Chemo is Complete, But I Learned A Lot Along the Way

Wow…after this long, 4 1/2 month road, I finally completed my FINAL chemo treatment on Sept. 21, 2016!I went through chemo from June 9 – Sept. 21. In all honestly, I had a hell of a horrible experience. There were days that I literally felt so sick that I contemplated if death would have been a better option. I know that that sounds extreme, but honestly I was so sick and in so much pain and nothing helped. But then I would look at my son, Aiden, anlast-treatmentd I knew that I had to fight on because my son needed me. I want him to look back on this and remember that his mother is a fighter … a Survivor.

Everyone’s experience with chemo is different. Some people get very, very sick. Others a little sick, or maybe they have some other weird side effects, or maybe they rock it out like a champion and don’t get sick at all. I think the most important thing to stress is that EVERYONE is different. Our cancer is different. Our treatments are different. Our bodies are different.

I think one of the things that … I don’t know if irritated is the correct word, but I think it’s fitting in this situation … but one of the things that irritated me the most was people I know who would tell me about their friend or family member’s experience. I am sad that anyone has to go through this … but telling me how your mom never got sick, or how your cousin never complained, or how your sister was so sick did absolutely nothing to comfort me.  I never tried to make it the “Dana Show” but I have been mentally and physically dealing with my own cancer, sickness, symptoms and emotional problems for months. Listening to how great someone handled it made me feel worse … like, am I a hypochondriac? Am I weak? How come I am so sick, but this persons sister’s uncle’s barber’s wife was perfectly fine … she ran marathons. Marathons! And I’m sitting here praying that I can walk 15 feet to go to the bathroom or make it upstairs to sleep in my own bed.

blog_266-c-died-of-lemons-card-480x528Conversely, when I was told stories about friends or family members who were so sick they were hospitalized, I also felt bad … like, even though I can hardly walk and everything tastes like metal (or salt, or chalk – depending on the day) and my mouth and tongue were covered in sores – why was I complaining – my friend’s friend or family member was WAY worse than me.

A little note from a former cancer patient … it’s not helpful. At all. I understand as humans we want to empathize with each other. We want to FEEL each others pain. But, in this case… compassion and understanding are key. Just be there. Listen. And if you don’t know what to say … just sit with me. But please, don’t try to make me feel better telling me about someone else’s experience.

Oh, and one other thing … if you’re sick from the flu or other ailment – I am truly sorry and I hope you get feeling better soon … but please, don’t ask me how I’m doing and when I say “tired” or “sick” don’t say … “I feel you. I have {insert ailment here}.” Or, “I have been working a lot lately. I’m tired, too, I know exactly what you’re going through.”  No. you do not know exactly what I am going through … heck, I am going through it and I hardly understand what I’m going through.

So, going through cancer and chemo myself – I have learned that everyone is different. I can sit in a room with 25 cancer survivors and/or patients and we will all have different experiences. My experience was not worse or better than theirs. My experience was just that – MY experience.

Understanding the full gravity of the situation is paramount. If you don’t understand or don’t know what to say – it’s totally cool to say nothing at all. Or, better … talk about something – ANYTHING – else. I know I have cancer. I know I am going through chemo and am sick. I live it everyday. Talk about something I don’t know about. Trashy office gossip? Cool! A new show on TV? Awesome! You met a new person? Right On! Seriously, getting my mind off of it was the absolute best.

P.S. If you’re looking for awesome Empathy Cards for Serious Illnesses … check out the Emily McDowell Studio.

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