At my very darkest times this winter, I would sometimes go to the waterfront and sit in the cold, looking at the water, willing myself to jump in. I didn’t, of course. The frigid, dark water was uninviting and I don’t like being cold or, I can imagine, drowning. Then I remembered I was already dying in two ways: the cancer was trying to kill me, and the chemo trying to kill bits of me—the cancerous cells. It was a darkly funny twist. Almost.

I acknowledge that it was a terrible thing to think of doing but I just needed to address the dark thoughts to dismiss them—confront the them and watch them retreat.

Now, months later, as far as I know, I am cancer-free. I’m really lucky to have had only one tumor that could be ablated. I’m so grateful. And yet…I don’t know what to say to people when they ask me how I am or how I’m feeling. My peripheral neuropathy has been steadily getting worse. The numbness, cramps, and twitching have been frustrating, and I start to feel sorry for myself. That is promptly followed by guilt when I think about how grateful I should be about the tumor removal.

I’ve always wanted to get through a bout of illness and be better again, and just be done. Now when faced with possible chronic pain, I’m disappointed. I’ve been trying to put on a brave face, and I think it’s only recently when that brave face seems more like a mask that I’ve had to examine the mess that’s underneath.

I’m kind of a mess.

I also feel like I owe everyone an apology. I’ve been spacey, possibly from the gabapentin or the neuropathy. I owe people thank-yous and emails and texts and lunches and times-we-said-we’d-get-together-but-haven’t. Sometimes all I can do is stare out into space, and other times I am obsessively Googling my symptoms, looking for something new on the same peripheral neuropathy sites I’ve visited before.

I also owe the people who I have spoken to in the past few weeks or few months apologies for maybe seeming distant or like I’m not able to follow the conversation. I sometimes use the wrong words and have to stop taking to cast around for the right phrase; sometimes I’ll give up trying to find the right word and let my sentence trail off. Sometimes I open my mouth to say something but just don’t bother.

I sometimes forget what I’m talking about while I’m actually talking and so I have to use context clues—the words coming out of my mouth. What was I saying? I wonder, scanning the face of the person I’m conversing with for confusion. Why am I talking about tiny dinosaurs? That doesn’t even make sense. This person should probably find someone better to talk to.

I’ve been trying to seem as outwardly normal as possible while grappling with a lot of weird physical sensations. Sometimes it feels like I’m moving through something heavy, or like I’m out of sync with everyone else, talking too fast or too slow. Sometimes I feel as if a needle has jabbed me in the face. My legs go numb. I wake up with arms that are completely asleep. Sometimes I wake up because of a calf cramp or sometimes with sore calves from them cramping in the middle of the night. When it’s really bad, I can see my toes wiggle from side to side and see the twitching under my skin. I bite the back part of my tongue and I’m not sure why. The nerves in my face feel as if they’re subtly moving. I get an ache in what feels like the middle of my bones. I sometimes get a pain in my left ear.

I always feel as if I have a subtle electric current running through my body.

It’s not the pain that’s unbearable; it’s the fear. I’m almost always scared. I am almost never relaxed.

Right now, I have a pins and needles sensation in my feet, which are also twitchy. I have weird sinus pain and the optometrist says my eyes have been cloudy because of inflammation, but I’m not sure if it’s related or not. It feels like the nerve fibers in the back of my legs are going pop-pop-pop,  like popcorn is being made inside my legs and causing tiny twitches when they hit the outside of my limbs.

Phew. I needed to get that out. I haven’t known what to say when people ask me how I am. I usually say something about feeling way better after the ablation but mention that my neuropathy is getting bad. It’s one of the reasons I haven’t posted a blog in awhile. Everyone wants a happy ending, and I didn’t want to spoil it.

