The worst things about cancer:
- Everyone thinks you are going to fall apart, and they sometimes hound you about your “feelings” until you do fall apart, then they feel vindicated. Which is just stupid, because I was fine, then you made me think about the fact that I could die, which doesn’t really do me any GOOD, so what is the point?
- I can’t sleep. This may not actually be related to the cancer, but while I was in the hospital I didn’t have earplugs (at first) but there was noise ALL THE TIME, and what I did have, was an MP3 player (not an apple, they are the devil, and try to control everything, so I hate them. Samsung all the way!). So I would listen to my MP3 player to mask the noise. When I got home I couldn’t fall asleep without it, and it would wake me up later in the night, sort of causing this horrible lack of sleep loop. The doctor gave me medication, which my husband told me is highly addictive, so I’m scared to take it every day. She said I could take over the counter stuff though, and a bout of allergies (and taking Benadryl every night) seems to have kicked the MP3 habit.
- I don’t want to tell people, because it seems like I’m looking for sympathy. So, I’ve told my parents, who’ve told my family, and my close friends, and my co-workers (I had to tell my boss, and folks would have wondered why I got a vacation day every other week—for chemo). Otherwise, I don’t say anything, I occasionally have possibly cryptic posts on Facebook, but I try to limit that. I do plan to tell everyone on FB when it’s all over—“Last day of CHEMO, thank God!” because I figure at that point I no longer need sympathy.
- My son is scared he is going to die. I think if I didn’t have a young niece with cancer, it would not have occurred to him that he could get it. Sickness would be an “old people” thing (I’m 20 years younger than the average patient with colon cancer, but he’s 8 so anything over 14 is “old"). Since he knows someone young with cancer, and since we have discussed with him that she could die (and since cancer seems to be the bane of my family, this is not the 1st cancer death we have discussed with him), he was suddenly developing the same “symptoms” I had before my diagnosis. It’s hard convincing an eight year old that he isn’t going to die, when normally you spend all your time convincing them that the stupid things they are doing could kill them. Is that irony?
- My cancer seems so banal when compared with the other patients I see in chemo. They believe they got out 100% of the cancer, only one lymph node was affected (so unlikely to have spread beyond my colon), and I won’t even be losing my hair! I see women with breast cancer who seem so much harder hit than me, I feel almost stupid calling myself a “cancer patient.” I’m a chemo patient, my first doctor didn’t even think I’d need it, my oncologist said it is standard protocol to make sure that everything is done to keep the cancer from coming back. There is a better than 80% chance I’ll be a survivor. I expect cancer will kill me, but I don’t expect it to NOW—someday maybe, but one of the upsides of being 20 years younger than the average patient, is that my immune system is 20 years better at beating stuff.
- The pump. I hate the pump. I have to go for 5 hours of chemo, and then I get to wear a pump for another day and a half. The first week I tried to function normally, shower, etc. But in order to shower I had to have my husband tape plastic wrap (yes the kind you put on food) over the port so no water could get in. I hadn’t really felt sick until I was standing naked with my husband taping plastic wrap to my boobs. I vowed not to do that again. I now sponge bath and wash my hair in the sink for those 2 days and figure no one gets close enough to me (other than my husband and son) to be bothered by my possible stench.
- No shaving. Wounds take longer to heal, so they recommend you switch to an electric razor during treatment. Electric razors for women apparently suck. I have hair on my legs pretty much all the time. I didn’t think it was visible, my husband told me it was “more visible than I realized.” If someone knows of something that will actually work, and not take days out of my life (I used to only have to shave once a week, the hair on my legs is very fine), I’d love to hear about it.
- EVERYTHING takes longer to get over. I had a cold for 2 weeks. Going on three now, and my throat hurts so bad I can’t sleep. I thought this might have been a cold morphing into a side effect, but turns out that isn’t a side effect of the drugs I’m on…so it’s probably strep, because that’s what would happen to me. I had it 6 times between my son turning 1 and turning 3, then I haven’t had it again since…but now…all bets are off. The scratch that I don’t remember getting still hasn’t fully healed, and bruises (also don’t remember getting) take forever to go away (my son saw one and freaked out; I think he actually thought his dad had hit me). I feel good until stuff like this happens to remind me that I am, in fact, a cancer patient.
- I have actually gained weight. I do not have a suppressed appetite (so far), and with my sore throat I’ve been living on fruit drops, hot cocoa, and tea with honey (probably not supposed to have that either, but it really hurts). This is (naturally) in addition to regular meals that don’t include as many fresh fruits and veggies as they used to (read what happens if you are immune suppressed and get e-coli to see why).