My Chemotherapy Experience and the Aftermath
Two months after diagnosis, my chemotherapy regime was finally ready to go. I would have 6 treatments, every 3 weeks and a scan after treatment number 3. It was almost exciting to hear this. Treatment would finally commence! It had felt like an age since I was first diagnosed. Had the cancer cells grown more? Who knows? I remember thinking that I couldn’t be more “terminal” than just terminal, could I?
The goal of my treatments were explained to me
I would be having carboplatin and etoposide chemo drugs. These words meant nothing to me. It was explained to me that my treatment wasn’t about “saving my life” but about “extending it,” giving me more time. I am sure it was put a lot more delicately than that; I think it was said as “quality of life’ not "quantity of life.”
Emotional about starting treatment
I remember feeling too young to have to deal with something as devastating as cancer. We always think it won’t happen to us, don’t we? I was no exception. On the day of my first chemo, there were so many emotions: relief of finally having treatment and anxiety of the things not known.
The first chemo treatment made the cancer feel even more real
They managed to get the cannula working; my veins aren’t good veins and they hide the minute a needle comes out. I have a needle phobia as my mother is a diabetic, and I used to watch her give herself insulin and it would freak me out (like a lot of people, I think). It was only once the cannula was attached and the poison started to enter my body that I began to feel scared. Scared of what was happening, scared for the future and I think it also made it VERY real, which of course it was. Maybe my brain thought I was just “playing” with bladder cancer for a while, I don’t know?! I just realized at that moment that sh@t was happening.
First stage of being diagnosed is a scary time
One thing with cancer is that sometimes the psychological effects come at a much later stage. This first stage is about treatment and scans, I guess the practical side of cancer. Getting the cancer cells under control as much as possible. You are usually far too busy, or ill with treatments and effects of treatments on your body, to really take in the things that are happening to you.
The second stage: dealing with the aftermath
The second stage takes place long after treatment has finished, and to be honest, I am still affected by what I have been through - physically and emotionally AND what I am going through even now. You are in “fight mode.” Your body is fighting every second to kill those cancer cells, as well as the good cells, in your body. You will feel fatigue like you have never felt before in your life. Climbing those stairs will feel monumental. Your body becomes ravaged. It's all too much at times.
You still smile, you still live. You have to. You may write a blog or have a diary of how you felt. We, as a family, put our hearts and souls into doing as many things as we could. Making as many memories as possible. Everything was tainted, tainted by cancer. We were forced into making these memories, memories for the future, memories for when I wasn’t here anymore.
Grieving for the future
Chemo, scans, making memories, blood tests, injections, healthy eating, feeling sick, crying, laughing...that's what life had become. We tried to not focus on the future but on the here and now. This was a good idea although hard to do. You do find yourself grieving for the life you won’t have, or for the things you won’t achieve.
Just getting through IS enough
Making it through those first weeks and months is like navigating your way through an enormous forest. You feel lost, you feel small. You are learning a new language, new words, new places, new and raw emotions. It does feel like a battle between what you know and what is the unknown, and our minds can’t help but overwhelm us.
Focus on the here and now
What can I say? I would never want to go through those feelings ever again. You do get through it, but there is no magic formula for dealing with bladder cancer. There is no way to skip the bad stuff. You just have to get through it and come out on the other side, however the way you do it. Good luck - you can and will get through this awful, emotionally overwhelming time. Try not to think ahead too much and try to concentration on the “here and now.”
Did you know that May is Bladder Cancer Awareness Month?