As for face-to-face interactions, I feel like I can’t have a normal conversation with the ebb and flow of words. I just have to spew out words quickly before I forget them and lose my momentum. I also feel like I’ve run out of things to say. I’ve said everything there is to say in my lifetime; I didn’t budget my words and now I’ve run out and just have to repeat myself indefinitely. Mostly I talk about cats. I feel myself brightening when the subject turns to cats because it’s a subject I don’t have to think too deeply about. Talking about my kittens’ antics is more of a party conversation than how now that I am not expected to die as soon as I thought, I feel panicked and guilty and worried I’ll be plagued with chronic pain for the rest of my life. Plus if I forget what I’m talking about, the context clues are easy to follow—tails, whiskers, soft fuzzy bellies, cat birthday parties etc. (Speaking of cat birthday parties, I recently found myself talking to someone else who threw a birthday party for his cat, and though we both laughed and said we of course had other reasons to throw the parties, there is really no way to say that you’ve had a birthday party for your cat without really sounding like a weirdo, even when you are talking to someone else who has hosted a cat birthday party and you are comparing cat cake photos and you realize you both own the same sweatshirts with cat ears on the hood and a special pouch for a cat.)

I’ve also felt like a failure. (Not because I threw a cat birthday party; that’s an obvious success). It’s strange, because I’ve been pretty content with my life until recently, and I’m not sure what’s been making me so personally unhappy. Sometimes I still can’t believe my luck; I’ll be riding the ferry to work on a beautiful day and I feel like throwing a hat up into the air, Mary Tyler Moore-style. Yet increasingly I find myself comparing my life to others’ lives and coming up short. I think the cost of cancer hit me—not only financially and physically, but the realization of time lost. Four years have passed, and other people have done things—have had children, for instance, while I’ve had cancer. After a lot of time spent slogging through treatments and tests, keeping my head down while trying to keep my chin up, I’m looking around and wondering what happened to these years.

I’m jealous of those with good health. I’m jealous of my previous healthy self, and I resent her for changing into this.  Everyone seems happier and better at everything. I don’t begrudge others their happiness, but I feel as if I’ve failed in trying to really find my own.

I didn’t used to have many regrets, but now I find myself thinking about things I should have done differently when muscle twitches wake me up in the middle of the night. Yet I think about all the kindness I’ve received from friends (and even strangers) and I think that I must have done something right. I’ve surrounded myself with good people and that, I think, is one of the main keys to happiness.

Then why am I so miserable? Even with so many supportive people in my life, being sick and being in pain is isolating. It’s a personal thing, between your mind and your body. It’s consuming. I’m someone in pain instead of the person I’d rather be. I’m afraid to stray too far from home or make many plans. Most of the things I used to do and ways I would have identified myself seem to no longer apply. I’ve lost myself.

I’m mainly someone with peripheral neuropathy who is worried as to why it’s getting worse. I’ve been taking a lot more gabapentin to keep the symptoms at bay. One neurologist assures me that I’ll probably get better, that my nerves are oversensitive and will calm down. December’s MRIs, right after the shingles diagnosis, were normal, as are my blood tests. My EMG tests, where they test the electrical signals in the nerves, are a little off but haven’t gotten any worse since early this year. A biospy showed small nerve inflammation and nothing more. This is all good news, and yet I don’t know why I have so much pain, numbness and cramping, and why it’s been getting worse. There is one more test: a spinal tap to look further into the possibility of demyelinating neuropathy. (Before that happens, there needs to be a blood test that has to have the correct codes so we don’t get charged the full price from Quest, so I’m not sure when that will happen.) I’m also panicked because of the healthcare bill; I’m on a deadline to get test done before the unknown and it doesn’t look good.

For now, I’m trying to get the pre-spinal tap tests scheduled. (Also, I’m going to watch the movie. I know it’s crazy that I’ve never seen it.) Instead of working to create the illusion of keeping it together, I’m going to concentrate and maybe actually trying to pull it together. Not all of it, just some.

