I'm at the halfway mark for chemo. Just eight treatments to go in this leg of the marathon. I've discovered that it's not the poisons that get to you, but the side effects. No matter how many times the doctor, the nurses, or my husband talk about the side effects, they aren't real until they happen. It doesn't help that they give a list of 20,000 possible side effects, of which you may get ten in a number of combinations. You just have to wait and see what the chemo fairy brings you and count yourself lucky if you don't get the "sudden death" side effect.
With the previous drug, it was all about being tired and nauseated. I had a week off between those treatments to recover. The biggest side effect of that drug was muscle weakness, which means that I couldn't open things like jars of pickles and bottles of water. That had me wallowing in a vat of self-pity. It's always been a point of pride that I could do things on my own, like open jars. That tiny feeling of independence was sometimes all I had in my twenties, when I lived on my own. I would say to myself, at least I'm not so helpless and fragile that I can't open my own jars or kill a bug that needs killing. Fortunately, that side effect went away as soon as I was off that particular chemo drug, and there was much rejoicing when I was able to open a bottle of Gatorade for my son without resorting to power tools.
This current chemo drug is a weekly visit, and the side effects were non-existent the first time. I even felt hungry enough to eat afterwards! As more of the poison has been introduced, however, the side effects have become more obvious. The skin on my toes has been peeling off. My hands are swollen and blisters are popping up. I have helpless sausage fingers, that can't open necklace clasps or peel the tops off of things or unbutton things. My fingernails feel as though someone whacked them with a hammer; at night they throb painfully. It's difficult to complete any of the fine motor tasks I used to take for granted, and I find myself getting tearful when I can't hold my pen correctly, or when it hurts to type. That independence I so treasure is slipping away again.
My gums are all painful and inflamed, with sores popping up on my tongue and in my throat. It hurts to swallow, and therefore it hurts to eat, or to drink. Eating and drinking are two of my most favorite past times on the planet, and to not be able to enjoy my two favorite things has been another upset for me.
I've got eight more weeks of this. The downhill is ahead, the end is in sight. I know it's going to get worse, however, before it gets better. I am trying to keep a positive attitude. I feel as though I've fought for everything my entire life, whether that's actually true or not, and I'm still fighting, blisters in my throat be damned. I plan to keep fighting until I beat this.
But this week...
I used to stare aghast at people who survived cancer, who told me flat
out that they would rather die than go through chemo again. My own father told me that five years ago, and it just floored me. He's a fighter, too. Why would he not want to fight? I get my general stubbornness from him. It's not in
my nature to give up, ever, and it was beyond me to think of just not fighting anymore. But I get it now. This week, it makes sense. I understand that feeling now. How tired and worn out would I have to be to want to stop fighting, I wonder? I don't know, and that scares me.
This week was hard.