It’s been one week since my first chemo infusion and I am beginning to experience some of the fatigue and “chemo-brain” side effects. I apologize in advance if this post comes out rather incoherent it has been difficult to string together complete thoughts recently.
When I was in the hospital last week for the infusion there were 3 other women in the room with me. One of them was elderly and in pretty bad shape so she just kept to herself with headphones and the TV. But the other 2 women (Mirjam and Hilde) were in their late 40’s and pretty friendly. The chemo socializing process is interesting. You are trapped in a room with complete strangers for hours and the only known common ground is that you all have cancer. You exchange some pleasantries but eventually the conversation turns into what kind of cancer you are treating, the particular chemo cocktail you are receiving, the side effects you’ve experienced and how you’ve managed them. Mirjam was experienced. This was her 3rd infusion and she knew the ropes. This was only the 2nd infusion from Hilde and from what I could gather from their very fast Dutch conversation she had a pretty rough go after the first one. It was all new to me so I didn’t say much…plus I couldn’t because my Dutch is not that good. At a certain moment they were kind and switched the conversation to English to get our story. It always starts with the same question. “If you don’t mind, can I ask how old you are?” and then my responses go… “yes, young”…“yes, it was quite a shock”…“no, there’s not really a history in my immediate family”.
Jonathan and I spent a little bit of time talking with Hilde and her husband and it seemed like they were dealing with a lot. The last few years had been stressful and then to top it off she was diagnosed with cancer. We listened and it seemed by their tone they were trying to impart some words of wisdom to us. Her husband said “Take it from people who have been there you just have to be positive.” He even wrote me a note as they were leaving that said:
Where there is positivity there can’t be negativity
Where there is joy there can’t be madness
Just live for the day
I appreciated them trying to lift our spirits and give advice…but I don’t like people telling me “You just have to be positive”. At this point I don’t HAVE to be anything but authentic. If I’m positive I’m positive…if it’s a bad day it’s a bad day…if I want to yell I’ll yell…and if I’m mad I’ll be mad. If we try to judge and suppress all the negative emotions they will just get buried inside and we will be stressed out about how we should be more positive. I do believe there is a power to positive thinking, but it is a balance between forcing yourself and being OK with just sitting in the messy emotions for a bit. Of course there is a whole other post about not getting completely consumed by negativity and learning how to let go…but again it’s a balance.
So friends, here’s my advice you just have to be authentic.