When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer and learned I would go through chemotherapy, I had a certain set of expectations. After all, I had seen movies like 50/50 and The Bucket List. I had friends who had gone through chemo treatments who told me about the side effects they experienced, like
Nausea and vomiting. Hair loss. Weight loss. Fatigue.
Some other things like loss of appetite, neuropathy, mouth sores, and a funky sense of taste and smell, but not everyone experienced those.
So I prepared for what I believed to be the most likely side effects. I bought lots of Diet Coke and loaded up on boxes of mini-saltine crackers, my “drugs” of choice when I’m nauseated.
My friends also told me, just like the doctor did, that everyone is different. No one had the same combination of side effects.
“No two people react to chemotherapy the same,” they all said.
They were right, because I’m about to have my fifth infusion next week and I still haven’t thrown up.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m thrilled about that! While I’ve had some nausea, and I’ve downed my share of Diet Coke and crackers, it’s not been bad and I’m so thankful for that. I can’t imagine the sickness that friends have experienced, especially those who underwent chemo in years past. Treatment has so greatly improved over the years.
It’s just that nobody told me about some of the other things that can happen.
Like “chemo bloat.”
Nobody talked about fluid retention. Swelling up like a toad. Gaining 25 pounds. Huh-uh. Nobody said a word about that.
If you’re gonna gain weight, it should be from eating gallons of Blue Bell.
Let me just tell you that for someone nicknamed “chicken legs” since my youth – for a woman who has never been able to find shoes narrow enough to fit her feet – this is truly a new day.
Can’t pull one single pair of pants in my closet anywhere near my waist, let alone button them.
Even if I could dress to go out of my house, the swelling in my feet and legs has made mobility an issue. Very painful to walk, even more to stand. Add fatigue on top of that, and it makes just taking care of household chores, a chore.
I’ve thought a lot about my mom, my grandmother, my aunt in the last several weeks. All of them suffered from swelling in their legs in their later years, making it difficult for them to get around. They were all so active in their younger lives. It was hard for them to not be able to get up and go as they once did. I know my mom, especially, felt very isolated, cut off from the rest of her world.
Like so many of us when we’re young, I didn’t fully understand.
We don’t realize how truly frustrating it is to not be able to do the things you once did – to be fully independent, to just jump in your car and go anywhere, get out and walk for miles in malls, through cities, across theme parks. To climb stairs. To “stand and sing.” To push a grocery cart through the store. To stand around after church, talking to people until someone turns the lights off.
Until we can’t.
But I’m trying hard to remind myself that this is just for a season.
And besides, I still made my bed this morning.