I still have some numbness in my feet, but my fingertips are back to normal. My oncologist told me, “We don’t know. Neuropathy can be permanent. It can get worse. It can get better. You can try acupuncture for it,” but my hands are fine and my feet are pretty okay. There’s no pain so I’m fine.
The side effects were cumulative. This is the part of cancer where unless they’ve gone through it themselves or seen someone go through it, people don’t really know how awful it is.
This is the pandemic so no one was really seeing each other. I was talking to my friends through FaceTime. I’d be on my bed, be on the pillow, and would just look terrible. My voice would be so soft.
I’d realize, “I ate a potato today.” It’s all I could manage to get down. Your appetite is gone and you’re so sick, but you can’t actually throw anything up because you’re not eating anything. It’s terrible.
That journey made me understand why people who are on chemo for life [want to] stop because it’s not a quality of life. I get it and I would never judge someone for that decision.
Before, I might have been thought, “Why would you stop fighting? That makes no sense. There’s this treatment out there that can prolong your life.” You get a taste of it and think, “Well, what kind of life is that?” You would rather have a quality of life.
It was quite the journey. A week after chemo, I would start feeling better. I would start feeling like myself. I would always take that week to be outside, have lots of yummy food, and be with my friends to the capacity that I could.
I’m trying not to get COVID because COVID meant I couldn’t have chemo. I would also be putting everyone else in that cancer center at risk so I took it very seriously. I didn’t want to get sick not just for me. I knew I would be okay, but there are a lot of people much older than me, much sicker than me who couldn’t afford to get COVID.
I kept quite a distance from friends, spent a lot of time outside, and would go to the beach a lot with my friends. That felt like a safe place to be — outside, away from people — and that became our little sanctuary. It was just nice to feel normal again. I think that’s what you just want to feel is normal.
I keep my stickers on the wall of every treatment that I had. Every time you go in, you get a new sticker. I would put them around my calendar and count them. Those stickers were a visual for me. When I was in bed feeling my worst, I thought, “Okay, you’ve got six stickers, you just need six more. You’re halfway there.”
My nurse practitioner would check on me in my chemo chair. I was four or five chemos in at that point. I remember asking, “Do I have to do all of this? My scans are good. My blood work’s good. My cancer markers are all good. Do I have to do this? Do I have to go the whole way? Can I just do six?” Because some people just do six.
She put her hand on my leg and said, “Amanda, you are going to be so grateful once this is done. But yes, you have to finish your full treatment. You will be better off for it.” It’s almost like when you’re begging your mom to stay home from school when you’re sick. She was like, “You’re going to be fine. I know this is hard, but you’re going to be fine.