Friday, August 19, 2011

Little Did They Know...

Years ago, my mother, Nick and I went to go see the film Shackleton's Adventure, the story Sir Ernest Shackleton's now-legendary 1914-1916 British Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. It's an amazing film, narrated by Kevin Spacey who uses a VERY SERIOUS, British-ish voice that just tells you that SHIT IS GOING TO HAPPEN. And it does, brothers and sisters, yes it does. 

A bit of description from the internetz: After five months of journeying, 28 men became stranded as their ship became trapped in pack ice. After eight months of waiting through the Antarctic winter, by October, encroaching pack ice crushed the ship like an eggshell. Needless to say, the story gets worse from there...much worse. Spacey peppers his narration continuously with ominous lines like "little did they know, the worst was yet to come."

We walked out at the end of the film, each of us completely exhausted from watching the relentless hell these 28 men had to endure. Exhausted and amazed at their resilience.

Not to put going through chemo on the same level as enduring the Antartic in the dead of winter, but sitting in the dr.'s office on Tuesday, I felt Kevin Spacey's voice in my head, And little did they know, the worst  WAS  YET  TO COME.  (duh! duh! DUH!).

So this week, we celebrated the halfway done mark and were supposed to launch into treatment #5 and a switch to Taxol.  The last two treatments on AC have been pretty sucky from a feeling-the-effects perspective and so I am simultaneously happy to move on to a new drug and completely petrified of the side effects. Eyebrows and eyelashes? Gone.  Feeling in fingers and toes?...hmmm, well lots of folks get neuropathy and about 5% never regain sensation again. Fingernails? Probably going to get really ugly and maybe fall off. And how about the delivery of the drug? Well, about 10% have a pretty serious allergic reaction sitting in the chair.

I sat there thinking about the risks and the gambles. I sat there thinking "I only have four more of these left and then I am done". I sat there and thought that my vanity and love of the use of my hands means something to me. I sat there and thought about the worst being yet to come. And then I realized that the worst part is not having a choice. You are in it. It's done. You move forward. The other options (a 30% chance of getting breast cancer somewhere else in  your body = metastasized cancer) are not simply not palatable. 

So instead you go out for dinner and drinks with wonderful friends to celebrate the midpoint. You laugh and cry a little bit with these friends, you tell stories about what life was like before and after this happened and you realize that it's worth every single bit to get to stay around to be with such wonderful people.

Friends and loved ones lift you through these times. I have felt angry, I have felt sad and depressed and more than a little lost, but never once, not once, have I felt alone. And that is pure gold.

Today I went in for the infusion only to be told that my counts are too low and that I am going to need to delay for some yet-to-be-determined period of time (likely a week). The thought of delaying puts me in a really bad place (more time? I want to get this DONE) but the idea of having a somewhat-ok-feeling week with my husband (and no kids!) might be something that I really need.

Yes, the worst, in some ways, may be yet to come. I hope not, but I won't know until I get there. And, Shackleton's crew of 28 men? They all made it home, every one. Working together, they pulled each other through.  If they could manage, with your help, somehow I think I can too.


  1. How frustrating this must be for you, Fran. Hang in there. I didn't know there was a Shackelton movie...Steve read the book for work and then when we lost our dog before moving back into our house (don't now if you know our woeful tale?), he quoted Shackelton in defeat. But, you will get through man (or woman) left behind. {{{}}}

  2. Fran,
    You don't know me from Adam - I'm a friend of Beth Paul-Russell's and she pointed me to your blog a while back. I have been following your journey online and Beth's in person - you are both in my thoughts often. I wanted to share an amazing post from a friend of a friend's blog post - not something I usually do, but somehow it seems like a good idea - "After the Airport":
    Best of luck -
    Elizabeth Maher