This past Tuesday I had my first round of chemotherapy and for days before, I kept remembering the time my aunt had to take me to the doctor.
I was seven or eight years old and I’d gone to spend a couple of weeks at her house, like I usually did in the summers. My cousins and I spent a lot of time playing outside, and one year we got into a bed of sand fleas. Those fleas didn’t care much for my cousins, but they liked me a lot, and by the end of the day my legs and feet were covered with bubble blisters. Boy, did those bites itch. And after a couple of days of scratching, they got infected.
So off we went, to see Dr. Graham.
The only thing I remember about the entire visit is what my aunt said to me after the doctor left the exam room. I was tearing up at the thought of having to get a Tetanus shot, which prompted my aunt to come over to the exam table and take both of my shoulders in her hands, with a wild-eyed expression on her face.
“You’ve got to get this shot, Sally! If you don’t get this shot, your jaws will lock shut and you won’t be able to eat anything! You’ll have to eat everything through a straw – is that what you want?! Huh? Do you want your jaws to lock shut?!”
Her tirade continued, voice rising, shaking my whole upper body now. While she expounded, I thought about what she was saying, visualizing what it would be like to have to eat everything through a straw.
That seemed horrible, too.
I had to take the shot.
There just weren’t any good options.
My Aunt Toni was just in her 20s, and though at my young age, I thought she was invincible, she had to have been fearful in Dr. Graham’s office. And the more fearful she became, the louder she talked, the more her eyes bulged, and the harder she shook my shoulders.
When they told me all the possible side effects of chemo, I felt kinda like I did as a kid getting that shot. Like bolting out of the recliner before that first bag starts dripping.
But for now, it’s the best option to beat the disease, and it’s so much better than it used to be.
So no, I don’t want lock jaw.
I don’t want to have to eat everything through a straw.
Don’t be afraid, Aunt Toni. I’ll get the shot.