There are a lot of lasts happening in our lives right now on the cancer front:
1. Clio’s last visit to the clinic for chemo, on the 16th. We marked the day by handing out homemade cookies to every nurse, doctor and staff member who crossed our paths, plus a few patients and parents, too. We also gave cards to some of the people who have been a major part of Clio’s care — the chipper nurse who managed a lot of the details of Clio’s meds and procedures, and who was usually the one to access her port. The Nurse Practitioner who oversaw Clio’s treatment and who we’ll continue to see and communicate with occasionally over the coming years. The awesome infusion nurse who helped Clio get through all 60 of those nasty Asparaginase shots in her thighs last year. The music therapist, who’s one of Clio’s favorite people to see on her clinic visits. It was a strange, surreal, sort of anticlimactic day. (I ate a number of the cookies we brought.)
2. The last dose of steroids. (And don’t let the door hit you on the way out!) Now that she’s off the juice, I hope Clio’s appetite for things other than starch and salt improves. We still have several bags of frozen, store-brand tortellini and ravioli in our freezer chest, casualties of her changing steroid cravings. (For the past few cycles, her frozen pasta of choice was gnocchi.) If you invite us over for a pot-luck and I bring a pasta salad, you’ll know why.
3. The last nightly blood thinner shot at bedtime. Another one we’re more than happy to kick to the curb. Clio’s poor little thighs have been mottled with bruises for a year and a half. Be gone, bruises! Be gone, needles and vials and sharps containers in our house!
4. The last dose of 6MP. As I wrote recently, I’ve always found this part a little bit sweet — sneaking an oral syringe of medicine into Clio’s mouth while she’s sleeping, or half asleep. It’s a moment for tenderness and gratitude and reflection in the dark. Of course, I’ll still sneak into the girls’ rooms and kiss them while they sleep before I head to bed. I’ve done it almost every night since they were born and don’t plan to stop until they’re the ones who go to bed first.
5. The last dose of Methotrexate. It took a few tries, but we finally ended up with a warm, caring, reliable and conscientious visiting nurse whom we loved, who came weekly to access Clio’s port and draw labs and/or give her her Methotrexate. It was an emotional moment, saying goodbye.
There are still a few more lasts to come — another medicine that will drop off the roster, and the last time her port will be accessed for labs before it’s removed next week (a whole other source of anxiety). Then, for the next six months, only one prescription to keep after — a prophylactic dose of antibiotics while Clio’s immune system rebuilds itself.
With all these little burdens being lifted — with this crappy (horrible, terrible, shitty, lousy) little boat trip coming to an end at last — you’d think that I would feel lighter. Excited. Relieved. It’s how everyone seems to expect me to feel. But the thing is, I don’t really. Instead I feel disbelieving and disoriented and numb. More than a little anxious, and even a little bit sad. What is up with that? My daughter has spent the past two years being treated for cancer and there’s a part of me that’s sad that it’s over?