In the meantime, when you see me, that’s why I might seem out of it or forgetful. If I seem like I’m having trouble with a normal conversation, just ask me about my cats.

I was released from the hospital yesterday and celebrated my freedom by taking a long afternoon nap underneath a kitten. I experienced the giddiness that comes from being released from the hospital on a pretty spring day and the fatigue that accompanies the realization that doing well in the hospital doesn’t quite mean the same thing in the real world. On the way home, the colors seemed too bright, and the post-hospital cab rides always seem to jostle my tender organs around.

Being agile and mobile in the hospital—able to walk unimpeded by an IV poll to the ice machine—isn’t the same thing as being able to do a commute. I don’t know that I’m ready to be among the well. As we crossed over the Brooklyn Bridge, I crankily surmised that I would be released and ready to embark on my next stretch of wellness only to be taken out by a tourist’s falling iPad from the pedestrian walkway.

The kitten makes peace with this toy cat.

The kitten makes peace with this toy cat.

My hospital roommate was recovering from seven hours of surgery and her side of the room was often full of her family and lifelong friends; it filled our room with merriment and goodwill. Since my hospital stay was so short, my support was virtual but no less important. People sent so many nice well wishes, including a friend who sent a pic of her holding a “Get Well Josie” sign at the top of the Coachella Ferris wheel. I also came home to find some fun gifts. A friend had sent a Feisty Pet, a black cat, last week and he accompanied me to the hospital. Our actual black cat seemed a little concerned that this new friend would eat his food, but eventually the real cat made peace with the toy cat. Friends left a candle and a porcelain cat tray as a welcome home gift, and another friend stopped by with a pin, earrings, tote and a fun David Bowie card. My boyfriend’s parents sent a cat card and cat socks.

gifts

Fun recovery gifts.

I had hoped to be back to work by Wednesday, but I am going to see how the fatigue goes. I frantically cleaned, finished some freelance work and took care of work things so I could potentially have a few weeks to recover if I needed them. Right now, I’m worried I’m going to get a post-procedure infection and keep taking my temperature and checking on any pains that I have. I’m dealing with a lot of numbness and neuropathy, so I’m a little bummed to not feel better right away. I hope to get rid of some issues as I heal.

Applying a warm kitten when needed. Cats never seem to feel as if they should be doing something else when they are relaxing.

Applying a warm kitten when needed. Cats never seem to feel as if they should be doing something else when they are relaxing.

It’s a strange feeling, however, relaxing without the accompanying guilt that I should be doing something else. This guilt has been a constant companion, particularly in a city of achievers and where you are expected to have a side hustle. I have things I could be doing, but nothing pressing. Even the community garden blog is up to date. I read a book yesterday afternoon as I always think I will but never do. I had time this morning to do important things like vote for my top 25 Cure songs.

Now that I’m released, I am thinking again of a book I read recently: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. The opening paragraph resonated with me, reminding me of my monthlong hospital stay for my stem cell transplant: “There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in the hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building’s beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city’s buildings seemed remote, silent, far away. It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women—my age—in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that—I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on.”

Waiting to leave the hospital is nothing new to me. I am mentally ready to leave. I was supposed to leave yesterday, but my potassium was too low and would put me at risk for a heart arrhythmia. This morning the doctors said they wanted to check my potassium and also do an ultrasound because my hemoglobin had dropped and they wanted to make sure that I didn’t have post-procedure bleeding.

I was wheeled down for an ultrasound, and I think it went well. In yoga classes, they often say to listen to your body, but an ultrasound really listens to your body. It sounds like an ocean with your heart as an approaching tidal wave.

Today, my numbness is bothering me.I slept pretty soundly. I woke up this morning hooked up to an IV that I don’t remember getting hooked up to. I just got word that my potassium is on the low side of OK, so I should be getting out soon.

