This breast cancer journey has been full of the unexpected. The latest is cellulitis, which has postponed until next Thursday the chemo treatment that I was to have yesterday. That postponement pushes everything back a week, so this journey of treatments will end a week later. I’m pleased to say that I’m not upset about that. Perhaps I am learning to live in the present and not try to look too far into the future.
The cellulitis actually started last week and was probably in its first stages when I saw my surgeon last Thursday. It began as a little redness below the node-removal site. I was taking an antibiotic for my sinuses, and I think that held it at bay. But when that antibiotic ran out, the cellulitis could get going. The redness spread and nearly covered my whole left breast, the one where I had the lumpectomy. But since it wasn’t an angry red, I wasn’t too freaked out about it, and I knew that with all of this taking place over Christmas weekend, I likely couldn’t get anything done about it. I waited until Monday to try a call to a doc. The answering service couldn’t wait to get me off the phone, not even letting me finish talking, and I never got a call back. I tried twice. Then on Tuesday, I didn’t get a call back from my oncologist’s office after leaving a message, so I tried the surgeon’s office. They said to come in, and I did. He aspirated the node area and took a culture and prescribed a different antibiotic. So I’m on the path to getting this cellulitis cleared up. I saw the surgeon again yesterday, and the culture came back okay. Now it’s a matter of time to let the antibiotic and my body work together to clear up the cellulitis.
I also saw my oncologist, since these doctors are both working toward my healing. When I asked him Wednesday if I could still have chemo on Thursday as scheduled, he said yes, but as he talked, he was shaking his head “no.” I know enough about body language to see that conflict, so I told him his body language was saying no. He said it was a gray area, and in further discussion, he said it would be best to wait, and I agreed. It didn’t make sense to me to hit my body with a toxin that will depress the immune system when the immune system is working hard to get rid of the cellulitis. And because I’m doing the dose dense chemo (every two weeks instead of every three weeks), I have an extra week without affecting the chemo dosing.
I’ve been looking at the suffering that comes with cancer and its treatments as a wearing away of some of my rough edges. I’m like a rock that has some jagged and rather sharp edges, and this cancer journey is making me a much smoother stone, more like the ones you find at the edges of the ocean in places like Maine and Iona, Scotland. All of that rubbing against each other as the tide comes in and out and as the ocean is affected by storms and currents makes the stones wonderfully smooth. I hadn’t thought about it until now, but it’s not just the water that smooths the stones. It’s the rubbing against each other. That’s just how this cancer journey is. I’m not a solitary rock being smoothed by pain. I’m a rock among other rocks, and though the water wears away our rough edges, we wear away each others’ rough edges, too. We all have the potential of being wonderfully smooth stones. The ones that people love to handle and take home with them and put on their desks and altars because of their beauty. We can be those stones if we allow the currents and our contact with each other to change us. And even if we resist, life will still wear away the rough edges until we are all beautiful.