In the 1999 movie Fight Club which starring Brad Pitt, Quora.com says of the film that it “uses fighting as the perfect metaphor for doing painful things that are out of your comfort zone.”brea
In my opinion, chemotherapy could be classified as one of those painful things.
It’s definitely far outside of anyone’s comfort zone.
Earlier today, one of my older sisters fought her first fight in the ‘pink ribbon’ fight club.
G, I call her, because her name starts with a G but she is also so beautiful, so strong, so incredible and so gangster.
Though I won’t disclose anymore of her journey as it isn’t mine to share, I will give an account of my experience 9 years ago. After talking with her today, many memories and feelings came flooding back and my heart broke knowing my sister was entering that ring of the great chemical shit storm.
Type this question into Google- “What is the strongest chemotherapy drug?’
Here’s the answer you get:
“Doxorubicin (Adriamycin) is one of the most powerful chemotherapy drugs ever invented. It can kill cancer cells at every point in their life cycle, and it’s used to treat a wide variety of cancers.” -consumer.healthday.com
Adriamycin is one of the drugs in the concoction I was blasted with for months as a breast cancer patient and my sister got it today too.
It certainly didn’t get the nickname “The Red Devil” for nothing and it’s largely known as the single most awful chemotherapy drugs out there. It’s bright red, like, I mean bright cherry Tylenol red and having to get it sucks…big time.
Upon arriving to my appointment, I checked in with the front receptionist, got weighed and measured (to make sure I was the same height as I was the last time ;) and then sat my butt down in the waiting room. There were new and donated games, magazines, books and puzzles to occupy my mind while I waited and there was usually a kind and caring volunteer who offered everyone tea, a small glass of orange juice or ‘fresh baked’ hospital cookies.
I may have already had my bloodwork done the day before or sometimes I had to do it then and there. Upon receiving the results, I either got to have treatment or I didn’t. If I had enough white blood cells in my count that day, I won!…and it was on to the IV bags and recliner. If I was low, it would be postponed until I was better.
Walking through the open area, I observed a long row of a lot of people all hooked up to IV machines. Some with hair, some without. Some with support people, some without. As I moved passed the others, I received a lot of glances, some whispers and many understanding, compassion-filled gentle smiles.
I was 29 and pregnant so I didn’t exactly fit the common patient profile that came to hangout on the 8th floor.
After going pee one last time and getting settled in my chair, I was brought an ice water and offered a snack.
Sometimes I brought my own drinks and stuff but I always kept the food intake small knowing that my body would harshly reject the red poison and, like clock-work, at 7pm that night, the wretched-unlike-anything-I-have-ever-experienced-before-or-since vomiting would start. (not to mention the headaches, body aches, mouth sores, lack of taste, brain fog, anxiety, insane insurmountable fatigue and more that also ensued)
But the pain and sickness weren’t the worst part of it all.
Knowing that each time- on schedule- after I would get my round of chemo, my unborn son Luke would kick, squirm, and fight…hard…that was the worst part.
The ‘Red Devil’ and other mixtures burned him, it poisoned him and it made him so sick too. It crushed me every time and though I hated it more than anything in the world, I knew it had to be done. Feeling Luke endure the chemo was one of the most horrible things I have ever had to experience and choosing that for him was one of hardest decisions I have ever had to make.
I always refused additional meds especially the steroids.
Since I was already pumping Luke son full of immense amounts of chemicals plus I absolutely hated how spaced-out they made me feel, I also said no thanks. Also, I skipped the Ondansetron. It didn’t work for me so instead of taking yet another med, I just forewent all the extras.
The nurse would come and do the name thing, making sure it was the right person, and then she would flush my PICC line with saline and we would get going. 3 hours and many IV bags later, I would be done.
Sometimes someone came to visit briefly but mostly, I stayed there alone. I was okay with that. I would chat with my ‘neighbours’ and listen to their stories. ‘What kind do you have?’ was the common question around there.
It was an odd, normal-feeling yet surreal community. We were all there for more-or-less the same thing. Many feelings and emotions move through you when you are listening to each story and prognosis.
“Can I get your coat for you?” I asked Kurt, my roommate for the afternoon. He was quiet and moved slowly and I could tell he needed a bit of a hand.
Kurt was an older and gentle man. His spirit was kind, calm. He had a joyful demeanour and wore brave well but Kurt was indeed sick. We chatted for a bit, then rested, then chatted again. He was a great roomie to have that day. I was glad to have met him.
“Take care and all the best to you.” I said as I said my goodbye for the day. My last IV bag had emptied faster than his so I escaped out of there a few minutes faster.
The next week as I was flipping through the newpaper, there was Kurt’s photo…in the Obituary section. Tears began to fill my eyes. Rest in peace Kurt, I said to myself remembering that sweet man I met.
Cancer sucks. Chemo sucks.
No one ever WANTS to have to earn a victory belt in that fight club.
Today I fight in spirit with my sister G. Pink gloves on gangster style sister, you’ve got this, I gotchu, we’ve got you.
(and to my dear cousin L too…bone cancer has nothing on you..love you ;)