As I await beginning my every-3-month “booster” chemo, there is, of course the worry and trepidation about how well my bloodwork fares relative to before. Has it remained on the upswing or have I deteriorated since…? My oncologist assured me that it will continue to improve with each additional “booster”, but my less-than-optimistic self has trouble believing that. Perhaps ignorance is bliss, as I keep reading about new clinical trials, additional medications when the initial chemo protocol stops working. The waiting and wondering is excruciating, as it determines my life-course moving forward.

In the meantime, I have developed what docs think is a bacterial infection on my face and neck. I never have experienced pimples, except for “period” times and extreme stress (as during exams years ago), but started breaking out in bubbles that became whiteheads first on my forehead, then down my face clockwise. They were incredibly itchy and I would scratch them in my sleep until they were bleeding. They progressed down into my neck and up the other side of my face, the itch infuriating and crazy-making. After 2 weeks, they are finally calming down, but in the meantime, with my osteo-arthritis kicking in, and being unable to take any medication, it has been very tough.

There is also the worry that this may be cancer-related, although my docs have assured me that it is neither a symptom nor a side-effect of my chemotherapy. When you have cancer, every little change is noteworthy, as you don’t really trust your body anymore or your ability to understand and predict what is going on within. This hyper-vigilance can be exhausting at times, having to be so constantly self-aware of everything. After all, you can second-guess yourself that you missed whatever symptoms preceded the diagnosis that may have alerted you to the need for medical advice sooner…

For my 60th birthday (which is coming up), my husband decided to fulfill one of my “bucket-list” items…DisneyWorld. Unfortunately, with COVID, they were all booked up during the time that we were driving there. So…we managed to book in a day at Universal Studios. The Florida Keys are our next destination, a place that I have wanted to visit and my husband to see for a long time. Other than beavers (I am Canadian, of course), my favorite animal is the manatee and there is apparently a place where they visit frequently. I want to eat key lime pie on the Keys, relax overlooking the water, and look out over the waters to eternity.

Let’s talk a little bit about the “bucket list”…fulfilling those experiences a person wanted to do before leaving this earth. While it can be very satisfying, it also has a bitter-sweet quality to it. You are doing something that you may never get the chance to ever do again…does that sound morose or even spoiled? Maybe, but think about it from the perspective of a person who hasn’t been diagnosed, who thinks they will have every opportunity in the world to do what they hope to do in the future. What if every time they did something novel and new, they immediately thought to themselves: “Well, that was fun, but I probably won’t ever be able to do that again.” Or, what if every time they did something enjoyable, they said to themselves: “That may be the last time I ever do that.” Wouldn’t that be a sobering thought? Well, that is the everyday reality of someone who fulfills a “bucket list” item.

So, as everyone cheers on the person who ticks off their bucket list, remember that there is a wistful quality to it for them too, as the distinct possibility of “never again” is also very much a part of it.

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KLP

KLP

As a now-retired psychologist, I was recently diagnosed with terminal cancer, and am currently undergoing chemotherapy to hopefully prolong my life.