I was scheduled for chemo session #5 this morning. We arrived early, and even snagged a great spot in the crowded parking lot at Kaiser. Before I set foot in the medical building, my iPhone rang. It was Yvonne, my chemo nurse, telling me not to come in. My latest white cell counts were too low to proceed with today’s treatment.
Who knew that being rejected for chemo would affect me so drastically? I felt like sitting down on the cold, oily concrete and howling. Judging by my (over) reaction, you’d have thought I’d been turned away from the Senior Prom, despite my sparkly party dress and pumps.
The reality of it is that my doctor would prefer to not kill me with chemo. While this may change, this is definitely a good thing. I’ll wait this week out, have my blood test done next Thursday, and hopefully be back in the chemo-saddle next Friday at 9am.
So far, for me the hard thing about having cancer hasn’t been the physical symptoms. Yes, the coughing up blood part was both disturbing and painful. Momentarily not being able to breathe was scary. But I seem to be past that part; breathing is easier and better, my coughing fits are less frequent and colorful. I believe the radiation and chemo treatments are doing their job: killing cancer cells and shrinking the tumors. The hard part of this ride is the emotional ups and downs.
My friends and colleagues can tell you I’m a pretty emotional creature. I move from anger to tears in a flash, struggle with hurt feelings when no offense was intended, and am prone to worry about…everything. Luckily, these negative feelings visit me less often at 56 than at 16; and when they come, they don’t stay long. That is, they didn’t until I found out I have lung cancer.
Most days are fine and relatively sane. That is, days that are not holidays; “Is this my last _______?” (fill in the blank with holiday du jour). Or days that are not work days. Yesterday, I found myself ready to throttle a colleague because he’d opted to come to work sick. I was actually thinking thoughts like, “Is he TRYING TO KILL ME?!!!” Of course, when I catch myself thinking this way, I feel like some kind of ridiculous hypochondriac narcissist. The guy just wanted to get some work done. This had nothing to do with me. I’m probably the one who needs to stay home.
If my immune system were less compromised, I’d prescribe volunteer work as a remedy. Taking care of people has always helped me gain perspective on how bad my life isn’t. Actually being the patient is far more difficult. As engaging as Garbo was as Camille, being a real-life victim of a potentially terminal illness is just tedious. I’m tired of being tired, tired of worrying about microbes and whether or not I’ll see the next Groundhog Day, and tired of all these melodramatic emotions. High drama is fabulous in an opera, but would you listen to La Traviata 24/7?
What is getting me through is the kindness of friends, commiserating with fellow cancer patients, and my own black humor. The chemo treatments calm me down, even as they wipe me out, because every treatment seems like a battle against the disease. Even the most hardened warrior sits out a battle or two in a war. This just happens to be the week I sit out mine.