Two More Treatments
As I near the end of Chemo I’ve been asking more questions about what to expect when I finish. The answer is that it’s different for everyone (that’s always the answer), but there are a few things I can count on. One is that I’m not going to bounce back right away, it will take at least two months, maybe three, before I even START to feel “normal”. I shouldn’t expect myself to have the energy to make it through a full day until a few months after finishing chemo. There may be days here and there when I have bursts of energy that get me through a day, but I still need to give myself time to recover. When I talk about making it through a day, I mean a day of work, whether that means going to the job, shooting portraits, or just a day of yard work at home. Right now I can make it through a whole day without a nap, and if I get the dishes done that’s a huge success. My face and stomach have swollen up to an uncomfortable level, my skin is tender and even hugs are painful. I have quite a ways to go.
My white blood cell count dropped again and that means I had to get a booster shot with my last treatment. It’s a shot that forces my bones to produce more healthy cells and the side effects have been brutal this week. It causes bone pain, which feels like a bad tooth ache all over the body. They only last less than a minute or two, but they do stop me from being able to move, speak, or function in any way other than doubling over in pain. It sounds bad, but in the big picture it’s just another side effect that hasn’t been bad enough to take a pain pill for. Yesterday, as I was recovering from one of these spurts of pain, I tried to remember what it was like just after surgery, before I started chemo, when I had energy and felt well enough to walk a mile a day. I miss that. These side effect have been slowly growing during treatment and now I’m back to the point where I can’t remember what it feels like to have strength and energy.
Survivor’s guilt is creeping in and I can’t help but think about the people who have to do this for years of their life. Just making it through these eight treatments (six so far, two to go) has been so hard, but the thing that makes it easier for me is that there is an end in sight, and it is so near. This time next year I’ll be working and living a normal life, and there will be others out there still living the hell of chemotherapy. It all still sucks, but I feel grateful to have had this experience. Or at least I feel guilty if I don’t say I’m grateful. I hope I can take what I have learned and use it to help others. Even though I know what it’s like to go through chemo, it’s still hard to know what I can do to help. I don’t yet know how or what I will do, but I’m going to try. And if I fail I’m going to keep trying over and over and I will never stop.