It’s been a while since I did a ‘cancer update’. Even though I’m post treatment I’ve been writing a virtual diary of what treatment was like for me. You can read my first two chemo posts HERE and HERE.
I always get stuck at the ‘chemo’ part. Sure I wrote about my first chemo, but how do I keep writing about the rest? Eighteen rounds of chemo, six months in all…how do I put that into words? I don’t want to turn you off and I don’t want to sugar coat it so for now I’ll summarise that six months.
While I was going through chemo I was tough, I was…because I had to be. I’m not brave, not someone to look up to, I’m a woman who was dealt the cancer card and did whatever she could to buy more time in the game of life. The life that included watching my sons grow and spending more years with the love of my life…my mister.
Chemo is freakin awful, it just is. For me it sucked the life out of me and left me sooo sick, struggling to breathe and shuffling. Yeah I got my ‘supermarket shuffle’ on every week as I tried to keep doing the ‘mummy thing’ and headed out to do groceries. My shopping trolley was actually more like a support trolley that I gripped hard as it held me up. The teens at the checkout got used to the bald woman with one boob directing them to ‘please don’t make the bags too heavy’. Sometimes after loading the bags in the car I would need to sit for 15 minutes to catch my breath before I started the car for the two minute drive home. That’s the stuff you don’t see.
Not only was chemo ravaging my body ( as it was saving my life) but I also had four surgeries in an eight week period, that’s four anaesthetics to recover from. Loads of drugs were pumped into my body, scars and scar tissue, pain and restriction…see I told you it was awful.
I can’t even, I can’t even begin to tell you what it was ‘really’ like, mostly because I just got on with it and it’s not until I reflect that I wonder how the fuck I got through it. Sometimes I can’t believe that it’s my body I’m writing about…that all of this happened to me!
Chemo meant steroids which means insatiable hunger and insomnia and the ‘steroid bloat’. Round, puffy cheeks aren’t cute when you have no hair, no eyelashes and no eyebrows, I always felt like Uncle Fester from the Adams Family. I ate my way through chemo, no really I actually did! Anything to make me feel better went in my gob. Starchy foods like mashed potatoes, toasted sandwiches and corn chips were my favourite.
The night I would come home from a round of chemo I would be buzzing from the drugs and unable to sleep, metallic mouth would set in and out would come the jumbo bag of ‘Nacho cheese’ corn chips. Chemo made me giddy (in a spewy kinda way) and my cheekbones felt like they were being torn from my face (for hours), and the metallic taste made me want to scrape my mouth and spit. The only thing that helped that first night after an infusion was corn chips. Yup at 2am when the family was tucked up in bed I was watching crappy TV while chowing down on corn chips. The hard crunch and overload of cheesy spicy taste were all that helped…these days I can’t even look at corn chips!
I spent hours in the shower seeking relief from the bone pain, at times I felt so ill I thought I would melt into the glass shower screen. My body ached all the time and my scars raged as they couldn’t heal properly because chemo was constantly attacking my body. My head banged, I got huge (136 kg) and more immobile and I even had nails fall off. But it wasn’t all bad.
I know right, how on earth could I possibly find any good in all of this? Because I had to!
If I focused on the pain and the ugliness of it all then it would consume me and I never ever wanted that. I couldn’t focus on what I couldn’t control so instead I looked for ‘silver linings’. Sure, this crap was still happening but I had to find a way to get through and get through with a ‘healthy mind’. Uhuh, silver linings became my thing and every day I would acknowledge the silver linings.
Chemo goes in, bacon and egg sandwiches would be delivered by my Mister.
Bone pain sucked but it sucks less when I sat in the warm sun by the ocean.
Supermarket shuffles were embarrassing and tiring but I was feeding my boys and took myself off for a cuppa beforehand.
No lashes or brows left me looking ill but I learned to use eyeliner like a boss!
Losing my pubes was shocking but I saved on waxing.
Sitting in the chemo chair was daunting but the nurses became my friends and we still share many laughs today.
I learned to speak up, become pro active, live in the moment, honour my body, speak better to myself, love harder, let people go and welcome people in. I became less self conscious and self esteem bloomed. Oh and I found my voice and started writing.
All silver linings.
Chemo sux but I got through it. Sometimes I don’t know how, but I did. I didn’t do it alone though. Kind words, friendships, love and support all carried me through too.
Will I write more about chemo? I don’t know. Maybe I’ll write about the silver linings because the rest is painful and ugly which is draining to write…and to read. If you have questions fire away because you know I’m a sharer and I will answer anything.
If you’re going through chemo, focus on what you can control and look for the silver linings. The only way through it…is to go through it. You will come out the other side and when you do you will want your sanity in tact. You got this!!