We're done!

Today was John's last day of treatment. He's had six rounds of chemo (three consecutive days every fourth week) since September 8. And we are hoping today's infusion will be the last for a long time . . . as in YEARS. Of course, we don't know what the future holds.

The lymph nodes, which are still palpable under the skin, could continue to shrink for months or they could start to come back any time. The scans at halfway point showed the nodes were 50% smaller after three rounds. He'll undergo additional ct scans on February 22 and find out the results on the 23rd. We see Dr. Flinn for an office visit and bloodwork prior to that, on the 9th. But in John's case, the bloodwork primarily tells us how well he has tolerated the treatment because his CLL progression has been in his lymph nodes rather than in his blood. The scans will tell us how well his lymph nodes have responded to therapy. His nodes were the only reason for treatment.

We don't know what's going to happen next. We never will. But tonight I'm just so happy that -- for a while anyway -- chemo is over. As we got into the elevator, I told John, "It feels like we should be celebrating." He looked at me weakly and stated the obvious: "I feel too lousy to do any celebrating. I just hope I don't have to do this again for a long, long time." He said that with Rounds Five and Six, he began feeling waves of nausea on the way to treatment each day just thinking about getting that stuff pumped into his veins. He compared it to the sick feeling you have remembering the last thing you ate before getting the flu.

Once again, we are enjoying our nightly Wheel of Fortune. It's so weird. I have never really watched Wheel of Fortune except with my mom when she had cancer and recently with John. It's amazing how many years this show has been on television. My mom received her diagnosis in 1986 and died in 1987. I can't watch the Wheel without thinking about that difficult period of time.

Several months ago I met a woman who had lost her husband to pancreatic cancer. She and her present husband were delivering my new refrigerator. She noticed and commented on the Tennessee Oncology business card on the counter, telling me about her late husband. I told her about John's battle with leukemia. I think we had just begun treatment. She wasn't aware of how much I had already studied CLL and the treatment John would be getting. And in a very compassionate way, she told me a lot of things I already knew and then proceeded to "prepare" me for what it would be like to live with someone undergoing chemotherapy. She explained how common it is for the patient to be depressed and agitated and even hostile, taking everything out on the closest person to him (the wife). I told her my husband wasn't like that and had never once taken anything out on me; not even a bad day. I said, "I'm telling you the truth. My husband has never been unkind to me one single time in our whole marriage." Obviously thinking I was naive and unrealistic, she responded, "Your husband has never gone through chemo, either. Just be prepared because it's very hard. At some point, you will feel isolated and alone. So please feel free to call me if you need someone to talk to." I smiled and thanked her. It was a very generous and compassionate offer considering she didn't even know me.

I remember thinking, however, that she had no idea the kind of man I am married to. Nor could she possibly fathom the number of close friends I have in my life who would drop everything to offer me their shoulder, or anything else I might need, any time of the day or night. I knew I wouldn't need to make that call.

For the last five months, John has endured feeling chronically lousy, being stuck with needles, bags of poison pumped into his veins, fatigue, sleepless nights and, until we found the right combination of meds, several episodes of debilitating nausea. I know this experience and all the drugs have diminished his enjoyment of life and affected him emotionally. The last couple of years -- and now treatment -- have taken a toll on him physically, mentally and emotionally. That's obvious. But, through it all, he has continued to be the sweetest, kindest, most considerate husband to me -- just as I knew he would be.

I am so glad treatment is over for now. Unless God blesses him with a complete healing, John will battle CLL for the rest of his life and we know there will be more treatment in his future. I just hope and pray that my amazing, wonderful, unselfish husband gets to feel good again and enjoy some real quality of life for a significant length of time before we have to do battle with this beast again. In my eyes, there is nobody any more deserving of that than my John.


Michael Geiser said…
Shari, as I've read through your posts this morning, it got me to thinking, especially your words about God's will. I believe that we live in a broken world, and that it was not God's choice, but ours. I don't mean directly, but as a result of the Fall. In this broken world, there are evil and dark powers that try to break us even more. I also beleive that sickness and cancers are a result of that. But because we are also children of God, and that He love's us unconditionally and perfectly, He gives us the gifts of faith, mercy, and grace to help us get through anything the world throws at us. He knows that the world He created is broken, and that's why He sent His Son to free us from it's clutches. He knows what we wiill go through before we do, and stands ready to take us in His arms, and bring us through. So if you can't celebrate physically, then celebrate spiritually, and rejoice today in all that God has done for you and John. I know I am!

As fellow travelers with you on this journey called life, I am so glad that we were brought together, and look forward to fighting the good fight with you and John in the years to come. I love you Shari, and I love John. God be with you both!!
Shari said…
Thanks, Mike. We love you guys too. And I couldn't agree more. There is so much peace in knowing the truth of what you've said. Knowing this doesn't remove all pain or struggle, but there is peace and even joy in the midst of our challenges and our suffering. I am aware of my many blessings at all times and know that I have so much to be thankful for.