Cancer, Chemotherapy & Irrelevance

I’M BACK

I haven’t blogged in quite some time, not even since I had my first treatment, which was Aug. 28. I don’t know why. Having no experience with chemotherapy, I didn’t know what to think or expect. With four treatments in the history books, I’ve learned a few things.

DOCTOR AS PARTNER

For one, I’ve learned that a caring, compassionate, involved medical oncologist is imperative to success in treatment. He or she will be on top of things, will listen well when issues are reported, and will respond with medication adjustments. On the patient’s side, it is their responsibility to pay attention to ups and downs after treatment, whether caused by treatment or some lack of, or imbalance in, side effect remedies. As with most life situations, it all boils down to communication. The patient must report issues to the doctor, and the doctor should respond.

My first treatment set the pace for the next four: I arrived at the treatment center, a blood draw was taken to check blood levels, my vitals were taken, I saw the doctor, then went to the infusion room to receive treatment. This pattern would repeat with every subsequent visit.

Prior to each course of chemo, an infusion nurse would prepare the port under my skin to receive the needle that conducts the chemo into my body. That prep consists of a thorough disinfecting, then administration of a freezing spray to deaden the area so the needle won’t hurt going in. That strategy is, for the most part, effective. Those are some of the mechanics.

While receiving the treatment itself, I’ve felt nothing – except the big belt of Benadryl that’s part of the “pre-meds” that are administered to reduce side effects. That much Benadryl does cause an “out of body” sensation that is actually pretty pleasant. Other than that, it’s just a matter of having to sit there for four or so hours, rolling the tower of bags into the bathroom when nature calls, and knowing it won’t last forever.

PHYSICAL vs. EMOTIONAL

As I’ve gone through this, I’ve come to expect that by about Friday or Saturday after treatment on Wednesday, my body starts to feel side effects. Those seem to last several days, so that by the following Wednesday, I’m more or less back to normal.

Initially, nausea was part of the mix; communication with the doctor resulted in some medication adjustments, and I’ve had no more nausea since the second treatment. No matter what, I have had bone and muscle pain, and a small amount of fatigue. The degree and intensity of this discomfort has varied; it seems there are some things I can do for myself to ease it, including Epsom salts baths and massages.

The physical part of this I’ve been able to handle, but by now, the emotional and mental parts have become more difficult. My energy level fluctuates with treatment; some of the medications given to ameliorate side effects can cause depression. So, my ability to be vital and fun and interesting – to be good company – comes and goes. Living alone doesn’t help. Having no hair is a challenge too, because to go out means some degree of exposing this deficit. People look at you. No matter what you do, you can’t hide the fact that you’re a bald woman.

THE ISSUE OF IRRELEVANCE

I’m not sure people know what to do with folks in their life who have, or who are receiving treatment for, cancer. I’m pretty sure I was like that before the “C” word entered my life. Even when my own mother was dying of cancer, I had very little idea what to say to her. I’ve had friends with cancer since then, whom I was afraid to talk to because I didn’t know what to say. I think of myself back then, and I think I was afraid of saying something stupid or hurtful. Now that I’m on this side of it, the worst thing you can say to a cancer patient is nothing. To leave a cancer patient unto themselves to deal with this alone is very painful for the patient. It may take a lot of courage to approach a cancer patient, but if you do, you will make their day.

I’ve lived alone just about all my life, including now. This episode is causing me to question the wisdom of that kind of life, and what I’m gaining by having all this time and space to myself. I think about getting into the dating world again, and I realize I’ve got some baggage now, like cancer. So, I go to my faith about this. I welcome and honor God’s will for my life, including whether or not I survive this, and whether or not I am alone.

Before treatments began, and the physical and now emotional rigors of being a cancer patient set in, maybe to me cancer was just a bump in the road. Now, I see it will likely cause that path to change completely and forever. God only knows.

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17 Responses to Cancer, Chemotherapy & Irrelevance

  1. Shirley O'Neil says:

    Cissy
    This is such an eye opening and so well written piece. You hit the nail on the head about how others deal with the cancer issue. Like you, I never knew how to respond or brooch the issue with someone dealing with this disease. I do know after reading this, I plan to be more attuned to how you and other cancer patients are trying to deal with your problems, both physical and mental. You are an inspiration my friend and in your way teaching many of us that you are the same person you have always been. Praying that when this phase of treatment is over you will be cancer free.

    Shirley

    • Cissy Beasley says:

      Shirley, thank you for a wonderfully compassionate response. The massage I received from you after last treatment, I believe, helped me well beyond the physical, extending to the mental and spiritual. I’ll be seeing you soon for another!

  2. Mary Ann Featherston says:

    I know that I speak for others as well as myself when I say that I (we) feel honored that you have chosen to include us on your journey. You have opened doors & windows for us that many of us never could see behind. Thanks!

    • Cissy Beasley says:

      Thank you, Mary Ann – I hope that the others you refer to will be able to share with me their feelings about my stories and revelations. If you are part of a discussion about my situation, please encourage others to contact me directly to ask me anything. I want very much to de-mystify this cancer thing so that patients won’t feel excluded from a vital conversation.

