I really felt like I was disappearing. Not just because I’m very fair, now bald with absolutely no hair anywhere. But when you have cancer, it doesn’t take long for people to quit seeing you.
Soon enough people only see cancer.
They ask how you are, but have never asked before. They tell you that you look good. Holy crap, what is that? People have never told me I look good—oh, maybe a long lost associate who hasn’t seen me in a while. But these were people I saw everyday now telling me I looked good. You never told me I looked good last fall in the rocking grey suit. But now I have cancer and I look good?
I was fading away, becoming cancer. No longer the individual I was, but a cancer patient. I hated it. Not the sick part … the invisibility.
I was sick too, so how the hell could I look good?
When in cancer treatment (at least for me), I had six chemo treatments three weeks apart on Thursdays. It was a big deal; I had to have someone drive me. This is where the medi-port thing came in handy. A portal in my upper chest was poked with a huge needle for the treatments to be administered. It took a while as well; they mix the cocktail right there in the treatment rooms. This after a blood test to make sure you were up to having a treatment, then a couple hours on an IV hooked to my chest. They also gave me a Benadryl type product as it helps with the sure-to-come symptoms of chemo. It made me sleepy so the first hour or so I was dozing. Then the drive home from a friend or sometimes my husband if his schedule worked out. (I think he felt really bad about that, but it really didn’t matter to me.)
We sit in these dentist type chairs all lined up on a large window wall. Every chair was occupied, probably twenty people at a time. Some had their treatments in a private room (with a window, really private!). I think because they were sicker than the others, or maybe shy....more likely scared, I know I was. And they give you food. Not just cookies, they had everything from juice, coffee, tea, milk, pizzas, sub sandwiches, and veggie platters. Eating will help with the side effects, I’m told. So hey, I’ll have that pizza. And everyone is talking, watching TV, and the nurses were great. Even to the children. Yes, there were a few children. So not too bad, I think.
Here, get this prescription filled (narcotics!) for the side effects. No, I say, I’ll be fine. I had to go back the next day to get a shot to boost white blood cell growth. That was always first thing on Fridays. I felt good until about Saturday night.
Now mind you, I thought I was tough … not.
I began to have nausea, lightheadedness, forgot about going in the sun. I broke out in hundreds of tiny pimples that would break and bleed. Shitty taste in my mouth, and seriously by Sunday night, I was shaking, had blurred vision, hallucinating, crying uncontrollably. You see not only the chemo but the shot for bone marrow boost also caused serious pain. In my large bones, hips, breastbone, jaw; it was like having the heart attack all over again! My husband carried me into the house, dumped me in the shower and called the hospital, where they told me to take the meds. Narcotics. I thought I was done with narcotics earlier in my life. I was soon drinking codeine-based medicine right out of the bottle and using opium suppositories like nobody’s business. I was stoned for a very long time. And I never succumbed to the side effects that bad again. If I had to be high to get through this, then high I was ... everyday, all the time.
So that’s when I really felt that I was disappearing, because I couldn’t look at myself … so I didn’t see me. No one else looked at me. They looked at the cancer.
And I was high, so I didn’t care!