Who goes into their first round of chemotherapy with a brilliant sense of naivety?
I had my first round of AC last Thursday. Enough people had told me what to expect during my first visit, but I don’t think you can be adequately prepared for that regardless of how much information you have or how much research you do. I think Justin and I had assumed we’d be there for hours, giving us enough time to finish binge-watching a show on Netflix as poison dripped slowly into my heart. We were very wrong (about the Netflix part).
When we arrived, we met with my oncologist to discuss moving forward with treatment and ask any final questions. We are both in love with Dr. Larson. She has a natural way of putting two very strange and morbid people at ease in a situation where they absolutely shouldn’t be. We were then moved to a private treatment room, which was quite cozy, and met all of the nurses who would be administering the chemotherapy. My main nurse, bless her heart, asked me how I was emotionally coping with beginning treatment.
Emotions? Me? Hahahaha.
But for real though, I was overwhelmed. Not only was I there to begin poisoning my body to make it better, but I was being thrust into early menopause. I received an injection (with a disgustingly large needle) to make my ovaries hibernate, with the hopes that my ovarian function would return after I finished chemo. No promises, though. I was given six pills to swallow, and at least five prescriptions to fill on my way home. And I had to watch a video that encouraged me to “still have fun” while in treatment. Right. Okay, got it. Have fun!
Receiving chemo is a pretty interesting process, if nothing else. The first drug, adriamycin (aka the red devil), is a brilliant red and is pumped into your port slowly. It turns your pee orange! Cytoxan follows that and isn’t nearly as exciting. Really, if it’s not going to turn my urine a different color, I’m not interested. The whole process does take a few hours, but it’s busy and there’s a lot you need to pay attention to. When you’re finished, you are given the option to come back the next day for a shot of Neulasta (a bone marrow stimulant) or go home with a self-administering shot. What is this wizardry, you ask?
The little pack administers the medicine through a hollow tube 27 hours after it is placed on your skin. Being the five-year old that I am, this wowed me more than I should admit. But it’s so neat! Modern medicine is crazy! I shouldn’t have been that excited about it, as it made me feel like absolute dog shit, but I digress.
Because they pump you full of steroids, you feel like you could run a marathon, and so I felt fine on Thursday. I felt fine on Friday. I was doing pretty well until I tried to sleep that night and I felt my body literally morphing. I could hear my stomach making terrible noises, I could literally feel my joints cracking, and my scalp burst into flames. It was horrific. By the time Justin got up for work, I thought I was dying.
Queue three days of splitting headaches, vomiting, body aches/pains, hot flashes, and crying, as well as horrid constipation. All I could do was lay in the dark and sleep, drink small sips of things, and whine about the indignity of it all.
0/10 would not do again.
Except I have to, fifteen more times. That is horrifying to me, but I somehow have to make peace with it because it’s happening. I don’t know how to be strong and pull through. I don’t know how to act like it isn’t awful. I don’t know how to not feel like an incredible burden to my partner and my coworkers. I just don’t know. I feel like a geriatric lady with my pill box and my medication schedule. Thrush has now become an issue, and my tongue is covered in painful, white sores that make it difficult to eat anything harder or crunchier than a piece of plain bread. My body is falling apart at the seams.
The upside of this situation is that I have finally been forced to shave my head. I could have waited for it to fall out naturally, but my scalp felt like it was on fire, so we had a shaving party. I’ve always wanted to know what I look like bald, but never had the guts to do it (not to mention, the chicken nugget used to tell me I had a gross, lumpy head). But, I have now been able to transform into my desired androgynous form and I. LOVE. IT. Feeling good about my body has never come easy for me and though I try to practice what I preach by loving it and appreciating it for all it does, I still succumb to negative self-talk. Fuck all that though, because I look sickening with a buzz cut. SICK-EN-ING.
A large piece of me would really like to be an advocate for women who undergo body changes due to diseases/disorders. It’s really empowering to look at yourself in a new light, against the stigma of what a woman “should look/act like”, and come out loving what you see. I want that confidence for every woman. On that note, Obesity and Malaise will soon be featuring guest writers- people who have incredible stories to tell and who want to share them with the blogosphere. Keep your eyeballs peeled for that!