How can you understand what chemo therapy is like unless you’ve gone through it? After lots of time to think about this and still more to come I’ve come up with an equivalent that might ring true to people lucky enough not to experience it.
Think about the worst illness you’ve ever had, lets say a really bad flu that lasted a week and when you thought you were better you had a relapse. The aches, the fever, the chills, the vomiting, etc, not being able to eat, light bothers you, you can’t read or watch TV, you just want to curl up in a ball and have it over with. Then even when you are done you feel weak, washed out and want to sleep for another week. OK have I set the stage? Now think of that illness and realize that once every three weeks for a total of 8 times, you have to go through it again. You have no choice, you know exactly the day it will start, you know exactly how bad you will feel and you know there is nothing you can do to stop it. Add to that the knowledge that each time it will take a day or two longer to recover and you may get another symptom, like an infection and you need to add a stomach wrenching antibiotic, or your nail beds will turn black, or your hair will fall out, or your mouth will be full of sores and even though you may want to eat you cannot.
This is what chemo patients are given, a schedule of pain, discomfort and hardships and as many tools as possible to deal. I have never before understood the bravery of all chemo patients, the intestinal fortitude it takes to go through this, the sheer will to know exactly what horror to expect, and to continue to sit down in that chair with a smile without screaming “what am I doing here” and running out the door. I am just starting to feel better today and one of my first thoughts this morning, a week from Thursday I have to do it again.
Each man and woman who consciously makes the decision to sit down in that chair every two or three weeks and expose themselves to the hardships involved is a hero. Those who have gone before and those who come after, all heros. The word survivor is aptly applied to those who have fought this battle successfully and hero should be used for all those who have fought. Now I don’t feel like a hero, but I now look around that infusion room at the women in all those chairs who are on infusion 7 or 3 or 5, they are all my heros, if they can do it, so can I.
When we get a diagnosis of cancer we all become gamblers. We all take a gamble, we play the odds when we get chemotherapy, some of us get better odds than others, certain cancers have better outcomes than others. I am a gambler every three weeks when I sit down in that chair and allow a stranger to put things into my body that I know full well will hurt me as well as help me. I am gambling that the help part outweighs the hurt. I hope to win this bet and become a survivor and then become a hero to those who follow after me in that chair. The hardest part of this bet…I have wagered my life.