21. It is not so bad

2nd of July 2020
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It is already July. Next week, on Wednesday, I will have my fourth chemo cycle. It will be the last cycle of the first part of my treatment. Time goes by and it goes by fast. It might seem, after reading the previous chapter, that I feel very bad. I don’t.

Cancer treatment, or at least mine, is a bit like a roller coaster and one goes through all the stages, sometimes up and sometimes down. Besides it being a roller coaster, it’s also a recurring process. In my case, the cycles are twenty-one days and those twenty-one days are long enough.

They say that not everyone endures chemotherapy in the same way. They also say that it is a bit like pregnancy, each woman develops certain symptoms with each pregnancy.

In my case, the cycle began with me feeling very bad physically. I don’t know how to describe it exactly but for me it felt like a drop in blood pressure. Samirah says I turn yellow and look very bad. My face must be a reflection of the way I feel. The good thing is that I can sleep and while I sleep, I usually don’t feel anything.  A bucket is always present on the floor next to my bed, although so far I haven’t yet vomited. 

For Samirah, the Wednesdays when I receive chemo are the worst, she is always worried and it hurts her to see me like this. She stays very close to me at night, but careful not to disturb me. Normally, she likes the smell of my breath, but not those Wednesdays. She says it smells chemical. So does my urine. She regularly takes my temperature, with three different thermometers, just to be sure. 

On Thursdays I don’t feel as bad anymore. I can do a little more living, though with various aches and pains. I’m constipated from the pill they give me for nausea and my stomach is very upset. My body doesn’t have much energy and I don’t feel like eating anything except for very simple food: a potato, an egg, some white rice or fruit. I drink water like crazy, at least two liters a day, so that all those chemicals leave my body quickly and don’t destroy more than necessary. In the morning I usually force myself to be active for at least thirty minutes and then I’m basically snoozing all day. I move between the bed and the couch. I also feel cold constantly and am always covered up. 

Friday comes and the worst symptoms are subsiding. I am again able to go for short walks, but the fatigue persists. At this point, I usually start to get anxious about constipation. During the last two cycles, on the Friday, I have had the strength to log on to my work computer for a while and see if there is anything urgent needing to be dealt with. Now, at the beginning of the cycle, on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday I am not working.

The weekend after chemo has arrived and although I’m still taking it easy, it’s time to get back to life. We usually meet up with my family on Saturday or Sunday and most of the time have someone visiting as well. I continue to go for my cherished walks and try to get back to normal eating. Generally speaking these weekends, although very tired, I am back to being a person again.

Mondays after chemo I go back to work. I work from home. At nine o’clock in the morning or even earlier, I am already sitting in front of my computer. I have a hard time focusing the first few days. I have to increase the font size on the computer, read things twice, or pause frequently. This frustrates me a bit, but it’s a matter of perspective. I’m able to work and that’s good. 

Over the course of this week I’m getting back into my routine of life and work. I can’t say that at some point I will reach one hundred percent of normality or that I will feel like I did before chemo, but at least I am getting closer. I’m at maybe seventy or eighty percent of my capabilities by the end of this week.  From then on everything is more bearable. We make plans, we see friends, we eat with the family, I have a few glasses of wines. We’ve even gone to Cadiz for a weekend. 

The repetitive nature of the cycle also allows me to make plans and schedule my time better. I know when I can’t be counted on and when I’m likely to be fine. I also take comfort in knowing that it passes and that I just have to be patient and stay positive.

I want to dedicate this chapter to getting across the point that it’s not all bad. I know that in the previous chapter I had a bit of a cleansing of bad thoughts and allowed myself to be quite negative, but I have to honor the truth and also tell you that it is not that bad, that there is life during and after breast cancer.

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