Today's post isn't written by me. It is from a fellow ovarian cancer warrior, whose screen name is Rabbitgal. I asked her if I could copy this and post it on my blog, and she graciously granted me permission. She so eloquently expressed the feelings of most of us on this OC journey. This piece is an inspiration to me and many others in our support group. I hope it inspires you, too.
Thank you, Rabbitgal. You said it all....
Chemo Ain’t for Sissies
Okay, the title does say it all, but I’ll go farther.
Yes, we are all well acquainted with the bad side effects of treatment. No matter how healthy someone is when they begin their rounds it is inevitable that the day will come when all the annoying little symptoms of chemo build up and you just want to scream. Tear your own hair out in frustration, but stop, because it’s dropping out from the chemo and you don’t want to speed up the process.
For me this always seems to occur with Round #3. I don’t know why. When I was in frontline that was the magic round where everything seemed to hurt at once. I draped myself over various pieces of furniture, breathed shallowly and marked the days off on the calendar knowing the feeling would eventually pass. The rounds after that were better. Go Figure.
Now Round 3 into Doxil, everything happened all at once. I was such a fan of Doxil. All the cool kids were doing it! I had energy to spare and I still had my hair! I sneered at chemo. I ate what I wanted, worked out, went out and lived daringly by taking warm showers and drinking hot tea. I said, “Hmmph, what chemo?” Sure, I had a few red spots. But they didn’t itch. I was good. I was cool.
Even funnier, I was becoming a good drug dealer. Whenever someone would post about recurrance I would tell them that all the rage is retreating with Doxil/carbo. How much easier it was than frontline chemo and how I still had hair! Psst, you gotta try this!
Then 10-14 days after Round 3 my symptoms started to compile. I suddenly had red, itchy patches on my feet from the rubbing of shoes, mouth sores, a bacteriological thingy happening in my eye because of suppressed immune system, where I woke up with green junk coming out of a corner. Oh and some painful burns on my elbows. I had inadvertently leaned on the armrests during infusion time. I thought I was doing a good deed for my iced up wrists by my not putting pressure on the ice packs. That way I wouldn’t get a burn on my wrists….Then my wrists and hands were fine, but my elbows are shot. Do we ever really catch a break? Not a happy camper.
But you know what? I’m still okay. That is the way I see it. Yes, on this past Thursday all the annoying little pains added up and I wanted to scream. But on Friday I forced myself out of the house and into an art museum and did a bit of retail therapy and came home happy even though I could only eat soft things and had to walk around barefoot thru the house clutching ice packs and diaper rash ointment to quell the itch. I’m still alive and if you are alive it’s a great day!
Okay, so everyone knows what the physical agony of chemo can be like. But cancer just doesn’t mess with our bodies…no sir, it will not stop there. It messes with our heads. Let’s face it some of us would rather have physical woes than mental torture any day of the week.
Even the ones who are in remission or even considered cured past their five year mark will never quite be the same person again. Some of this is good. We know the good lessons cancer can teach!
1. We finally understand what is important to us.
2. We finally know who is important to us
3. We have a better vision of why we are around and why we want to stick around
4. We have more compassion
5. We appreciate every day of health and realize petty things just don’t count
Those are the good things.
But let’s delve into the bad way it messes with us. No matter where you are in treatment or remission you may walk with anxiety and death in your head. The clock ticks and if you are up late at night you can hear that clock. Every minute marches us closer to our end. Regular people without cancer have the clock too, but they ignore it and sleep like babies. Our clock can tick loudly, any day of the week, at any time.
Cancer is not just physical disease…it is also a psychological criminal that can steal our peacefulness. We wait on edge for test results, procedures, Dr. visits and new chemos. We get unnaturally unnerved when women we know with this disease die, because we fear we are next. Tick Tock! It’s nasty!
So the way you conquer that is to be fully immersed in the moment because the moment is precious. Use that good part of having cancer to understand what happiness can be and leave the fear behind. How to do this? Be aware that the clock ticks for all of us and it’s crucial to use our time wisely and not waste it in worry. No one knows the future and you may be the one who has the years left. Stay on top of that fear and not let it rule you.
Because who hasn’t been unnerved by something we didn’t understand on even a routine CT report?
I remember having some “Interstitial lung opacification spots” written on my report and my hair almost fell out without chemo. I thought there was cancer in my lungs. It was a bad weekend. I kept telling my hubby that I was certain every time I breathed in I could feel the tumors. I was nuts. Then after the Dr. appt they told me they weren’t cancer anyway.
See what I mean? It’s all about attitude, how you choose to react and the power of your mind. I was robbed of that particular weekend. By useless worry and fear.
So, rein in that fear and rejoice that you are still alive. There is still a lot of hope. People are living longer with this disease than ever before and new things are coming along the way to help us.
If you are in remission go out and enjoy yourself. Sure your cancer may come back…but you know what? Maybe it won’t and you don’t want to waste your moment in the sun worrying about something that may not happen. What if it doesn’t come back for many years? You don’t want to be a professional worrier that wastes those years. What is important is that today you are healthy and disease free. Live your life like you have many years left. Why not? You might.
If you are struggling with your disease… on your good day get out and be with someone who matters, or enjoy your hobby, or read a good book. Don’t waste your moment, because if the right thing happens in your case you may still have years left to you and you don’t want to waste it with useless worry.
We all lack a frightening amount of control when it comes our time to die. All of us have to accept that whether or not we have cancer. We don’t know when or how. All we can do is to fight our condition and we have to enjoy ourselves during our fight. Why? Because then we have taken away the psychological component of cancer. That is how we empower ourselves. That is one sure way we will win on cancer whether our physical body eventually succumbs to it or not.
One last thought. Do yourself a favor. Do not read statistics or allow your Dr. to quote them. That just keeps a whole lot of nonsense rolling through your head. It may not apply to your case whatsoever. No one knows. Not even the doc. All you can do is take care of yourself, eyes on the prize and keep going.
That is THE SECRET to lasting. Any of the people who are going out years from diagnosis probably have that in common. They like to live. They are engaged in life and they are willing to go thru hell to stay in life. Eventually we all die no matter how we believe, but in the meantime you can extend your time quite a bit and who wouldn’t take that offer?
Cancer is a war you got drafted into and you need a warrior attitude to survive it. Good warriors shelve the fear and learn ways to defeat the enemy. I’m just glad I can’t feel any tumors when I breathe in and I still have my hair!
Blessings to everyone….