Well, I still didn’t get around to buying a wig yet, but it’s time: I start chemotherapy next week.
With our planned spring break trip quashed by the Coronavirus, it opened up an opportunity to start chemotherapy sooner rather than later.
It took a lot of finagling (props to my amazing assistant, C, for getting this done), but I am squeezing in chemo session #1 after an early morning bone density scan (I’m the patient here; this is a baseline pre-chemo requirement), then doing procedures in clinic #1, driving across town, finishing a half-day in clinic #2, driving across town in a different direction, (hopefully) getting the chemo, and finally circling back home.
The rest of the week is already fully scheduled, so fingers crossed that I follow the predicted path where my worst post-chemo days will fall over the subsequent weekend.
No rest for the working #doctormom.
I mentioned above that my assistant worked extremely hard to make this happen, and that is a gross understatement. When the earlier chemo appointment was offered to me, I knew I had to make it work, but it felt insurmountable given the patients who were already scheduled. I hate to cancel or move patients. In my entire four year residency, I did not take a single sick day. I missed one week my intern year when my father died, but I was on an off-service rotation and it did not impact anyone else. I was so conscious of this.
In the past 15 years, I can count the times on one hand that I have called in sick (One was memorably on Election Day in 2008, when our entire family had a horrible GI bug and I was 23 weeks pregnant with Trixie, but I was DETERMINED to vote for Barack Obama and went to the polling site with my own trash bag in case I needed to throw up. I digress).
Much like when I was trying to schedule my mastectomy, I feel terrible that I am inconveniencing others, making patients change long-planned appointments or incite anger or frustration that causes them to fire me and go elsewhere.
Or eviscerate me on review sites.
While some of the grit I have shown throughout my career is what makes me a good doctor (and I can appropriately say that at this point), I also wonder when enough is enough.
If I was giving advice to someone else, I would tell her she’s nuts to prioritize a half day of work over GETTING CANCER TREATMENT. We are talking about chemotherapy here, not highlights at the salon.
And there is also the nagging voice in my head that also wonders (fears?) that some of the unrelenting stress I have brought upon myself has contributed to my diagnosis in the first place.
For now, I am going to play cycle #1 by ear. I don’t know how I’ll respond. I don’t know how I’ll feel. I don’t know which side effects will affect me. I don’t know if I’ll need time off or if I can (mostly) work full-ish time.
And I will need to make peace with that.