Disclaimer: Stop reading this post if you are looking for rainbows and bunny rabbits. This post is real and raw and full of unfiltered thoughts that I need to put into words. So that I remember, so that others can understand how unbelievably hard this trek is and so that maybe, somewhere, someone who is starting this path can have some hope that this too shall pass. I hope that someone is me, someday. Come back later for a more positive post. Today is for feeling real.
Chemo – Week 1 is over. Thank the high heavens that I survived it. I do not say this lightly. Maybe it’s because I have led one heckuva charmed life that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life but this past week was pure hell.
On Monday, I sat in my pleather recliner, between a tough, forty-something woman whose breast cancer has metastasized into her lungs and an older man whose dolled up wife poured him small portions of lemon lime soda into a glass tumbler from the hospital cafeteria all day. Who are these people and why am I one of them now? Glenn, the male nurse who insisted I call him Glenn, and not Sir, was sweet and efficient but no amount of hospital visits prepares me for all the pricks and pokes. It’s as though the needle punctures my emotions. Every single time. The tears well up, the embarrassment begins and I sit there, wiping my tears on the edge of my shirt sleeve as my poor husband looks at me helpless, across the room. The administration of the chemo drugs was not horrible, just a whole lot of sitting and watching the bags empty into my port-a-cath which sits, just below my clavicle on the right side. A quarter-size foreign object just annoying enough to be a constant reminder that I am now a lab experiment. Everyone keeps telling me I’ll be so happy I have the port. That it makes all these drugs so much easier to administer. That my soon-to-be-shot veins won’t be overextended from all the blood draws to check my blood cell counts and to administer IV fluids if I find myself sick or dehydrated. I’m not happy about it. I’m not happy about any of it. The day went as smooth as could be expected and I only started feeling fatigued as we got home close to seven at night. I went to bed early and hoped to wake the next day feeling crummy but able to handle this next phase.
Tuesday came and I barely crawled out of bed. I felt unconscious most of the day. Joe had to take the day off and take care of the kids because even a trip to the bathroom was painfully exhausting. I must have slept for 18-20 hours that next day and I felt like I had been hit by a train. The worst possible motion sickness I had ever felt. It was like morning sickness on a turbulent cruise times ten. I don’t even remember much of the day because I was so out of it. I was probably a sickly shade of green and my mouth tasted of metal. Just swallowing the plethora of anti-nausea meds made me nauseous. Water made me nauseous. Air made me nauseous.
Wednesday was when I hit rock bottom. I was dehydrated from all the nauseating water I was trying to drink. Walking downstairs for a piece of Wonder Bread toast was utterly exhausting and I was so emotionally wrecked from feeling so sick. Anyone who called me on Wednesday would not have recognized my blubbering, sobbing voice on the other end. I had no end in sight, I had no hope that this debilitating nausea would end. Logically I knew it had to, but emotionally it felt like more than I could handle. So I slept some more. I couldn’t read, I couldn’t watch TV, even talking on the phone took too much mental stamina. Texting required an hour long nap afterwards.
Thursday I managed a shower. Five minutes of standing upright and then another three hour nap. No human can possibly sleep this long I thought. It was all I could do. I’m not a sleeper. Anyone who knows me knows I can find things to do that don’t even need done. All I could do was sleep. And eat toast. Then sleep because eating toast was crazy tiring. Sorry if I’m being redundant. That’s how ridiculously and illogically tired I was. Thursday night we had a kids’ Halloween party at the neighbors. I managed to apply eyeliner, mascara and foobies and go for an hour. But after we trick or treated at 6 houses I was done for the night and in bed at 8 PM.
Friday and Saturday I managed to spend more time awake then asleep. I made pancakes, I played with the kids, I even had enough energy to yell at the kids once or twice. I called that success. I was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel. I still needed a three hour nap during the afternoons but I was making progress.
Now, Sunday night, I see that I am coming out of this crazy chemo fog. I didn’t need a nap today. I ate three square meals and I feel more human. I am trying not to count down the days until my next round. November 18th. Just saying the word chemo makes me feel sick. I saw the blue sweater I wore to the hospital last week in the laundry pile and I wanted to gag. The mind’s association is a powerful thing and I find that I have triggers that already heighten my gag reflex. In some ways this week was harder for me emotionally than my double mastectomy. The brevity of the past few months weighs on me at night, in the quiet moments after the lights are out before sleep comes. I have cancer. I have cancer. I have to repeat it because I just don’t believe it sometimes. I am 34 years old and I have Stage 3 cancer. How did I get here? I loved my blissfully ignorant, blessed life before this awful diagnosis. Now I have chemo, and needles, bandages, bloodwork, and endless Dr. appts. I have no breasts. No breasts. And soon I’ll have no hair. And no matter how many times people say, “they’re just breasts, beauty is on the inside.” It doesn’t make it easier. No matter how many times I think, “it’s just hair, it’ll grow back.” It doesn’t make it easier.
I feel like my life has taken a tailspin and I’m in this horrendous cancer hurricane. Pink ribbons, survivor logos, Facebook groups, chemo forums… Some days I don’t want to talk about cancer. I don’t want to cry every day. I don’t want to feel sorry for myself. I just want to feel normal. Without foobies, headscarves and Zofran. I just want my old life back.
And maybe someday I will. At the end of this ridiculously horrible year I’ll be able to look back and say I kicked cancer’s ass. And all of this will be one bad memory. A girl can dream right?