Monday, February 23, 2015

Cancer Perks

I have officially completed all six rounds of my chemotherapy. This was such a non-event that even my chemo-therapist didn't make it to my appointment. And as such, the day pretty much passed as the five before (minus any reactions) with the addition of some cakes and sveets from some sweet coworkers, and the presence of my sister. They did sing me a song too, I guess.

After, I walked out of the building and was done and I didn't feel any different than I had any other time. Though, mostly, that's because the treatment is by far not the worst part of chemo. I may have finished pumping poisons in my veins, but I hadn't even begun the chemo sickness that comes after the fact.

Thus far, everything is running per course. I went in for chemo. I felt fine after. I felt fine the next day--well enough to go to work. (Amy and I went to the YL farm and explored different aspects of it for a project I'm working on. It was a grand time.) The following day I get sick and continue to be some kind of sick for the next 4-7 days.

The cancer binder guarantees a few things with side effects: hair loss, nausea, tiredness, "chemo brain", metallic taste, mouth sores, stomach problems (if it's not the chemo, it's the medicine for the chemo) etc. etc. etc. and all of it is a load of crap, and it is all varying degrees of horrible.

Comparatively, I have fared well. I need people to understand that I realize how very lucky and blessed I am for how this whole thing has played out. It certainly could have been worse. Usually within a single week, I was feeling much better and able to go about my activities as if I weren't a body pumped with poisons. And if I felt a bit cruddy, or tired, well, that was just to be expected. (I am currently sitting at my office, feeling cruddy, but otherwise alive. . . )

BUT! Let's talk about cancer "perks" now.

There are no perks of cancer. 

For the record: I don't think you can consider employment that has been patient, understanding, and overall supportive a cancer perk. Though, it is certainly a perk to my life. Likewise, all my friends and family and vasts amount of support are a testament to how blessed I am and how amazing the people around me are. Not a perk of cancer.

We all joke about the cancer card, but I will tell you now, that there isn't one. The cop pulling you over because they ran your plates and your insurance information isn't up to date yet, doesn't care a whit that you are bald and pathetic looking. No one really knows how to take care of you, because taking care of a normally fully-functional adult is a weird thing. I didn't need someone to mop my brow. I needed someone to help me keep my house clean (Thanks, Mom!!) but was often too embarrassed to let the few who offered actually into my house to see the wreck it was. I have spent so much time in my bed over the last several months that my muscles have all but atrophied, and yet, I still have to work up a semblance of courage to get my alien-looking mug out the door. But! Try to pull a "call in ugly" move or something, and your friends are not going to stand for it. No respect for the cancer patient, I tell you!

You don't get free things. You don't get genies and wishes. You get a few stares (though, not nearly as many as you were expecting) and invasive questions from strangers. And you answer a lot of the same questions over and over and over again. No one lets you stand in front of them at the grocery store, and they will still cut you off in traffic, and you have to park with everyone else.

There are some well-meaning "perks" that people like to remind you of. "Think of the cute hats and scarves!" or "At least you are saving time on your hair!" or "At least there are fake brows and lashes!" There are so many well-meaning consolations and people trying to give you positives to take to bed at night, that they don't realize that for someone who doesn't wear hats and scarves in the first place is not going to be consoled by it. And for what it's worth, the amount of time you save on doing your hair, you are instead focused on trying--TRYING--LIKE, HOW DO I EMPHASIZE FURTHER THE AMOUNT OF TRYING IT TAKES--to get your eyebrows to look even just slightly normal. Do you know how hard it is to draw on eyebrows? And how easy it is for them to smudge? Or have you put on fake eyelashes? There are people who are PAID to do this, for a reason. (And fake will never be yours. So unless you were intending on paying for it anyway, it will never be enough.)

There are some people who look at the existential side of going through cancer. And maybe there, there are some that benefit from discovering the meaing of their lives. They find their will to live--or to live well. They find their purpose. In the end, they find an empathy that they can then share with others who will experience the same thing. Even if that is the case, it certainly isn't for me. I was never battling cancer. I just never got past the sheer inconvenience of the whole thing. The exorbitant cost. The amount of time I was missing from work. The exhaustion. The reactions. The utter toll on my body. My knowledge gleaned from my experience has resulted in no reaction differing from the one I would have uttered before: It sucks.

I guess now, I can just say that it sucks with a whole lot more empathy packed behind it. Perk.

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