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My Life on Chemotherapy

Well, I suppose I should jump on the Breast Cancer Month bandwagon and post “My Life on Chemo” poem.  I have idly perused some of the blog sites labelled breast cancer, and they are obssessed with this one topic.   Really? Your life is focused on this one event? Ok, it sucks, but I have 1000 parts and only 2 are labelled BOOB.  Ok, only one is labelled BOOB and the other has a new label (from a gastly surgery in August) called ABDOMINAL FAT TURNED INTO BOOB.  Complicated people never allow their scope to become tunnel visioned.  One of the strong points about my blog is that I dont ruminate over one topic, heck, I have the world to freak out over!  Hopefully my breast cancer drama is coming to a close, and you only have to endure two more poems after this, then I shall shut up about it all (unless I am not-so-blessed to go through it again).  And then I am sure I will frantically write tons of pathetic poems about the end of my universe. Unfortunately, going through it again for my type of cancer (high grade “triple negative”) is a death nell, and re-currance would hand me an 8-14 month lifespan.  But as my normal lifespan is only a nanoblip in time, I dont think anything would be missed on a cosmic scale.

One serious thing that I do need to say about any life threatening illness is that I never would have shared any of my poems before cancer.  For those of you who groan…..fine, LEAVE NOW.  For those of you who grinned, thank you. So now you are going to either have to forge through my chemo background or skip down to the actual poem, which by now I think will be a disappointing non-event!

In 2011,  I endured  six months of chemotherapy using the typical 3 medications for breast cancer—three months of two drugs called Adriamycin (nicknamed the “Red Devil”) and Cytoxan, and three months of a drug called Taxol. While Adriamycin was rather bad (within 30 seconds of the infusion I would develop severe abdominal pain that lasted 4 days), the ‘AC’ combination put a systemic inflammatory disease I have called Inflammatory Polyarthritis into remission.  For the first time in 5 years, I had no pain.  I was so grateful for the rainbow in my misty sky, and my cheerful joy amazed most of the people I knew.  Never one to lose an opportunity, my alien-bald head was also a canvas to practise ‘my world of quirky’ and I made my hairless state interesting with loads of hats, scarves and wigs, which helped a great deal as no one knew what the heck I was gonna look like from one day to the next.  This picture is with my favorite wig, which everyone thought was better than my real hair…..talk about left handed compliments….So I was pretty smug that I would sail through all this with little aggravation when I started the “easier” drug, Taxol….. and it was horrible.  I had ‘anaphylactoid reactions’ with each infusion and I thought I was going to die.  (Of course, the first event was when I had finally sweet talked my husband into coming to chemo with me to show him it was ok, and 10 minutes into it, my arm was flaming red and my vision was going into a dark tunnel.  He ran out and was never seen again by the chemo staff….men…..) But I was struck by how some of the symptoms were similar to a sulfite sensitivity I have (alcohol being full of sulfites, I have many witnesses who can attest to the embarrassing fact that I can be the life of any party). So I researched what was in Taxol and voila! Full of sulfites! Now I understood how a big IV infusion filled with sulfites could give me the awful reactions I had to suffer weekly. But there was a form of Taxol without sulfites, unfortunately I couldnt use it as I was participating in a drug study, and I couldnt change brands. What a misery, I ended up having to abort the treatments and have significant nerve damage from the effects of this drug.  While the below poem is certainly not my best effort,  it is meaninful to me in a deeply personal way.  I wrote this last year to help describe my life on chemotherapy.                                                            

 I was given a second chance

My oncology doctor said

If I agreed to the “chemo dance”

To me six months of dread

So many horrible side effects

(And no hair on my head)!

I spent 3 years growing it long

But I knew I had to be strong

I had to decide what to do next.

 

I chose to get my hair shaved off

I was strong, my hairstylist cried

I said farewell as each strand died

Now time to look for wigs, I sighed

I was gonna look like a toff

 

Trying one after another of “those things”

Each one looked fake, full of strings

Finally I found one that looked right

(Some said an improvement on sight

A compliment that seemed left handed)

For no matter what, I was branded

A “chemo  patient” with life on hold

 

Thoughts of chemo made me feel old

Afraid that death would take hold

These drugs would blast my cells

Tossing my life and family through  hell

I had no idea what to expect

While I was told the side effects

There was so much they didn’t know

 

Day one of chemo left me scared

The staff was kind and seemed to care

I did fine with the Cytoxan infusion

But Adriamycin was like liquid fire

I couldn’t breathe with pain so dire

I went to bed with knees to chest

and for four days I had no rest

 

It’s amazing what poison can do

My white cells gone, a fired crew

But there was an unexpected rainbow!

Instead of feeling weak and low

It released the pain from arthritis now

I couldn’t believe how great that felt!

It lessoned the blow that I’d been dealt

 

Chemo was for me a good thing

A sad reflection on my life, I thought

I was told the next drug would bring

Fewer problems than previously fought

 

So I was quite amazed and distraught

When Taxol to my body brought

Horrible reactions that left me crying

I could feel my nerves slowly dying

 

Each infusion hit me to my core

I dreaded the next more and more

My oncologist agreed the benefit was gone

And ready to move on I was done

 

A year later my hair is growing

But side effects linger, chemo’s curse

Recurrence is hard not knowing

Arthritis has returned, life is worse

I hope I have won, but time will tell

Life moves on and I will as well

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