my oncologist to fine tune the exact right balance of medications to keep my heart healthy and breast cancer from returning.
Last week I received a loading (higher) dose of herceptin. My oncologist wants to hold off on perjeta for now...essentially easing back into treatment rather than assaulting my heart following the break.
Both drugs address the HER2+ receptors of the breast cancer cells. As it was explained to me, herceptin covers the receptor on the cell, weakening or disabling its ability to pull the HER2 protein into the cell for fuel. Perjeta works within the breast cancer cell, weakening or disabling the cell's ability to create the HER2 receptors. Perjeta is 2 years new (yay research!), and there is less data about whether, or how, it affects the heart. So, baby steps. The important take away is that I get to return to treatment, so if there are any IBC cells in my body they are no longer unchecked.
Let's take a minute here.
If today you are having trouble finding something to be grateful for in your life, think about those of us who have ever uttered the words, thankfully I get to start chemo again. Whether due to heart function, like me, or blood counts or pneumonia or port-a-cath infections, sometimes doctors put the breaks on treatment.
And the only thing more awful than chemo, is not getting chemo when you need it.
I guess it's not just parenting that presents opportunities to simultaneously celebrate and grieve.
After missing that last day of preschool, I was determined to make preschool graduation a special night for our family. London picked the dress she's been eyeing in her closet for months now (I keep telling her it's "too fancy"). At the potluck BBQ, they ate their weight in potato chips and sampled the entire dessert table and ran in the muddy grass with boys.
We followed it up with a walk in the setting sun, giving our kids a closer view of the Spring Festival carnival rides.
A perfect evening? Well, it was past bedtime. The kids all had colds. Eli had a fit about needing sunglasses. London fell apart when we wouldn't ride the carousel. And all Quinn wanted was a glass of milk. But who needs perfect, anyway? That's what parenting...and cancer...are teaching me.
The human heart has capacity to hold those seemingly contradictory feelings...exasperation and contentment, joy and frustration...at once.
All the herceptin and perjeta and beta blockers and ace inhibitors in the world can't change that.