My First Week as an Inductee

By January 20, 2020 breast cancer, cancer

Well its been about 9 days since my first chemo treatment and I am almost feeling normal again. For all those giddy,  gushing recent survivors of breast cancer who told me how they never felt nauseous, except for at the end, how they were able to work and move along at their normal life pace I say” Poppycock!”

I haven’t been able to move from my bed. I attempted 2 walks – which normally are as easy as breathing for me.  It took everything I had to finish them – and I wasn’t pleasant to anyone I passed along the way.  In one exchange of complete misunderstanding, I snipped at a biker that he had killed something in his path. He skulked away sheepishly before I even grasped what had been uttered between us. Then I actually smiled for making someone feel nearly as terrible as I did, even if it was a complete misunderstanding.  I’m not sure I like the person cancer is making of me.

The treatment itself wasn’t so bad. I’ve had a port put in my left shoulder to make it easier to administer, as well as draw blood and such. My veins are tiny and collapse easily, so a week of tests and procedures the week before had left my arms badly bruised and my veins impenetrable. The port procedure wasn’t so bad, but I wasn’t up and running as quickly as everyone would have had me think. After the meds wore off the pain set in and I couldn’t move my shoulder backward for a few days, which made dressing difficult.  Yes, it did make the chemo administration easier.

The chemo itself KO’d me for at least three days. Thanksgiving – which was 2 days after the first treatment – I had enough energy to eat, but then slept. Thank god my mother hosted it for me. By Friday I was ready to admit defeat. Cancer could have me if this was the cost. I didn’t have any fight in me at all – and even now that I’m feeling better,  I’d still say the cancer has even odds. Funny, the thought of a tumor that’s no bigger than an ice-cube taking me out. Wonders never cease to amaze me.

Nausea wasted me for the next three days. Yes, they do give you meds for that and I did take them and sometimes they worked, but left me lifeless, and sometimes they just kept the nausea enough at bay that it was unsettling and draining. This morning is the first time I actually vomitted, but that was in response to gargling with hydrogen peroxide to ward off mouth infections. Have I mentioned yet how much this all sucks?

By now you’ve probably considered that I’m a whiney, miserable wretch who has no gratitude for the gift of life I’m being given by all of this. I mean really, what’s the loss of a breast or two , some hair – oh yeah, that went the Sunday before treatment. Now I really look the part of an inductee –  and a few months of motion sickness in order to survive, maybe even thrive one day in spite of this? I admit you’ve got a point. And I’ve been working on that. Everyday I write a gratitude journal – things I appreciate about the day, even if it’s just that I got through it. Somewhere I read or heard that if you keep a gratitude journal for 30 days, your mind finally comes around and everything looks rosy again. I’ll let you know when I hit day 30.

I have also found some solace in a guided imagery CD called Health Journeys: A Meditation to Help with Chemotherapy. It’s definitely been a great help and I highly recommend it.

I am almost getting comfortable being bald, going so far as to leave the wig off while I’m home and letting my husband see me with my new inductee crew cut. He is very kind and tells me I look like Sinead O’Connor, a heart-throb of his, even though I know I don’t – I look more like a middle-aged Buddhist nun. But sometimes I catch myself in the mirror after a particularly spunky retort has come to me after some cruelty has been meted out by a Muggle – the name I use to refer to people who have never been touched by cancer and therefore have no idea the depths of pain, suffering, chance blows, wrath and tears dealt by some random clutch of circumstance – and I see how my smile defines my face in a way that no hair ever could. And I think to my self as I look at that stranger smiling back at me – “Hey you, I’m rooting for you!”

Liz Johnson

Liz Johnson

Writer. Blogger. Advocate. Breast Cancer Conscript.