  3. Dave B. says:

    I am in tears … you have to be one of the strongest and most direct women I have ever known … I will pray and hope for you daily … so glad I know you … thank you for sharing …

  4. Judy McGaughey says:

    Cissy. I can relate to what you said. I don’t have cancer but went through exactly what you are going through with mom and dad. My mom had breast cancer and my dad had lymphoma both at the same time. I had to quit my job to become a caretaker for them. Many many trips to the doctors and hospitals. One thing my mom never lost was her spirit to fight. Never loose your spirit and fight like hell. You are an inspiration to all of us and have lots of loving friends that pray for you daily. If I can do anything for you just let me know. I pray that when your treatments are over you are cancer free. Hang in there girl!

    • Cissy Beasley says:

      Thank you so much, Judy – according to the wizards at MD Anderson, I am cancer-free right now! I’m getting treatment to make sure this thing doesn’t come back, like the world’s longest series of vaccinations. Early detection and removal, and chemo, give me an excellent shot at never dealing with this again. If that isn’t the case, then I’ll cross that bridge when I get to it, as with anything else!

      All those wonderful prayers are sustaining me through chemo, through the physical and emotional ups and downs, none of which are pleasant but are, I am finding, something I can do and am doing. More than anything, I have never felt afraid, and therein lies the power of faith, prayer and connection to self, to others and to God.

      Thank you again, and I hope to actually get to meet you soon!

  5. Patti Larrabee says:

    Thank you, Cissy, for making me a part of this with you and educating me about cancer. I hope I never have to face it, but if I do, I’ll remember you. This comment you made “Now that I’m on this side of it, the worst thing you can say to a cancer patient is nothing. To leave a cancer patient unto themselves to deal with this alone is very painful for the patient. It may take a lot of courage to approach a cancer patient, but if you do, you will make their day” really has opened my eyes. And it is meaningful for anyone suffering a life altering illness. Still, you will be in my prayers, and I am grateful to you for what I have learned from you.

  6. Dina de la Garza Rodriquez says:

    What an amazing woman you are! Thank you so much for sharing your journey with us. We are continuing to cheer for you. Prayers and Hugs for you, sweet friend and fellow Beevillian. ❤

  7. Nancy Cook-Monroe says:

    As always, you’re a beautiful writer (along with pianist, guitarist, sharpshooter, photographer, Nature guide, spiritual traveler, fisherwoman, boat expert, venison chef, etc. etc.) Happy to hear the chemo is working and your journey continues richly.

    • Cissy Beasley says:

      Nancy, I thought you might like to come visit during my next or last treatment, either 11/20 after 11 am, or 12/11. Treatment center is on NE Loop 410 next to Tobin Park.

  8. Gail Wesseling says:

    Cissy, I agree with so any others; you are a gifted writer! Open, honest, raw and vulnerable and so necessary for us to truly understand what you are experiencing.
    We had a guest speaker yesterday in church as our pastor is on sabbatical; he spoke on the gift of forgetting
    (actually, forgiveness and moving on). It was an enlightening sermon using Joseph’s life story as the illustration.
    The third and final point of the sermon was “Expect God to bless you where you are” (Genesis 41:52).

    The second son he named Ephraim[a] and said, “It is because God has made me fruitful in the land of my suffering.”

    The pastor’s point was God is with us at every moment and redeems our sufferings, trials, and hurts even while we are in the midst of them. What God did for Joseph in Egypt, I am praying He will do for you, Cissy. We are blessed by sharing your journey but God has blessings meant just for you through this trial! I will keep claiming those blessings and His peace and comfort for you, Cissy, and for Him to reveal more of Himself to you each day.
    Love in Christ,
    Gail

    • Cissy Beasley says:

      Gail, thank you for your reassuring words. I have a sense that part of my journey, and where suffering is necessary in order for me to connect with and express my own feelings, regards easing others’ fear of or toward someone who has cancer. This is so that people who care about a cancer patient can push through their own anxieties about this condition, let it be what it is, no more and no less, and not impede them from reaching out to that patient. That personal contact, which helps the patient feel they still have relevance, is the very thing they need the most.

      Thank you again, your message is a blessing to me, and has helped crystallize some important thoughts.

  9. Ra says:

    Howdy!
    Wow! You are fast becoming the most remarkable person I have ever met! I feel so inadequate to comment here. Your friends have said very eloquently what I would say to you. Above all else, you clearly have a gift for writing, along with so many other wonderful God-given talents. Perhaps it may be meant for you to share your journey in a larger way with others, in only the very touching, personal way that is uniquely you?
    You have given me another way of looking at life. It seems nothing will prevent your determined spirit from shining through and touching those of us who are privileged to know you….and I am sure all who happen to read what you write. You are truly an inspiring, selfless Child of God.
    It has been my good fortune to know you and I look forward to many years of friendship as you begin a brand new chapter of life in the coming months.
    I pray for your comfort as you finish this “Home Stretch” and start the rest of your life.
    See You Soon!

  10. Tom Adkins says:

    Thanks for sharing all this, Cissy. I think it will help a lot of people. You keep getting better, now.

    P.S. You will never be truly alone because too many people love and care for you!

  11. Carol black says:

    First I want to thank you….thank you for sharing this difficult journey. Thank you for bearing your soul and in the process helping those of us to see the bigger picture. As in every trial set before us it’s important to remember to take each day as it comes and rejoice in the gifts and blessings He has given and grab them with both hands.
    Secondly, we want you to know what a blessing you are and the impact you have made not only in our lives but to all of us following as you make your way. Know for certain that we are with you every step of the journey.
    As it has been said of you many, many times and this is for sure…you are our inspiration and example of courage we can only aspire to. You are in our hearts & prayers daily….Carol & Rod

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