Life; interrupted: What it feels like to have chemotherapy
In the most recent New York Times “Well” blog posting, Suleika Jaouad describes it day by day. Not only what she went through, but also what she felt she could do or would like to do. Like a hug to the girl whom she finds in the next bed.
When you include “feeling miserable” among the side effects, perhaps you could include “loving hugs as many times a day as possible” in the “treatment of side effects” column too.
No matter what I do — skip breakfast, set multiple alarms or go to sleep early the night before — I always seem to arrive at the hospital exactly 30 minutes late for my appointments. Today is Monday, and it’s the first of five straight days I’ll go to the hospital to receive outpatient chemotherapy injections. Then I get three weeks off. Then another week of chemo. And so on. My doctors say this will be my routine for the next year.
My 30-minute lateness buffer has become so consistent, I’m almost proud of it. I am on time, but it’s my time. Maybe I’m secretly hoping that if I show up late enough I’ll just be let off the hook, told I can take the day off. I set out for the hospital by cab; it’s the only way I can travel, for now, because with my weak immune system, public transportation is still off limits.
“Your eyes look red,” Abby says when I finally arrive. She’s one of my favorite nurses.
I’m just tired, I begin to tell her, which is true. I haven’t been sleeping so well lately, a mix of restlessness and staying up late watching movies. Then all of a sudden I find myself tearing up. Then full-on crying.
The crying surprises me, but I’ve been feeling down ever since I learned I would need to start chemotherapy again. Even though my recent biopsy results show no cancerous cells, my doctors say new research shows that for patients with high-risk leukemia, preventive chemo may be beneficial after a bone marrow transplant.
An attendant comes to the room to tell me that they are ready for me in the infusion suite. “I’m sorry,” I tell Abby as I start to cry again. “I’m just really tired.”