By: MaryBeth Eubank
Most of the time when you hear the six letter word, CANCER, you think that the person is dying and that they are going to have to fight to stay alive. That fight entailing chemotherapy appointments, radiation, surgery, being really sick, losing weight, looking ill, and being tired. All of which are 100% accurate. But what you don’t think about are the unspoken obstacles the cancer patient will face. The unspoken obstacles that are just as hard.
While in the midst of cancer you are being torn apart while continuing to put yourself back together. Physically, parts of your body are being torn apart by chemo and radiation while mentally and emotionally you are putting yourself back together. I read an article recently that was sent to me by a family member, that summed it up perfectly. Yes, we need the chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation to make the cancer go away but we also need the attitude and drive to make ourselves keep going. The cancer card that we have been dealt isn’t a fair one. It steals quality time with those we love, it prevents us from working full-time and continuing our careers, it strips our bodies of nutrients, it makes you a different person. And a different person to sure as hell be proud of. I’ve said it before, “Life is hard, living is harder”. A friend of mine had quoted that once and I love it. Cancer affects so many people directly and indirectly. When it is you, you have a choice. Living is your choice. Fighting is your choice. Your attitude, your determination, and your drive is what gets you through it. It may be your husband, your kids, your dreams, your goals but whatever it is, it is your choice to push and beat cancer. You determine that in your own mind and you keep going.
I never spoke much of the ‘red devil’ (Adriamycin and Cytoxan also known as the AC combo) chemo treatments I took during the early months of this year (2021). Mainly because it kicked my ass so badly that I didn’t have the strength nor desire to talk about it more than I was living it. The drug is so powerful that they inject two massive syringes (one at a time) into your port IV over a 10 minute period. The drug is red hence the ‘red’ and it truly is the ‘devil’ or at least what you would think the ‘devil’ would be like. The evening after my first infusion I remember crawling to the bathroom and just lying beside the toilet thinking that if I threw up I’d feel so much better even though I had received anti-nausea medication at the hospital. Fortunately, I never threw up but if it would have made me feel better I would have done it 100 times. I couldn’t walk. I just wanted to lay on the floor in the fetal position and sleep. It was to painful to sleep though so instead you just lie there breathing through the pain as it cycles through your body killing what is trying to kill you. The good news is that these treatments were every other week. The experts probably decided that because they know that you, as the patient, would rather jump off a cliff instead of getting the infusions. A headache kicked in about 15 minutes after each infusion began. Let’s not forget about the day after treatment and the shot you have to get to increase your white blood cell count since the ‘red devil’ kills the good and bad cells. That shot brought on fatigue and bone pain. For me, the bone pain was in my lower back and it just hurt. Almost like back pain during childbirth.
With the ‘red devil’ comes other devilish things. These are the things many don’t talk about. Constipation. Yep, chemo makes that happen. I didn’t have a bowel movement for five days after the first ‘red devil’ treatment. You talking about pain and bloating. It was awful. I ended up reaching out to a friend that had gone through the same thing and her husband brought over a suppository that she still had in her bathroom cabinet. Thank goodness! It certainly helped matters. Then comes the dry mouth and sores, too. Fortunately, I only had a couple of sores in my mouth but a dry mouth sucks when you already aren’t wanting to eat and drinking anything is just gross. Then there are the menstrual periods that you will more likely never have again due to the type of drugs you’re getting and what they do in addition to killing cancer. I hadn’t had one since December 2018 (I got pregnant with our second child in January 2019) so I was good with that but that also meant menopausal systems would begin to kick in. So vaginal dryness, no sexual desire, hot flashes, weight gain, The things you know will happen to you as a woman but the actual timing is unknown. Menopause doesn’t just happen when you wake up one day. It happens over months and years. So as a 36 year old, wife and mother, sure, why not go through menopause while I’m trying to raise kids and enjoy the first years of my marriage. Our girls are four and almost 2. They were 3 1/2 and 11 months when my cancer diagnosis was given. They will more than likely only remember tidbits of this journey while my husband and I will remember it entirely. The tears and the unknown. The odd moments between us when the lights were dim and the kids were tucked away in bed. The moments we both asked why this was happening to us. But most importantly, we’ll remember how it brought us closer together. The trust, the compassion, gratitude and new kind of love.
The say life isn’t easy but it is totally worth it! If you are ever diagnosed with cancer put up the fight. You fight many battles in life. Some are just more difficult than others but fighting cancer is worth it. Once again, life is hard, living is harder. You got this!