Friday, December 26, 2014

Chemotherapy Leg Part 16

Now that I'm sitting here accessed, bagged, and dripping for (hopefully) the last time, I'm kind of at a loss for words. This is the end of chemotherapy for me, but I still have a course of radiation to complete.

I've lamented that I've done better than some, and not as good as others during my course of treatment, and I'm not going to miss this experience at all. Truth be told, I am grateful for having gone through it, because chemotherapy has taught me many things about myself. When life gets rough, you learn just how much resilience you have; when you think you've squeezed the last bit out of yourself, lo and behold you manage to find some more. Now, that doesn't include the time spent balled up in the fetal position under the covers, or the fits of tears and rage. Those are a given, and no amount of pharmaceuticals or pep talks can help you avoid them. That also applies to shitty life events that might not include a cancer diagnosis or other health crisis. Unfortunately, I've been through both.

The main thought in my mind currently is, what if this comes back? I know I shouldn't be thinking that, but the cynic in me can't help herself. For months I've read all manner of stuff about cancer, breast cancer, metastatic disease, and people's experiences with them. I've made friends on social media with women who have been treated for breast and other cancers, and I'm sorry to say that I'm keeping vigil for someone who is in the final stage of bile duct cancer. You never realize just how many lives cancer touches until you've been through it yourself.

One positive aspect of this experience pertains to what I do for a living. Somehow, some way, I am going to move forward as a writer who writes about what matters and gets paid for it. No more writing just to pay the bills. I did that for five years and it's time to move on. Just as I've found a level of resilience I wasn't aware I had, I've also found a level of determination that I've decided is going to  guide me through the rest of my life. It has to, because things cannot go back to being as they were before this happened. I don't really believe the whole "things happen for a reason" rationale. Instead, I believe that life is a series of roads we travel, and we have to pay attention to the interchanges and where they are taking us. Notice how I didn't use the word "exit". I'm ignoring the exits for now, and concentrating on where the next interchange is taking me. After all, I decided to refer to this as a journey, one that will continue for a very, very long time.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Chemotherapy Leg Part 15

I think I've reached the phase of chemo where I just don't give a damn about what I say or do. Hence the image of Britney Spears's first album to signify that I have only one treatment left after today. Actually, Brit is an appropriate metaphor for this experience because a few years after this album was released, she lost her mind and shaved her head. That's pretty much what's happened to me over these past few months.

I have a confession to share about the chemotherapy experience: No one, and I mean that literally, can tell you exactly what it will feel like and how horrific it will be. It is an experience that you cannot begin to imagine until you go through it yourself. Any number of well-meaning doctors and nurses will tell you, "Oh, it's not that bad", but the truth is, it is that bad.

Before I had my mastectomy, I admitted to my surgeon that the thing that frightened me the most was undergoing general anesthesia, since I'd never experienced it before. He told me that he'd never been put under himself. My reaction was, "Are you kidding me? Don't you people practice on each other in med school? Don't the anesthesiologists and the surgeons put each other under and remove superfluous organs like tonsils, appendixes, and spleens?" He laughed at me and explained that that's not how it works. I knew that, but I think it should be the way it works. If you're going to cut off people's body parts, you should have some idea how it feels to be on the receiving end of a scalpel. The same goes for chemotherapy; not that I'm wishing cancer on the medical professionals who have taken such great care of me, but they should at least have some idea how it feels to be pumped full of toxins and how they make you feel. I mean, servers eat the food at the restaurants they work in so they know what to recommend; oncology nurses and doctors should undergo at least one treatment so they have some idea what the patient is likely to experience. That way they can say, "Yeah, that sucks; I totally understand what you're going through." Or, "I can't recommend Adriamycin; the stuff will drain the life right out of you."

I realize that last paragraph is completely ridiculous. You have to understand that chemotherapy is cumulative. I've said that before and it bears repeating because the longer it goes on, the more your brain malfunctions and you start to think really bizarre thoughts. If there were television commercials for chemotherapy drugs, the side effect list would be enormous, and the first symptoms you'd be warned about are insane thoughts and crazy talk. I guess the same could be said about celebrity. Let's not forget that Britney Spears volunteered for the job; I didn't ask for cancer.

So, one week left. After that, I really hope my brain returns to normal, along with the rest of me. Sixteen weeks of this shit is just about all I can handle. At least I don't have to shave my head.


Thursday, December 11, 2014

Chemotherapy Leg Part 14

The countdown has officially begun: after today's treatment, only two remaining. I am relieved and a little frightened because I've been consistently told that chemotherapy has a cumulative effect on the body, and that any side effects you experience might grow worse over time. I am sorry to say that's been the case for me over the past few weeks, and the odyssey of fatigue, neuropathy, and other assorted maladies keeps growing.

Last week, I regaled everyone with my "accident". This week, the emesis spewed forth from an orifice located further north on my body. I experienced a bout of random puking today, and lucky for me, I found myself in close proximity to my kitchen sink when it happened. Even luckier is that I have a garbage disposal, which meant I didn't have to clear a clogged drain when I was finished. Too much information again? Too bad. This is the only time I've puked since my chemo began in August. I consider that a triumph. If it continues, however, I will not be pleased. You know the saying: It's always darkest before the dawn.

I wish I had more amusing anecdotes to regale you with, but when you get this far into it, you just want it to end as quickly as possible. It's tough not having enough energy to do things you normally take for granted, and it really sucks when your life revolves around being close to a toilet or other receptacle in case your body decides to "surprise" you. Moreover, I don't even have the wherewithal to be pissed off anymore. I've accepted it, and just want it to end. I don't even want to think about radiation yet. There's time enough to contemplate six weeks of roasting like a rotisserie chicken.


Thursday, December 4, 2014

Chemotherapy Leg Part 13

I'm up to treatment number 13, and there are only three left. And yes, I am triskaidekaphobic. I cringe whenever there is a Friday the 13th in any month, and do my best to avoid any bad luck. Call me crazy (and possibly obsessive-compulsive), but this is how I've always been.

I debated whether or not to share a bit of bad luck I had yesterday, and in the spirit of not holding back, I thought, why not? During a week that has seen various celebrities posing in varying degrees of undress, along with other distressing events, I can be self-effacing enough to share an unfortunate incident that occurred as I was driving home from running a few errands.

I had an accident, the likes of which I had never before experienced. Yes, I'm talking about that type of accident; the one people don't usually talk about because it is so demoralizing and humiliating that you normally can't help but keep it to yourself. But, since I've been spending the past few months being pumped full of poison, there isn't much I'm not willing to share. After all, my accident was a side effect of chemotherapy that happens to many patients. If it's not coming out of one end, it's coming out the other. Yes, that's disgusting, but true.

I will spare you the gory details, save for the fact that I took a shower with my clothes on for the first time in my life, and spent the remainder of the day feeling like an overgrown infant who had yet to be toilet trained. Hey - shit happens, but when it happens to you, the humor is sometimes difficult to come to terms with. We joke incessantly about bodily functions, but when you find yourself in such an unsavory situation, it can be thought of as bad luck instead of a reaction to outside elements that can sometimes cause your body to betray itself. It can be questionable food from questionable sources in foreign countries; too much alcohol; a virus; medication, or maybe even bad genes. Regardless of the cause, you just want to eradicate the evidence and move on. Unless, of course you're a writer like me who has no shame.

Keep in mind that you could just as easily be looking at naked pictures of celebrities, pregnant or otherwise. But those images are likely manipulated. Here, the shit is real; literally.