No one would choose to go through this. I’m trying to hold onto the thought that there will be an end to it, but so far, chemotherapy is very hard on my body. Oh, it isn’t like you see in the movies. I’m not hanging over the toilet bowl, begging someone not to look at me. No, it’s more insidious than that. It’s a constant boiling in my gut as the epithelial cells are attacked. It’s a fatigue so bone deep that I can’t shake it off. I’ve slept. I slept so hard that I couldn’t turn my head to the left this morning (or for most of the day). I alternate between being sick at the thought of water and craving watermelon (sprinkled with salt, thanks). My dog is gazing at me as I type this out. She knows I’m ill but doesn’t know what to do. Neither do I, pup. I only half-jokingly said to my son that I wish someone would knock me out until this is over. I feel like it’s taking away everything and everyone that I am. That little spark I had gotten back in February – poof – gone.
It’s easy enough to stay positive when you’re feeling okay. I felt pretty okay on Friday, but this whole weekend has been a wash. I guess it’s a good thing that I’ll get the chemo on Thursdays. Good day on Friday, lousy weekend….until I’m done.
Now I need to order some socks and mittens that I can throw into a freezer and wear during the next phase of chemo — Taxol — or else I’ll end up with severe peripheral neuropathy that could render my hands kind of useless, oh – and make it hard to walk on painful feet. I’m really trying to be one step ahead of the treatment and the side effects, but damn.
You know that commercial for Cancer Treatment Centers of America? “There’s not just cancer. There’s only your cancer.” Something like that. Yeah. That’s right. You might know a hundred women who’ve had breast cancer, but every cancer is different, just like every body is different. Her cancer might have been a different stage. Hers might have responded quickly. Maybe she just needed a lumpectomy and radiation. Maybe she had metastasis and didn’t make it. Maybe she’s still fighting it.
Or maybe you or someone you know has been through prostate, lung, liver, bone, or lymphatic cancer. Sarcoma. Glioblastoma. Every single person and every single cancer is different. I didn’t fully understand that before, but we get an education. Yes, we do. We have to learn quickly to navigate the terms, the clinics, the insurance, and the treatments. And we have to be our own advocates, because as much as the people in our lives want to help, and honestly want to take this burden away from us, they can’t do it for us. Only we know how we’re feeling and how much we feel able to do.
I’ve watched too much TV this weekend, lazed about too much, but I can’t do much else. I wore myself completely out tonight, just sitting downstairs and changing out the laundry here and there. Most of it will go unfolded tonight, just shirts draped over the side of the hamper, limply wondering what they did to earn such wrinkles. And my bills are languishing on my desk, not going away, just neglected because I can’t think.
Honestly, if I beat this and it comes back, I don’t know. I don’t think I could go through this again, knowing what I know now. But maybe it’s just a bad day. Maybe I just need a few hours of feeling well. The last thing I want is to be a whiner, to be a baby about it. I’ve known (and know) some tough people who have gone through this and came out on the other side, cancer-free and so strong. I’m banking on that. In the meantime, I feel weak and useless. I need to pull weeds. I need to clean my carpet. I need to be able to do my normal chores around here. You think I’m being too hard on myself? I probably am, but that’s how I roll, as they say. I’ve fought chronic pain and illness for so long, that if I didn’t push myself constantly, I wouldn’t still be around. I would have dissolved into a haze of disability and depression, like so many others I’ve known, and I would be gone.
But I’m here, and damn it, I’m fighting the side effects. I’m trying really hard. I am.
Could anything be harder than losing my child 11 years ago? No. But this is a real challenge. Too many “I”s in this post, yes. But like I said before, there is only my cancer. And it sucks.
Here’s hoping that day 5 will be better. I need that. Tomorrow I’m supposed to go to my best friend’s house for a little shindig, for a few hours at least, and the last thing I want to do is linger in a chair, wondering how long I can hang in there. I’m hoping…. so hoping…. that I will be more perky. That will give me hope.
As a side note, if you want to know how someone might get cancer this aggressive, take a look at this public health page. https://www.publichealth.va.gov/exposures/camp-lejeune/
I was a Marine’s wife, living and working on Camp Lejeune in the 1980s. I had my little girl and was pregnant with my son while living in base housing and drinking the water. Stephanie had terrible illness that could have been related. Sean has had some stuff, too. And now I have two things from the list. I’m hoping they will actually reimburse my out-of-pocket expenses. That would be a big help, especially since they’re ultimately responsible.