Two-Year Chemoversary

It's been two years since I finished chemo. Here I am with my favorite nurse, who I hope to never see again.

I still have regular checkups with my oncologist. Typically, I see the nurse practitioner instead because my oncologist is off publishing in medical journals or testifying before Congress or working with recently diagnosed patients. First I get blood drawn to test for tumor markers – evidence of cancer activity in my body. Then I get to fill out my favorite survey form: on a scale of 1 to 10, how hopeless do I feel? Then the nurse records my vitals. Finally, the nurse practitioner comes in and asks me questions in her thick Russian accent. "Are you taking your Letrozole?" "Are you exercising?" "Have you had any bone pain or headaches?" I spend three panicked seconds remembering the headache I had the week before; was it the jumbo margarita I drank with dinner or am I dying again? I shake my head no. Then she says, "Okay, see you in four months."

I graduate to bi-annual appointments starting in January 2022 (three years out from diagnosis), and I'll continue that for seven years. 

A woman who modeled in Art Bra with me just discovered she has a metastatic recurrence in her lung. She's 36 and has two young girls. We had the same initial diagnosis and went through similar treatments, so her recurrence scared the s**t out of me. That's the devastating thing about cancer: you're never in the clear. 

In happier news, Jeff and I are both fully vaccinated, and COVID cases are way down in our area. We've been dining on restaurant patios and visiting breweries and having the girls' friends over for playdates and going on outdoor adventures without having to worry about masks. I took the girls to Target and let them throw things into the cart: a sequin tank top, a new board game, water balloons, a bag of Fritos. "Sure, why the hell not?" It's been wonderfully normal. Julia finished third grade; I lost count of how many different teachers she had this year, but we all made it through.

I finally got around to treating my hereditary varicose veins (the ones that cause medical problems in addition to being unsightly). I'd put it off while I was going through cancer treatment. In the last five weeks, I've had three veins treated, one every two weeks. Unfortunately, you're not allowed to treat them all at once. As the nurse was about to remove my one tiny stitch, she warned me that I would feel a slight tugging sensation. I told her, "Lady, you can't scare me. I've had surgical drains ripped out of my chest. Go ahead and tug away." The worst part of vein treatment was that I had to stop doing cardio for six weeks; my Peloton has been gathering dust. I've also had to wear thigh-high compression socks all day, every day. That can be challenging during the Texas summer. Yesterday I went to a natural swimming hole wearing a bikini, compression socks, Nike shorts, and water shoes. I looked like I'd left my 1950s secretary job to go hiking and had forgotten to take off my nylons. Anyway, I'll be fully recovered in one more week. And I don't have any other lingering health issues. Do I dare call myself healthy?!

Enough about my boring health. I know you're all dying to know how my hair is doing. Okay, I won't keep you in suspense any longer. Here you go, two years of regrowth: 

During chemo

1 Month

2 Months

3 Months

4 Months

5 Months

6 Months

7 Months

8 Months

9 Months

10 Months (start of COVID quarantine)

11 Months

12 Months

13 Months

14 Months

15 Months

16 Months

17 Months

18 Months

19 Months

20 Months

21 Months

22 Months (fully vaccinated and out having fun, so I forgot to take a picture this month)

23 Months

2 Years

I've never had professional highlights before, but I splurged for my birthday and had balayage done. It was the first time since 2018 that I'd left a salon feeling pretty. Not that I felt ugly with short hair; I felt like a badass. But that's not the same thing as feeling girly-pretty. 

Another big hair milestone: I can almost get all of my hair into a ponytail! I was so excited, I took a picture. 

Claire said, "Mommy, why do you care so much? That ponytail looks bad." It may be messy and weird-looking, but being able to tie my hair up while I'm hot-flashing is priceless. And yes, I still get hot flashes all the time. I can sense them coming now. If I ever walk away while we're mid-conversation, know that it's nothing personal and I've just gone in search of a ceiling fan or an air conditioning vent or a freezer to stick my head in. I'll be back.