I was all set to go home today—my boyfriend had even taken my suitcase home—and I found out that I am spending another night. I’d packed up all my things and ordered lunch early so I would be ready to leave as soon as my boyfriend arrived after 1 pm. I’d seen the team in the morning, and the pharmacist, and my doctor stopped in to see how I was doing. When they took my blood, however, my potassium came back as really low and they couldn’t let me leave since such low potassium can put you in danger of a heart arrhythmia. Unfortunately, the fastest they could run the potassium IV drip is about an hour and potassium burns, so it had to be slowed down to stop hurting my veins so much. I was set for two bags of potassium, but I had still hoped to get out today. The tests are going to take a few hours, however, so they are going to wait until tomorrow to send me home.

In a way, it’s just as well. My boyfriend has plans tonight and as much as I want to see the cats, I wasn’t really looking forward to being home on my own (mostly because I can’t work the TV). Also, I’ve been feeling a little weird; my sinuses felt tingly and my neuropathy was acting up and my face felt numb, so I may as well be here feeling odd than home alone and worried. Hopefully, my potassium levels are better tomorrow.

 

I’m still a little groggy, but I wanted to give an update about yesterday’s procedure, though most of you probably saw my boyfriend’s social media update. I’m wary of good news, so I’m almost reluctant to share it, but yesterday I had the best possible outcome. There was only one tumor, so the interventional radiologist was able to ablate it, using heat to get rid of the cancer cells. She showed me before-and-after pics of the tumor and of the area now that it is burned out. I can’t believe it still. So…that’s it for now. I’m going to be closely monitored, of course, to make sure that they got it all and that it doesn’t come back.

The other scenario was that if they found multiple tumors, they would do an embolization and cut off blood supply to the cancer cells. Again, I would have been closely monitored, but there seemed to be more likelihood that I would have to come in every now and then for a touch-up. Originally, the plan was to do both if there was only one tumor, but there was concern that it would put me at higher risk for infection. I’m already at risk for an abscess because I don’t have the natural bacteria barriers after my digestive system was rerouted during last year’s Whipple procedure.

I go home today. In the meantime, we’re going to keep an eye on my for risk of infection, and if that happens, I get a surgical drain. My boyfriend and I are really squeamish, so we’re hoping this doesn’t happen. These past four years have really tested and strained the boundaries of our collective squeamishness. I also have to see how I’m doing as far as recovery. Even though I don’t have an incision, the doctor explained yesterday that it’s an internal surgery so it’s more involved than biopsy recovery.

I am a little bummed I can’t attend the March for Science for Earth Day today. Science is important not only for the planet but for individuals as well. Science saved my life yesterday and repeatedly has saved my life. Accessible and affordable healthcare is important as well, and that is also in danger.

Last night, I ate without feeling weird and nauseated immediately after. I feel as if something that was trying to kill me has been removed. My potassium and blood pressure are low, but I feel better. I hope it’s not just the effects of the anesthesia. I would like to get my weight back into the nineties soon. I thought our scale was broken when 87 or 89 would show up. I had been progressively feeling more terrible, and I’m ready to feel better.

And then what? If I don’t sound excited, I think it’s because I’m in shock. I realized when I was presented with the possibility of having a longer reprieve from this cancer than I expected that I had been mentally preparing to die. Now I can tentatively look to the future.

I had just been complaining about the off-the-shoulder and "cold shoulder" cut outs in all the tops this spring, and I see that even these hospital gowns have the cold shoulder look. Also, I got this nifty hat. You can see from my smile that I was really ready to have this tumor taken care of!

Pre-procedure: I had just been complaining about the off-the-shoulder and “cold shoulder” cut outs in all the tops this spring, and I see that even these hospital gowns have the cold shoulder look. Also, I got this nifty hat. You can see from my smile that I was really ready to have this tumor taken care of!

 

At a friend’s event for a book about her family’s genetic disorder, she talked about how she often thinks she’s having a stroke. “So sometimes you’ll be talking to me, and I think I’m having a stroke,” she said.

