My enemy first showed his presence in June 2022. He disguised himself to appear as a cyst I had grown all too familiar with, but I was too busy finishing the school year to give him any attention. The first two weeks of July, the enemy threw off his disguise and reared his ugly self with all the classic IBC signs that a quick Internet search of the symptoms made me confident in my self-diagnosis.

The first week of August it was confirmed and on the 25th of August 2022 I was given my first dose of chemotherapy. Since that day, other than a two-month break to prepare for and recover from surgery, I have had infusions nearly every three weeks.

Today, December 14, 2023 I was given my final infusion. I could not wait for this day to come! I had it all planned out: I was going to bring a can of Moxie (an old-time New England soda created in my home state of Maine) and a nip of Fireball whiskey so I could mix and enjoy my favorite drink while those nasty chemicals were dripped into my body for the last time. Today came and all my celebratory plans disappeared. I didn’t
wake up this morning excited, ready to get this over with so I could move on with my life. The Moxie and Fireball were forgotten at home (probably for the best) and as my husband and I drove to the cancer center,, I realized I was uneasy. The excitement I expected to have had been replaced with fear.

As I sat with the Kadcyla dripping out of the bag and into my body I posted the following on Facebook: “This battle has aged me… a lot! I look older and I feel older. But I’m still here! Today is the last day of my infusions. I know I should feel happy and excited but honestly, I feel scared. These infusions have been fighting this nasty, sneaky, rare, aggressive cancer and now my oncologist says I need to spend time recovering before the next step. My infusion nurse, Melinda has been with me through it all, she is absolutely wonderful! Today they gave me a celebration tray and an opportunity to ring the bell. I declined to ring the bell because I fear it will jinx me. Please keep praying that the cancer is fully gone and I don’t have a recurrence. The statistics are not in my favor but I know I’m in God’s hands and whatever happens is part of His plan.
Romans 8:28”

I tend to analyze things, particularly my feelings and where they’re coming from. Hence, I’ve spent the better part of my evening analyzing where this fear is coming from. Here is what I’ve come up with… My son got married during my initial chemotherapy treatment, so my every three-week infusion was delayed by a week so I could feel my best for my son’s wedding. Shortly after that, they determined that the cancer was still
progressing, so I would need to be switched to AC chemotherapy, otherwise known as the Red Devil by many. (Side note, I called it my Fireball shots. 😜) This was the root of my fear that any delay in my treatment would result in the cancer spreading.

Well, my last infusion of today was delayed by a week because my oncologist was away last week attending the San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium where I need to remind you all that IBC was discussed from the main stage for the very first time and our very own Terry Arnold was a panelist in that discussion! Yesterday, I watched a video of the entire presentation and though much of the medical content was over my head (I mean
they are doctors presenting to doctors and I’m certainly not one), I was able to understand enough to be reminded of how scary this disease is and how difficult it is for our doctors since there is still so much unknown about IBC. It was nice to hear my radiation oncologist’s name being mentioned in one of the presentations and
extra nice to hear my medical oncologist talk about the positive data that was presented from a study that my treatment is mimicking. However, my treatment being delayed paired with the end of my treatment clearly sent me into a bit of a spiraling fear.

I refuse to let fear interfere with my enjoyment of life. It doesn’t deserve my time when my time may be limited and there are so many people I love who deserve that time. It forces itself to be acknowledged so I have spent time today admiring, analyzing, facing, and being angry at that emotion of fear. I have allowed myself to feel it and cry about it. Now I must go about the business of living each day of this life as fully as I can because it will end at some point, as it does for all of us. I hope that point isn’t anytime soon, especially since my first grandbaby is due to arrive in February! For now I will focus on recovering!

I’m tired! Fatigue is a truly real thing that has impacted the person I am. My vivacious, goofy, crazy, fun, zany self is currently covered in a shroud of fatigue. As a good friend said, “well, it takes a lot of energy being you!” She is completely right and I never realized it before. So, I hope and pray that as I recover from these 16 months of treatment I can find myself again. I’m determined that my grandbaby will smile when she (or he but I
have a feeling about this) thinks of her “Crazy” Grand-Mére and maybe even feels the need to warn her friends about me before they meet me for the first time, just as her dad felt the need to do…in a truly loving and joyous way because my boys like their “Crazy” Mom and I WILL be that for them again.

Now, my fellow IBC sisters, go have a Moxie and Fireball to celebrate life and if you can’t get Moxie at least have a shot of Fireball!

Colleen Davidson

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