I love irony. Well, sometimes I hate it a little, but it makes me laugh. The only thing worse than diarrhea is constipation. I expected either one. After my first chemo treatment, I was on the toilet at 4:00 am in the dark laughing. Constipated diarrhea?!? Who knew? I tell you, if there’s a God, She’s got a wicked sense of humor. (God is a She in the bathroom,).
Breast cancer + chemotherapy is a lot like pregnancy except that strangers don’t rub your belly. Otherwise, the two are remarkably similar. Strangers still tell you too many stories about people they knew and give you lame advice. Of course, there’s the obvious nausea and fatigue and a whole new relationship with the bathroom. For those 3 days after the treatments and sometimes even a day or two before, because of nerves, my morning routine included light throwing up before a few sips of coffee, a little more throwing up, get the kids to school, take something for the nausea, watch episodes of Monk starring Tony Shaloub. After losing my appetite for everything except Orangina and watermelon, I regained it only for sugar and chocolate.
Sidebar: A note about watermelon, I say it is the BEST food for pregnancy and chemotherapy. High in vitamins A and C, iron, fiber and water, easy on the stomach. http://www.almanac.com/food/watermelonripe.php Now, back to the ‘blog.
It was rare I ever felt too sick for my evening hot chocolate with whiskey. It goes nicely with cookies. That is another difference, at least with chemo you can drink if you feel like it, you can take something for the nausea, although it will definitely cause drowsiness – some remedies less than others. See www.CANORML.org, and I lost weight rather than gained it. (I’ve kept it off, too!) But the thing I feared the most beside leaving my family to an unknown future because I must go into a dark, frightening unknown place is having people feel sorry for me. That’s another thing. People sure react differently to the news that you have breast cancer than the news you’re having a baby. I was pleasantly surprised though. People generally hung back a little and will went along with whatever approach I wanted to take. I made it pretty clear, that all things considered I was pretty damned lucky. My probabilities we VERY good, I didn’t have to work, and I was INSURED!!! – more on that later. Remind me. The independence I had nurtured in my kids would help all of us get through it just fine. There was only one person at our school who continued to give me that aww, poor you, how are you poor thing treatment. She’s otherwise a very nice lady so I’m glad I didn’t punch her in the face. Just kidding, I’m not violent. But that leads to the final similarity, the hormonal roller coaster.
Since my cancer was hormone receptor positive it feeds on estrogen. The chemo drugs sent my estrogen levels from normal 40-year old to a Newtonian zero (That means it’s so close to zero, it might as well be zero.) It’s the change in hormone levels that makes you crazy and the insanity is contagious. Pretty soon, I was making my whole family a little crazy, then everyone around me. I could handle the crying and even the mild depression, but the RAGE sometimes scared me. I was alone with my kids and I would yell at them for minor things in major ways. Sometimes I quarantined myself. I told them I was sorry I was so bitchy, but please try to stay out of my way. “If I fall asleep, don’t wake me unless you really have to. If you can’t wake me, call Dad, go to the neighbors or call 911. Is there something in the fridge you guys can make for dinner if Dad gets home late?” They did. Then they cleaned up after wards and my husband, Eric, rotated the dishes after his 12-14 hour day.
It’s getting through these tough times together that makes them strong. You should see their report cards. Austin, my oldest is not only brilliant, he’s becoming a patient and popular leader and Dallas’s increasing self-discipline capitalizes on his amazing imagination and makes him feel more competent. They are the embodiment of hope, my (our) gift to the world. You can thank me later.
Next: Breast Cancer and Marriage.