Poison In My Veins

My brain flourishes with images of my insides dying when receiving chemo.  The cells are attacked and become breathless, like ants in an ant trap.  I am disgusted as I watch the liquid being pushed into my tiny veins.  Treatment after treatment, it was proven that this was too much for my little body.

The nurses would come by to check on me or to change the medication from anti-nausea remedies, including Benadryl, then to another, then to a rinse, then the chemo, and finally another rinse.  The other patients in the long, narrow room all had their own little space;  and, aside from the occasional glance and warm smile, we each kept to ourselves.  It was generally quiet, but you could hear the nurses sharing their personal agendas amongst each other, and asking their patients questions about pain levels and symptoms.  The sounds of the machines ticking as they released medications, the ripping of packages for new needles, or the tearing of tape to cover the injection site made me cringe, because they reminded me of where I was and what was circulating inside me.

Mariano usually helped me to extend the seat before he left, and the nurse eventually brought me the vomit tray without my having to ask.  The popsicles we’d bring in a cooler that were to be sucked on during the actual chemo injection would bring chills to my already shivering body.  The popsicles were supposed to help stop the mouth sores.

When my husband would return, he’d always ask if I had eaten the popsicle.  I’m not sure if the frozen treat ever helped, so sometimes I would leave it for him.  I always got the sores, and they tortured the inside of my mouth for a week.  Even the rinse they prescribed didn’t wash them away until many days later.

Rice Pudding

During my chemotherapy, that lasted a few hours each day for five days every three or four weeks, my husband was allowed to take time off work to take me to the hospital and stay with me.  I hated when he’d leave for his rice pudding – at least an hour.  Even though he’d usually sit there and read while I received my injections, I couldn’t stand being alone.  Nausea kept me from speaking much, but I loved the company.

During those sessions, I felt as though he was detached.  Was that his coping mechanism?  I realize that Mariano has a way of dealing with unpleasant situations – by disconnecting himself from his emotions.  That was welcomed at times, when I needed strength.  Other times, I would have liked for him to share his thoughts.

He never asked me how I was dealing with all of it, but how many people in your life feel comfortable enough to bring up such obvious devastation?  I would probably not have been able to explain the thoughts I carried each day, and didn’t expect him to understand anyway.  No explanation can make another person comprehend how receiving chemo makes you feel or knowing your death may be close.

Cherished Friends

Howard, my boss, told me he wanted to come to one of my chemo treatments.  He didn’t ask me, he just did.  It was wonderful knowing that the friendship he always claimed was real.  Not that I needed the validation, honestly, but we all know how nice it is to receive acknowledgment of what we may feel is only in our mind.  It showed me he was affected as well from my ordeal, and that he wanted to contribute to my support team.  He would call my house regularly.  If I was too ill, he would only speak to my mother, forcing her to use her broken English.

The day Howard joined me in my chemo session was quite hysterical.  After I was escorted to my treatment room – a different location from my usual – Mariano went for his rice pudding and a walk, so Howard and I could catch up.

It was winter time and quite cold, but that never stopped my husband from being outdoors.  He’s no sport buff, but he will walk – even for hours – in bitter cold, with his layered thermal clothing.

 

Who has walked that extra mile for you?  Would you do the same?

Sincere Appreciation

Even though Stage IV cancer is generally terminal (yet even at this stage, there is a possibility of remission or living with cancer), and I was diagnosed as Stage IIIB, I nonetheless received my death sentence from some doctors, as you know.  So I do feel like a walking miracle.

Despite all the continuum of circumstances, like the attention I must put on maintaining my weight and health, finding efficiencies in order to preserve the most energy, dealing with the possibility of an early death, accepting life-style changes, and having had great stress for several years caused by the insurance litigation, I am appreciative to my surgeon, chemo and radio oncologists, team of nurses, family, and friends for all they’ve done for me.  Their support was immeasurable, and I hope I never forgot to say thank you.

One of my doctors outside of the cancer group asked me how I dealt with it, and what one would say to someone who has cancer.  In fact, several people asked me similar questions.

There is no right answer.  But we all have to understand and respect the ones who suffer from this illness and its dreadful treatments.  If you have someone in your life that has been diagnosed with cancer, don’t just let them know you will be there if they need you.  Even small gestures won’t go unnoticed, so offer the help that you can.

Take them for a walk, accompany them to a treatment or two, or bring takeout or something they like to their home and spend some time with them.  Some may not feel well enough all the time, but keep trying.  Can you offer to do some chores for them, or take them some place they need to go but too sick to get there on their own?

 

What do you see yourself offering someone in dire circumstances?

I’m Still Here

When visiting doctors for myself or for my daughter, and my health history is questioned, there is a noticeable shock on the doctor’s face when they learn about my cancer.  Having had stomach cancer at such a young age still surprises most, even doctors.

I suppose it’s also because we don’t hear much about stomach cancer as we do about breast and colon cancers.  Since I’ve been treated for it, I hear about it very often, even in young to middle-age people.  Stomach cancer is widespread, Asia having had the highest incidence in 2012, according to World Cancer Research Fund International.  I’ve heard from gastroenterologists that the disease is very common there.

“But I’m still here.”  I offer a smile.

Stomach cancer has a low risk of survival.  Since I was only thirty-five years old when I was diagnosed in an advanced stage, doctors seem surprised that I’m still alive.

I am grateful for having overcome the odds of stomach cancer.  But fear still circulates my veins, as the reality of death remains a probability.

When curiosity becomes stronger than silence, even doctors voice their thoughts.  “What symptoms did you experience?”,  “…And you made it”, or  “You were so young for that type of cancer.”  Surprisingly, young doctors not experienced with that part of the anatomy question,  “How do you eat without a stomach?”  I think there should be much more research on the prevention and its causes, as well as living after stomach cancer.

“Actually, my surgeon tells me that more and more, stomach cancer affects the younger generation.”

“I wish you well.”

 

Enjoy your day and be well.

Patricia