I’m looking forward to my first chemo break. Three months straight of chemo every week has gotten more and more difficult. How is it the end of February already? Usually by the day before treatment, I’m back to feeling normal, so I expect that I’ll have an entire week to feel fabulous. And then the next break, we’re headed off to Ohio to have a small family reunion with my aunts, cousins, and brother’s family.
Things are looking up.
The days after chemo are hard. It’s a tiredness that’s not a tiredness, a full body ache that’s not like when you get a cold. It’s an ennui, seated in my bones, and sometimes, actual pain in my bones. My mouth gets the brunt of it–some of the women in my support group have said the same thing, so I know it’s not my imagination. The tumor in my jaw never stops being there, even when I’ve taken pain medications and it stops hurting, and then my upper teeth and bones ache and ache and ache.
I feel like I’m crawling through mud in a battle zone. Buzzing in my ears that isn’t buzzing. My body splattered in poison pumping through my veins. A feeling of a giant hand wrapped around my body, slowly crushing me.
Sunday is the worst, always. Every moment seems to stretch longer and longer. Time is relative, and when I’m in misery, it’s the slowest I’ve ever experienced. Relief comes at the end of the day–why, I won’t question, but it’s always this way–and the afternoons are the worst. 2:47 reads the clock. I wait three centuries and look again. 2:38, it says.
But my week. It’s coming.
My dad goes back to Texas to do some medical checkups. I try not to worry about him. Cancer-free. That will be me someday, no matter what they say. NED, or No Evidence of Disease, that’s the goal, and I won’t take my eyes off the prize. For him, it’s… not easier because cancer isn’t easy… but his oncologist said that he’s batting 1,000. His margins were clear. Mine, well, I didn’t get margins. I got chemo and targeted treatment.
Of course, my eternal minutes don’t last forever, and one day proceeds to the next. Except, I’m not feeling better. I’m not feeling like myself. The symptoms are less, but I’m still feeling sick, and it makes me angry. I lay in bed because I feel like shit sitting on the couch. I want to be me again.
My Friday off comes and goes, a non-event, and I’m still not feeling 100%.
I know I’m being ridiculous, expecting it, but I can’t help it. I do expect i! I deserve it! I’ve made it this far! I should have a break.
Saturday, Phoenix vomits in her crib a couple hours after her bedtime. I rush in, pick her up, and as the vomit gets on my skin, I think, Oh, shit, no.
I can’t get sick. If I get sick, I might not be able to do my treatment.
Mom comes in and takes her from me. She cleans up our poor baby in the bathtub. I pace in my room, wishing I could do more. Kevin hovers. Calliope sleeps through it all. And I worry, of course. About Phoenix. About me. Her little eyes looking up at me from the bathtub. When Mom’s done, I hurry in and scrub myself in the shower. I can’t get whatever stomach bug she has. Or maybe it’s not a bug?
She seems puny for a couple days, and then she vomits again Monday morning. Kevin rushes her to the walk-in clinic, where they’re not sure if she’s got an intestinal blockage or a virus. Her poops have been hard, and nobody else has gotten sick. What if it’s a blockage? What if it’s something more serious? We talk about it, and I bawl, because my baby is sick and I can’t even hold her, let alone do anything.
Cancer. And twin babies. Why? I’m so… Angry isn’t the right word. Bereft? Confused? Maybe angry. I don’t know.
When Calliope vomits on Monday night, I’m relieved but not. Then Kevin gets sick.
Mom is left to take care of everyone.
I try, but I’m not supposed to get near them. I’m still not feeling well from the chemo. I have to go back into that chair in just a few days, and Dad is gone. We’re down to my mom, basically, and if she gets sick… It’s like we’re all waiting for the inevitable.
Morrigan pukes on Tuesday while I’m reading her a book. She’s lying on the floor, and it happens all of a sudden, and she seems confused and surprised, but not in pain. I’ve never understood how vomiting can take someone by surprise. (And then, of course, I say this and it’ll happen.) I supposed when you’re young and you’ve never vomited, you don’t know what it is. But she wasn’t even acting sick.
On it goes. Dad’s appointment is good news: still cancer-free. Kevin gets better and he’s able to help. I feel sorry for myself and mope in my room. My mother, I’m certain, is glad when Dad gets home. I go back to chemotherapy, whether I want to or not, upset and disillusioned that my “week off” wasn’t rainbows and sunshine and unicorns. Mom and I never end up getting the bug, and I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet, possibly quite literally, since who knows if my immune system can fight off whatever it is?
But I feel trapped in the house. I want to take Morrigan to activities, but no, that’s a bad idea because–well, look, everyone just vomited. What if we get something else? The babies’ immune systems are probably not as strong as they could be because we’re just stuck here because of me.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t blame myself. I didn’t choose to get cancer. I didn’t neglect my health. Nothing I did made me sick.
But the whole unfairness of it sits on my shoulders as I sit in the chemo chair, sludge pumping through my veins once again.
Three weeks, I think. In three weeks, I’ll be in Ohio, able to forget I have cancer for a few days. Family. Fun. Chaos, in a good way.
Of course, life never turns out the way we expect, does it?