Monday, March 9, 2015

Deceptive Looks

I recently texted a colleague to let him know I would not be able to attend an important event because I was having a hard time with my treatment.  He immediately picked up the phone to call and check on me.  He was so kind and very sorry I was having a hard time and said he was glad I hadn't really had bad days until now.  I smiled and said, "I've had lots of bad days since December, but you only see me on my good days."

Well we all have a face
That we hide away forever
And we take them out and show ourselves
When everyone has gone
Some are satin some are steel
Some are silk and some are leather
They're the faces of the stranger 
But we love to try them on 
(Billy Joel, The Stranger)

The truth is chemotherapy is bad, very bad. A necessary evil. But the medical community has made great strides helping patients cope with the side effects. There have been improvements. Everyone is aware of cancer, but not everyone is aware of what chemotherapy really does to the human body.
When I am out and about on my good days, the number one comment I get is "Well, you look wonderful."  There is an underlying current of surprise in their voice, as if they expect me to look like Tom Hanks in the movie Philadelphia.  Yet, somehow I appear perfectly normal. Truth is, on my bad days I do look a lot like Hanks, I just keep it at the house, on the couch, wallowing in my misery.
So many of you are all too aware of chronic pain and physical suffering of all kinds.  You've got debilitating illnesses for which the doctor has no cure.  You medicate, you seek out endless doctors, you suffer. You power through every day in spite of your misery, in spite of the fact that you want to crawl in bed and stay there all day.  Never before have I been able to understand or empathize with the daily horror you experience.  You are amazing. I am so very sorry for the road you have to walk through this life. You power through, and you wear your mask beautifully.
Of course I only speak for myself and my own experiences.  Chemo is not one size fits all. A treatment regiment is developed based on many factors including the type and stage of cancer you have. Not all chemo makes your hair fall out, or makes you nauseated, or burns your skin.  But on my bad days I feel like I have the flu, am extremely nauseated, cannot eat, have to force myself to drink, headaches, mouth sores, burned skin, fatigue, and of course the whole bald thing just to name some of the effects.  And there are more bad side effects I can expect over the next few weeks.
After the first few rounds of chemo I described the effects as difficult but bearable and within a few days the effects would disappear altogether.  With the accumulation of the poison in my system I would now say the effects are difficult and at times unbearable and I don't seem to bounce back in between treatments as well as before. While this isn't the chemo of the 80s, it is still pretty tough stuff. But thankfully, it is temporary. I will rise from the miry clay and my weeping will last just through the night, then my joy comes with the morning!

Three more chemotherapy treatments to go.
April 13, 2015 should be my last treatment.
Then surgery.
Then radiation.
We know the chemo is killing the cancer cells, we also know it is impacting healthy tissue as well.  Once the treatments are done my healthy tissue should win the day and I should start feeling back to myself. 
So when you see the pretty blond girl with the smile on her face out and about, please remember looks can be very deceiving.  Cause this girl...and that girl are one in the same.  And neither of them feel all that great.