Chemo isn’t just about the chemicals. It’s the last taste of coffee for a couple of weeks and starting a new library book. And on this last round, it’s anticipating the next dodgy fortnight of fatigue and other side effects. More importantly, it’s about the people who look after you.
This is Sue. I came into the last session today with this hat, lovingly brought back from India by our daughter to add to my ‘being bald’ collection. Silliness is contagious.
Sue has been my oncology nurse over the past two months. She brings compassion, competence, a no-nonsense approach, and a wonderful sense of humour to her work and her patients. There’s not much I’ll miss about this business of chemo. I will, however, remember Sue and her team with great affection and admiration.
You get a lot of time to think when you’re spending much of your treatment time in isolation from the world. By the time the chemo cycles and radiation treatment end, five months will have passed since discovering the tumour and its subsequent diagnosis. Yet I’m very aware that my experience which included a relatively minor lumpectomy and happily clear lymph nodes has been and will have been an easier ride compared to many.
Despite these matters of degree, increased levels of self-awareness have kicked in with all this time on my hands.
My desire to withdraw from the world has ramped up (or is it down). Not surprising for a declared introvert but perhaps ironic, given that this blog has been a way of writing through the experience and putting it out there, for all who care to see, as a record of what’s happening through the blur.
A light is shining on my ‘normal’ modus operandi in the world, which is also peppered with periods of withdrawal albeit not forced ones.
I am very grateful for the continued communication and support from family and friends, old and new, despite my responses being guiltily close to negligible at times.
Time and space on my own have always been important elements for my survival in the world. If I can’t write or read or take photographs my days feel impoverished.
Yet, once the recovery period starts, I know I have to shift the balance and make more time for stronger connections to those closest to me. At the end of the day, they are the true comfort zones.
This morning I put on my big girl bloomers in preparation for the last chemo session. This is of course a metaphor as, in reality, I happily left bloomers behind in my not-so-sporty high school days.
Then I sent a text message to my oncology nurse to confirm the starting time which can be variable. She called me.
“Didn’t you get the message that it’s going to be Thursday this week?”
“No. No I didn’t.”
“Doctor [….] didn’t call you?”
“He’s in Chicago at the moment”.
“Oh ….. and I’ve started the steroid course and I had 3 hours sleep last night! I guess I’ll stop now and start that all over again tomorrow then.”
So it looks like we’ll go out for lunch instead and catch an afternoon movie. I hope the seats are comfy and the sound system is loud in case inadvertent dozing off disturbs other patrons.
Today I threw modesty and self-consciousness to the wind and, for half an hour or so, assumed a supine position with elbows above head. All in the name of measurements, coloured mark-ups and some scans before four blue tattoo jabs at the end. The scan team were wonderful and included a young trainee. I might also add that it was very cold in there. Just saying.
My body shape measurements are now in the system so that on each of the 20 days of treatment, I’ll be moulded into the aforesaid position to line up with the tattoo lines.
Just to let you know that the universe works in interesting ways, my first radiation session is on 25 June at 3.15 pm.
It’s a Wednesday. It’s my birthday. Yes it is.
In those times when the ordinary is not ordinary, it becomes extraordinary.
Tomorrow includes a blood test and a second planning appointment for radiation. Then there’s Tuesday and even though it’s the last chemo session, I can’t help but face this one with some trepidation. The accumulated effects of the chemicals means that the post-chemo days are more dysfunctional, and there are more of them.
Later, over a cup of coffee and the chess board, my opponent decided we should call our latest game a draw which in my book is a win.
Before the sun set on this first day of Winter, we took a walk down to the point. The tide was out in a glass half-empty kind of way.
Not for long, not for very much longer.
Because I can’t help myself, this final image has been given the Waterlogue treatment. One day, I’ll learn to paint like this instead of relying on the wonders of digital technology. 🙂