22. Eyes and veins

3rd of July 2020
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I am awakened by the voice of a neighbor singing a song I don’t know. I have never seen this neighbor, but I have heard him many times, especially during confinement. The voice is beautiful, full of suffering and emotion. I get the impression that the neighbor has an emotional need to be heard.

I open my eyes and feel my right eye throbbing faintly. As if I feel the pressure of the blood making its way through the tiny veins. It’s not so much painful but more annoying.

I analyze and take count of my new aches and pains, before getting out of bed. In addition to the discomfort in my eyes, over the past few nights I have felt a pain in my arms. Especially in my left arm. I don’t quite know how to describe it, it’s a pain I’ve never felt before. I don’t know if it’s my joints, muscles or what it is exactly that hurts. I’ve put it down to my sleeping position and have tried not to lay on that arm too much at night. It is a strange pain, I feel it especially when I stretch my arm, it also seems as if something inside is excessively tense.

With the little light that enters through the blinds that are still closed, I examine my arm. I look at my veins and see that they look different. More marked, in more intense colors. Suddenly a light bulb comes on: the veins, it’s the veins that hurt!

I have read and heard many times that chemotherapy affects the veins. However, no one ever told me that the veins in my arms could start hurting. To be honest, I didn’t even know that the veins in an arm could hurt.

I take my phone from my nightstand and ask Google for “arm vein pain chemo”. The first result it shows is a post on the paulyvelez.com blog, “Caring for your veins during chemo.”

“There are a lot of things doctors don’t say about chemo that are important to know, including how intravenous medications can affect your veins. I wish someone had told me that when I started treatment, to save me a lot of suffering. That’s why I decided to write this article, so you won’t be caught off guard like I was.”

I feel instantly identified in the first sentence I read. I continue reading.

“If you are lucky enough to have thin and sensitive veins like mine, you will have this kind of pain from the first session. If you don’t take care of your veins, with each cycle it will be more painful until your veins are completely unusable for the treatment and your arm cannot extend any longer, as has happened to me. If you’re not that lucky, it’s still advisable to take care of your veins to avoid damaging them.”

Wow…time and time again throughout this treatment I come face to face with the same conclusion…there is so much we are not being told! Things that affect our quality of life in ways that only a person who has been through cancer treatment can imagine. It makes me angry, it makes me feel a little helpless. I feel like I’m always on the running after the facts, reacting, not in control of the situation.

To be fair, at one of my appointments the doctor talked about a reservoir. She said that if my veins would start to bother me at some moment, I’d better get the reservoir as soon as possible. But I didn’t even know what a reservoir was, or what it meant when the veins bother you.

The sister of a friend of Samirah in the Netherlands, during one of her chemotherapy cycles, the medicine leaked out of her vein. Apparently, this situation is quite complicated because they have to clean the body or the area where the chemo leaked out. I assumed this type of situation is what the doctor meant by “veins bothering you”.

And now, now I will have to worry about my veins too, and I don’t want to.

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