About three weeks ago I finished my final chemo session, and I hope I never have to go through anything like that again. I don’t think the reality of being finished has hit me yet as I am still experiencing side effects like achiness, fatigue and the annoying numbness in my fingers and toes. My sense of taste has not recovered, but it’s getting better. Plus, I still look like I’m in treatment since I don’t have any hair.
My appearance still says cancer. I hear some side effects linger for a length of time, even permanently, but I’m not considering that possibility right now.
What I am doing is reflecting on the fact that I have come full circle from beginning to end of chemotherapy. I made it and came out in one piece, more or less anyway.
I vividly recall the day I was advised in no uncertain terms, I needed chemo. I remember looking at the colored bar graphs depicting recurrence and survival statistics with or without chemo and right then and there, I knew I had no other option. That day was one of the worst days of my life, even worse than the day of my cancer diagnosis.
Dear Hubby and I came home from our appointment with my oncologist and I lost it. Boy, did I. I carried on all afternoon just changing rooms while continuing my lamenting.
Now, I realize that was part of my processing.
Finally, and rightfully so, Dear Hubby told me to stop feeling sorry for myself. That was probably the one time he lost patience with me a bit.
He wasn’t being insensitive. He’s just always been better than me at seeing the big picture, better able to look beyond or further out. I tend to worry about the here and now. He reminded me over and over again chemo was something we just needed to do and we would do it together.
What is it about chemo that makes it so dreaded anyway?
Is it losing the hair or fear of nausea? Is it the fatigue factor or feeling of losing control? Do we conjure up bad memories of people we have known who have had chemo? Do we imagine unimaginable images far worse than reality?
Mostly, I think it’s the fear of the unknown.
You don’t have any idea about how your body will react. You don’t know how your loved ones will react either. You hope we do, but the reality is you don’t.
The hair is certainly a b-i-i-g-g-g-g -y, especially for women. Chemo must be a bit easier for men. (Not all chemo causes hair loss.)
Is that an unfair statement?
No. Maybe. However no one thinks it’s odd to see a bald man walking around, but a bald woman, now that’s startling.
I would probably have to say my chemo experience was not as bad as I thought it would be. That’s not to say it wasn’t bad. It was. I hated it. I didn’t want it. I felt backed into a corner. But I adapted; we all did.
Someone asked me the other day if I was going to continue blogging after finishing chemo.
Somewhat taken by surprise I answered, “Yes, of course. I’m just getting started. I still have so much to say, and now I can hopefully say it with a clearer head.”
Later I reflected a bit more on that question and what it meant.
Just because I am finished with chemo does not mean I am done with cancer. I will never be done.
It can be hard for some people to understand this, and I don’t say it to make anyone feel bad, it’s just the way it is.
I started blogging kind of in reverse anyway. I didn’t begin my blog right after my diagnosis. I wasn’t ready. As I’ve said before, I tend to take my time and mull things over. I’m not one who rushes into things much. I prefer to write retrospectively rather than in the moment, so that’s what I’ll continue doing.
Now, I’m supposed to find my so-called “new normal,” whatever the heck that is. I still have more surgeries ahead. I still have hormone therapy. I still have to worry about recurrence.
I haven’t felt much like celebrating, but chemo is over.
Maybe now I can write about it from the “other side” with a clear (OK clearer) head.
But one thing I know is that this “end” is really just the beginning.
If applicable, what has been one of your greatest challenges with chemo?
How did you feel before beginning chemo?
When chemo ended, how did you feel?
If you will never be done with chemo, what helps you cope?