Tomorrow, Matthew will go in for his monthly oncology appointment, and it's really just a standard monthly visit with IV chemo. But tomorrow is sort of a milestone, because it marks his halfway point in treatment. He has been in treatment now for 19 months, and he will be in treatment for 19 more.
If that sounds like a lot, that's because it is. From my experience, most cancer treatment protocols are complete in 8-10 months. Matthew's treatment will consist of a total of 6 phases of treatment, the first 5 of which did, actually, fall within that time frame, and the last one is called Maintenance. So, it's similar, but the Maintenance has turned out to be a bigger deal than I thought it would be. He gets chemo every day. He hasn't had a break from it since Spring. That's unusual, because most cancer treatment protocols call for a break every month or so. The constant poison is protecting him from relapse, yet is slowly damaging parts of his body in ways that I'm not sure he'll ever really recover from. Only time will tell. It's really hard to give him medicine that hurts him like that and have no choice but to keep giving it.
I've seen a lot of families go through diagnosis, treatment, and ring the bell - an emotionally charged ceremony indicating that you are done with treatment. I love those families, and I am so happy that they are moving on with their lives.
I've also seen too many families lose the fight. It makes me sad and angry. I hate cancer so much. I hate watching my friends take their babies home to die. I hate imagining what it would take to make peace with that. And every time, my resolve to act is heightened.
19 months has really changed our family! Really, everything has changed since that awful day. We've had the lion's share of trials heaped on top of the cancer trial, but we're stronger and learning from it all every day. I wonder what on Earth we'll be like in 19 more months!
In that time, I expect to see a few more waves of families come and go through my cancer group. The girls who have been in treatment with Matthew all along will finish up this summer. New moms will come, treat their kids and go. More relapses and losses will take place. Hopefully, 19 months will be the end of it for Matthew. Hopefully, he will be able to move on with his life and have a normal childhood, free from the heavy worries he has now.
As for me, I will be a cancer mom for life. I am forever changed. In the beginning, I used to say I could either let it make me better or bitter, and that's still true. Some bits of it still make me feel bitter, and I'll have to continue working to get rid of those feelings, but some parts of it have made me a better person.One thing is for sure, I am now an advocate.
Thank you for supporting us through the last 19 months. I have started thinking of the first year as our "No good, very bad, terrible, horrible year." Mister Rogers said his mom told him to always look for the helpers during the hard times. She was right. There have been angels with us all along the way, both visible and not. I am grateful to all of them. To all of you.
Let's hope that the next couple of years can be the "Peaceful, joyful, happy time, having fun years."