As someone who suffered from anxiety, I have had my share of trying to keep it together outwardly while inwardly wondering if I’m dying. I have had strange symptoms since October, but especially within the past month, I’ve felt strange. I’ll be talking to someone and suddenly get a sharp pain in my left calf or my toes will go numb. I’ll be on the train and I get a jolt of pain in my side or I stand up too fast and feel like I might pass out because of my low blood pressure. Oddly, my main concern isn’t actually passing out or the pain, but ruining dinner out or being the maligned sick train passenger who causes delays. My last thought, if I’m lucky enough to have a peaceful end many years from now, will probably be, “I hope this isn’t too embarrassing.”

For possible work leave, the doctor had to fill out a form listing why I might not be able to return to work for a bit, and she listed all my current symptoms: fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, anorexia (the medical kind where you just don’t feel like eating), weakness, pain. I have been trying really hard to keep things normal, but seeing it all listed made me think that I’m in pretty bad shape. Plus, I have the neuropathy and an eye infection, and just general inflammation all around, it seems.

I’ve been meaning to update this blog for awhile, but last night I ended up doing the dishes and cleaning a bit. What they find today will determine how the rest of my life could go, or at least the next few years. If there is only one, then I can get the ablation; there was a change of plans to avoid infection, so they would no longer also do the embolization. If they discover more tumors, then I just get the embolization and I would have to keep getting those done. It’s almost always bad news, so I don’t want to get my hopes up. Fingers crossed that I can get the ablation and avoid subsequent infection. I’m in the hospital for a day or two and then I can return home for more recovery. Either way, I should feel better after this. Thank you for all your kind thoughts and words!

Last Friday, I got a call from the interventional radiologist’s office to schedule an upcoming ablation consultation for today, as well as a call from my oncologist’s office explaining what an ablation entails. As I jotted down the message, I spelled it “oblation,” which is “a thing presented or offered to God or a god,” and synonyms that include “sacrifice” or “offering.” I pictured the radiologist plunging her hand into my body, closing her fist around it, and lifting it up victoriously with both hands like the priest of an ancient tribe making an offering.

The reality is less dramatic—slightly. The treatments sound a little bit like what is used to defeat sci-fi monsters or superhero villains, including sub-zero cold (as they used to defeat The Blob, which I just watched again for the first time since when I was five or six). There’s also intense heat or even alcohol (something, it could be argued, I’ve applied to my liver on my own). At today’s appointment, I found out that my procedure is on April 21 and the most promising route is both embolization and ablation.

According to the CT scan I had weeks ago and previous imaging, it looks as if I have one tumor that is getting increasingly large. For one tumor smaller than 3 cm, they would do an ablation, using a rod to burn out the tumor and about a 1 cm surrounding perimeter. My tumor has grown to 2.5 so it’s on the larger side.

An embolization is typically used for multiple tumors to stop the growth. It’s not really curative, but it would stop the symptoms and I could go in for touch-ups. Though the scans don’t show multiple lesions, the embolization will show any that may not have shown up. If there are multiple tumors, then they will do only the embolization.

If there is only the one tumor, then they will go ahead and do the ablation for a one-two punch and have a clear idea of where to put a thermometer at the edge of the tumor. “Like a meat thermometer?” I asked. Kind of, as it turns out, though it won’t pop up when I’m done.

After that, I spend one to two days in the hospital while they give me antibiotics to lower the risk of infection. One of the main reasons they didn’t do ablation first is because the way my digestive system was rerouted during my Whipple, I’m at a higher risk for developing an abscess, a 10 percent risk. With my gall bladder and part of my pancreas and part of my bowel taken out, there’s greater risk for bacteria to get into my liver and cause an infection. If this happens, then I’ll get a drain for a few weeks.

