A skilled infusion nurse straddles my blue puffy chair and counts, “Three. Two. One.” She punches the one-inch Power Loc Huber needle into my implanted port, located right above my left breast.
Soon, my Herceptin—your name a beautiful mix of HER2, intercept, and inhibitor—soon, you will be flowing through my port, transported by my bloodstream to where you do your best work: my overexpressed HER2 neu receptors.
I know we have a complicated relationship. Trust me, I would rather not be in this with you, but since we are here, I do want to take this time to thank you for what you are doing for my body. I want you to read my words, know that you are valued!
I am not a doctor or a researcher, so I have a fairly limited idea of how you work.
I do know that your magic is how you “bind targets with exquisite affinity and specificity.” I find your specificity alluring and makes you different than the others. My former acquaintances, Taxotere and Cytoxan, destroyed all my healthy cells. You just destroy my hyperactive receptors and leave my other cells alone.
I love that about you because it means that we can meet every three weeks without me losing my hair, feeling numbness in my hands and feet, or constantly throwing up.
You are my Superpower. The day after we see each other, even though my thoughts are scrambled and scattered, my body feels invincible and strong. All-day I want to rearrange all the furniture in my house, pop into a one-handed handstand, and lift my 25-pound Kettlebell over my head while in boat pose.
Since we started to get to know each other at the end of 2019, I have trusted you, and as my heart would tell you, I have adored you, too. We had one scare there when my L1 continued to light up on all the scans. I questioned your loyalty, but then I knew it was not you that needed to go but rather those pesky cells in my L1. Stereotactic radiation saved us; we can stay steady and together.
You have given me the gift of being unremarkable. Trust me, in other parts of my life, I yearn to be remarkable, a standout, but you know how to humble me, how to keep me coming back for more. You keep me stable.
And I love how each time my infusion nurse accesses my port and begins your drip, I am tied to your long and complicated origin story. Full of wrong turns, chance meetings, and worry about the bottom line, your story also includes a researcher, who “gave a shit,” while others did not.
More importantly, when we meet, I am connected to a long line of amazing women. Like Barbara Bradfield, who is still alive today because of you.
And Marti Nelson, whose needless death at 41 ignited a hailstorm of activism.
And all of those brave women—tired of seeing their friends die of AIDS because of “focused research” and spurred on by Marti’s death—who led a 15-car “funeral procession” onto a company’s perfectly manicured lawn and handcuffed themselves to the steering wheels of their cars just so that you could be made available to other women with HER2+ breast cancer.
Like you, those women changed the course of history.
And my dear friend, who died at 45, after a good long run with you at her side.
All this science and fight, all this life and death, is you, Herceptin. Is me.
And what about all the women who will come after me? I know you will be there for them, faithful and focused, diligent and determined.
Thank you, for being what you are. Thank you for these last two and a half years. You have given me time. Time to be present with my children and my husband, my family, my friends, and with me. I cannot thank you enough.
I look forward to our continued journey. Let it be uneventful and full of boring conversations. Let it be unremarkable.
With Deepest Gratitude,