The intensity plus duration of elation--pure happiness--stayed with me throughout work yesterday.
I told one of the first coworkers I saw that morning, "Today's my last day of treatment."
She was elated for me. "Congratulations!" She understood where I was in that moment. Her mother went through cancer.
I posted it on Facebook. (14 'likes' is a lot for me)
I told my manager in response to "How are you this morning?"
"Today's my last day."
Then, realizing who I was speaking to, I added through bright eyes and a smile, "of treatment--treatment. I'm done."
He was elated (after the near-heart attack). He had given me plenty of space the last few weeks when the radiation--the damage and pain in addition to daily appointments-- really sucked the life out of me. That's what I needed from him. Sometimes I couldn't even handle small talk. He understood. His father had cancer.
"So it all went well?" he asked.
"No!" I was loud, but with humor. "It was horrible!"
Then I told him everything--with discretion (work and all)--trying not to gesture toward my breast when I'm naturally very animated. Nevertheless, I laid it on him.
My second to last visit with my radiation oncologist--Thursday before last-- had my breast in a worse state than they were accustomed to seeing. The irritation was so bad that Monday, the techs had voiced concern that I wasn't going to see my doctor until Thursday. I saw a nurse on Tuesday and she stocked me up on more foamy non-stick dressings and told me it was ok to take Benadryl for the itching. By Wednesday, the techs told me to wash off the ink, that they would use my skin reaction from the ink to line me up on the table.
Then I saw my doctor Thursday. She was perplexed and curious, in an academic sense, "Well, you're obviously allergic to something...Can we get a picture of that?"
The medical photographer was called. As she was getting me in frame, she commented, "Wow. That's interesting. I have never seen that before."
Sensitivity at its finest.
Now I am the "poster-child for unusual occurrences" in the words of my doctor. My allergy to the Sharpie Paint Markers was reviewed by the faculty. There were two other severe reactions within the MD Anderson system when they had been using these same markers for years with little to no ill effects. They took a culture swab of the rash to check for bacteria--on myself and the other two patients--nothing. They tested the markers for bacterial contamination--nothing.
Someone considered the newfound problem of tattoo ink containing too-high levels of heavy metals. They contacted Sharpie for an ingredient list which came back with words like "color" and "resin" and said nothing about the composition of the color in terms of raw materials, specifically metal content.
The FDA told them that these companies, as they are not certified in producing medical equipment, are not the best at maintaining content at safe and consistent levels. Without getting a definitive answer, the oncologists determined it must be an issue with metal content of the pens--nickel or cadmium or the like. They have since sourced out new pens.
In not so many words, this all came pouring out of my mouth to my manager after weeks of not so much as making minor small talk. For all the above reasons--life kinda sucked.
After I rattled this out he reels me back in: "But you can put that all behind you now, right?"
"Yes." I breathed, "I can put it all behind me...and I can get on...with...my life."
Before I went to treatment I made a point to stop by the Hospitality Center and celebrate with a free cookie. Across the hall was a display window for the gift shop. I saw a covered latte cup with a pink band and the words "Fight like a girl" printed on the side. I tried to walk away, but what the hell. It was my last day. I went inside the gift ship and also found a button that spoke to me.
A Facebook friend and marathoner said it best: Time to start running again!