The best case scenario is that I have just the one tumor that can be burned out, and that might give me a break from cancer for awhile. I almost don’t dare hope for that. The odds are rarely in my favor, and I always seem to fall into the unfavorable group. I’ll find out when I wake up after the procedure what has happened.

Today I slept all day after my tumor biopsy. I tried to read and tried to get started on some freelance work, but all I have been able to do today is sleep and watch episodes of Modern Family because I don’t know how to work the TV remote. The biopsy itself didn’t take very long. I was sedated but didn’t fall asleep. The lidocaine made me numb while the doctor used an ultrasound to take samples of the tumor.

The tumor looked huge on the images I saw, but it could be my imagination. Hopefully the biopsy will shed some light as to why the chemo didn’t shrink the tumor. At the last MRI, it was 1.8 x 1.6 cm and now it’s 2.6 x 2.4 cm. I slept during the two hours I was monitored for bleeding, then I came home and slept all afternoon. I did get some good news in between today’s many naps: The ACA was not repealed.

Last Wednesday, after my disappointing scan result news, I received fluids since I was so dehydrated. I talked to one of the nurses about what was going on and she passed it along to the doctors, who ordered one more test. That night, I rallied and went to a talk with Depeche Mode at the NYU Skirball Center and a Godzilla movie where a live band performed along with the movie. The next day I found out that the fever, chills and digestive issues were because I had salmonella. I have no idea how I got it, especially since my boyfriend and I ate pretty much the same things during the previous week, on vacation and once we got back. It got my mind off of the tumor for a bit.

I’m too tired to write any more, and I pressed something on the TV remote so the TV isn’t working so I am going to back to sleep. I will get the results and more of a game plan next week.

After a night of fitful sleep and weird dreams, I went in for my MRI early this morning. As I suspected, the news isn’t good. At first it seemed like the tumor may have grown, but I think the official word is that it just stayed the same and the chemotherapy didn’t make much of a dent. There’s usually a 70 percent success rate for the chemo, but as always, I fall into the unlucky group. (Being in the group of Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients that chemo didn’t completely eradicate, not responding to the clinical trial, having a second type—and relatively rare—type of cancer, getting the cancer again, not responding to this chemo.) I am not surprised, just disappointed.

The doctors are concerned that I’ve been feeling so terrible. The last few days of fever, chills, fatigue and nausea don’t seem to be related any viruses (cold, flu, etc.). Today, my fever and chills don’t seem as bad, but I’m still fatigued and generally pretty run-down. The peripheral neuropathy has really been affecting my quality of life. Right now I am getting some IV fluids to hopefully get me feeling better and more hydrated.

I thought they were going to do a PET scan today, but I was just told it’s next Tuesday. They’re going to try get a full picture and make sure there isn’t anything that has been missed. They are also checking to see if these tumors are producing hormones that are causing some of these symptoms. They already know that my tumor is a little bit on the aggressive side; mine if more poorly-differentiated than they would like.

I hope they find out what might be causing me so much discomfort and can maybe help with these latest symptoms and neuropathy. I know they’re also trying to determine the best steps to take to treat the tumor: ablation, more chemo, clinical trials. I’m worried they’ll find some other terrible thing on the PET scan.

Shortly before his death, Leonard Cohen said, “I am ready to die. I hope it’s not too uncomfortable.” I am not ready to die, but I do hope that what awaits me isn’t too uncomfortable or too painful.

The hardest thing has been hearing my boyfriend’s voice catch when he asked the doctors some questions about my quality of life. He’s been there when I can’t sleep because of cramping feet and legs, or when I wake up with my heart racing. He accompanied me to the ER on vacation in October. He’s seen me cry because of the pain in my legs and has seen how scared and frustrated these symptoms have made me. It was also hard to hear the tears in my mom’s voice, because she has been so hopeful.

As sad as I am that this disease is hurting people I love, I am grateful for everyone’s well-wishes. I am also inspired by so many of you. When I talk about not being able to make any plans because of such an uncertain future, one of my friends reminded me that you can’t think like that. (She should know—she just wrote a book about her family’s fatal gene disorder.)

