Let me start by saying, chemotherapy sucks, plain and simple. Besides hopefully saving a cancer patient’s life, Chemotherapy might also deplete quality of life. Treatments afford a person many sacrifices and compromises. Time is precious and valuable. We are all racing against the clock, as we are all terminal. Chemotherapy is both against the clock and for the clock, so while chemotherapy may be buying me time, there is a part of it which thieves my time. It takes priceless moments away from my loved ones, friends, and family alike.
My treatments are said to be the easiest of all chemotherapy remedies. However, after three years of this, I beg to differ. Where I understand that there are patient’s worse off, that does not detract from my own personal struggle. The chemotherapy I am currently receiving and have previously had, is an injection in my stomach area. This form of chemotherapy I am on is considered a targeted therapy, so I do not, and will not, lose my hair. Anyone who receives this treatment can get it in any fatty tissue area; e.g., stomach, back of the arm, or some patients inject it into their thighs. I chose to get my chemotherapy in my stomach, because let’s face it, I have a lot of fatty tissue there.
I consider myself to be more fortunate than other patient’s. I receive my chemotherapy injections once a week, versus others who receive their chemotherapy several times a week. That is not to say that it has been easy for me. I have lost days on end struggling through the challenges of side effect after side effect. At first, it began with me having a low amount energy. There was a lack of wanting to do anything from showering, playing with my son, cooking, and cleaning. The treatments zap any energy I have left. As a mother, I rarely have energy anyway. Then, adding in a chemical flushed through my body making it work overtime to fight the cancer cells, pushes me to the brink of lifelessness. I would love to be a productive person in society, but the treatments take my humanity away. Another side effect of the Chemotherapy is getting sick. Getting ill does not happen like clockwork on the same day every other week. The idea of being sick is possible vomiting, however, there are other ways that chemotherapy causes illness. It also causes extreme migraines. I get my injection on Wednesday afternoons. Then, here comes hugging the toilet bowl sick and migraine city. This happens the day after and up to three days later. I never know when the “chemo sickness, as I call it, will strike, but it inevitably will. This makes planning a life difficult at best.
While I endured the physical ups and downs of chemotherapy, I also had to combat the emotional side effects as well. Constantly feeling exhausted does not allow for an easy transition from getting up in the morning to completing daily tasks. I barely had enough energy to get out of bed, let alone brush my teeth. When I have these days, I am definitely in a state of depression. I wonder to myself, “How am I going to take care of my son today?” Or, “I hope that I am feeling physically and emotionally better by the time my son gets home from day care.” I know I am blessed that when I am usually in these emotional and physically lacking side effect states, my son is not around. This way he doesn’t have to see me like this, a mess, a disaster, and anything but his pillar of strength.
When these spells occur on a Saturday, there’s a different story. If they are bad enough, that is when I ask my husband to stay home from work. That is, if he works the morning shift. Sometimes, I do not have to ask, he just knows by looking at me. I will have the death warmed over look and I move at a snail’s pace, while holding my head and trying to cover my eyes because, the migraine is unbearable. The migraine can be so unbearable that I am in great need of a pitch black room having complete silence. This is a challenge because of where we live, and because my bedroom is on a main road that is well traveled. Of course, this is nothing a pair of good old-fashioned ear plugs and an eye mask can’t handle.
I am fortunate that during these times, a day to three days after my injection, my son is at day care. If not, I am blessed to have a husband who can stay home from work and help. Not everything about chemotherapy is bad. Yes, it is a nasty chemical that is invading the body to help fight away the deadly mutation of cells, called cancer. However, when you think about it, when chemotherapy works, it’s helping keep those of us with cancer live longer for our loved ones. It’s fighting those mutations that intruded on our lives and bodies, killing us. I know I personally will withstand those few days of exacerbated energy levels, and have low key lazy days, to let my body recover from the chemical which helps fight off this nasty horrible cancer. It’s kept me in complete response (a form of remission for my cancer since there is no cure yet) for almost three years now. My cancer and its treatments have humbled. My strength and perseverance have affected my friends and family, who support and love me. For all of this, I am grateful.