There are good days and there are bad days. However, at no time is there a day that cancer and chemo doesn’t factor into your day. Once a cancer patient starts chemo treatments, the treatments control your world, regardless of how you try to stop it.
First of all, there is the appearance factor, the hair loss and if you had a surgery the loss of a body part. This is hard to get past all by itself. No matter how much your loved ones tell you that they think you are beautiful or that they do not see you any different, you look in the mirror and cringe. Its human nature. We are vain regardless of trying not to be. We define ourselves with looks. Our hairstyle, length, color or body type. We do not define ourselves by out spiritual or mental characteristics. Although we should.
Chemo has so many side effects. And the medications to help correct those side effects come with an entire new set of side effects that have to be dealt with. Its a prescription round robin. Always adding yet another pill to fix something another medication broke.
Chemo causes chemo rash that can be anywhere on your body. Even the most sensitive places. It makes your hair fall out. It causes sores in your mouth and dental problems. Your white blood cells drop low and the common cold can become deadly. Your bowels go crazy, constipated one day and diarrhea the next. Even with nausea medication there is stomach queasiness and its not easy to handle food. Your taste buds are destroyed and if you can stomach a food you probably aren’t really going to taste it.
Because of the white blood cell drop you are given steroids and Neulasta to increase the amount of white blood cells your body makes. Your long bones are where the most white blood cells are made. Thighs, shins and back. The forced increase in production causes very bad nonstop pain in those bones and the muscles surrounding them.
Then there is “Chemo brain.” This is a medically proven condition where you cannot function at regular capacity and think clearly like you normally would. You do stupid things such a cutting on the Keurig and forgetting to put a cup underneath. Pulling into your yard, going inside and forgetting to cut your vehicle off or remove the keys from the ignition. Its never ending the out of character things you do.
You are always tired. Your stamina is gone. I swept my living room and dining room one day and it took me over 2 hours. They aren’t big rooms. I just kept having to sit down and rest because it was like I had already run a marathon. The little things like walking to the mail box are now ordeals that you stop and think if its worth it or not. You begin to feel useless for not being able to do simple things you once did in a matter of moments.
The social aspect can be depressing as well. People want you to call them with updates. You mean well, you intended to. You just were tired and fell asleep. You are invited out to eat or to a friend’s home and as much as you want to you just do not have the energy. People begin to stop calling because you always said no thank you anyway.
You have to pay bills so you continue to try to work. You do not get complete 40 hour weeks because you cannot make it through the day. You do the best you can.
Always on your mind is how you used to be, the life you miss and how inadequate you feel for not being able to do it now. You struggle to get up and start your day, take your child to school and force yourself to go try to work part of the day. Your family notices all of this. The problem is, you look fine so they can forget just how wore out your body is.
The point of this is not to whine and complain. Its to seek understanding for chemo patients everywhere. When your friend, family or coworker is going through chemo treatments and you see them smiling or laughing. They are not fine. They are putting their best foot forward for YOU. You are their current audience whom they want to feel normal around. Understand how much this costs them. It’s not an easy acting job by any means. Chemo patients do this to try to fit back in and feel a part of the normal world. Cancer already scared us to death and chemo feels like it’s killing us. We just want to be a part of everyday life.
Please understand and appreciate the effort given for you. Understand when it becomes overwhelming and they get a little grouchy or snappy. You can even say to them they seem a bit grouchy and do they need a break. Its better than tiptoeing around the issue or getting mad that they aren’t holding up to the acting job they were trying to do for you.