As I sit here on this nice day hooked up to an IV and watching people walk by on the street in my old work neighborhood, I’m reminded of a book I read recently: My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout. The opening paragraph reminded me so much of the month I spent at Sloan-Kettering for my stem cell transplant. Except I didn’t have a view of the Chrysler Building from my room (though I did from my old work office around this very spot) and I just had a sliver of sidewalk I would hungrily watch for any pedestrians during lonely afternoons. “There was a time, and it was many years ago now, when I had to stay in the hospital for almost nine weeks. This was in New York City, and at night a view of the Chrysler Building, with its geometric brilliance of lights, was directly visible from my bed. During the day, the building’s beauty receded, and gradually it became simply one more large structure against a blue sky, and all the city’s buildings seemed remote, silent, far away. It was May, and then June, and I remember how I would stand and look out the window at the sidewalk below and watch the young women—my age—in their spring clothes, out on their lunch breaks; I could see their heads moving in conversation, their blouses rippling in the breeze. I thought how when I got out of the hospital I would never again walk down the sidewalk without giving thanks for being one of those people, and for many years I did that—I would remember the view from the hospital window and be glad for the sidewalk I was walking on.”

I am grateful I had those several worry-free days in Barbados. (Well, they weren’t completely carefree—the water in the hotel’s rooftop pool was cold and there was a fruit fly in my tropical juice. You have no idea how I suffered.) I knew I could be facing some bad news and I wanted to savor the time before I could face more uncertainly, barrages of tests and treatment. Also, I didn’t get sick until I got back, and for that, I am very grateful. Next Friday, I should have some answers and info about the plan.

On Saturday, the water in the rooftop pool at the hotel in Barbados was cold. I took a quick dip anyway, knowing it would be preferable to the cold air that would greet me hours later when we arrived home.

In January, we made the decision to book a little chemomoon, after the chemo and before the scan. We had JetBlue credit that was going to expire, since we had to cancel a trip to California last year so we could stay home and take care of our dying kitten, Charlotte. The chemo side effects were a little rough towards the end of the last two rounds, and with my mysterious nerve pain and peripheral neuropathy, I wondered if it was a good idea to go the day after the final chemo day. I had some leg and arm numbness and a few lingering side effects, and one night I woke up with my heart racing a bit, but mostly I was OK. It was a much-needed respite from chemo and medical stuff.

Yesterday, I had chills and was really tired so I went to the urgent care near the office. I had 103-degree fever and the flu test came back negative. I knew I’d have to call MSKCC and what they would say: I would have to come in to the urgent care. By the time I arrived uptown my fever was gone. I was given another nasal swab to test for viruses, as well as a blood test. My blood came back normal, and there were no viruses detected. I fell asleep in the waiting room and while I was given some fluids and fell into a deep sleep when I returned home after midnight. This morning, I felt a little off and so tired, so I worked from home. I had a 101-degree fever in the morning and a 102-degree fever this evening.

Tomorrow I have my follow-up scan after the chemo. I’m really worried that the chemo didn’t work, since I’m feeling so bad. I’ve felt pretty bad since October. I’ve been fairly pessimistic since it always seems like there’s bad news, followed by more bad news. I would like a little cancer break, but it probably isn’t in the cards. I will find out more tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some photos of my trip to Barbados.

Fresh juice upon arrival.

Fresh juice upon arrival.

Balcony friends.

Balcony friends.

Roof pool.

Roof pool.

Beach.

Beach.

Another beach view.

Another beach view.

Balcony view.

Balcony view.

Balcony at dusk.

Balcony at dusk.

Crab.

Crab.

Anole.

Anole.

Monkey.

Monkey.

Fish.

The cat enjoying a video of the mourning dove on the balcony.

The cat enjoying a video of the mourning dove on the balcony.