[Originally posted on June 6th at Affinity.]
Okay. I’m going to start with reiterating that what I write here is about my experience with cancer treatment, and my feelings about it, it’s in no way general or applicable for painting with a vague and broad brush.
I am not sorry in the least little bit for not celebrating the first round of chemo being done. I am not sorry for viewing this as a completely non-celebratory event, nor for feeling this way. There was relief, and a fleeting sense of being free. That last one didn’t last long. As usual, the chemo has left me feeling half past dead and seriously dehydrated. So, I’m back again today for IV fluids. I’m only going because Rick refused to let up asking about going in for fluids. These days, he easily recognises the signs of dehydration, so I conceded. Right now, I’d rather deal with being half past dead than going back to 7. (In my hospital, the infusion suite is on the 7th floor.)
It doesn’t feel to me as if I’ve finished; there’s always something dragging you back, and even if I could manage to stay away from 7, appointments and schedules arrive by mail and phone, and of course there’s preparation for the next round of treatment. There’s also the knowledge that you’re going to get completely battered down again, which leaves you with a deep desire to simply stay the fuck away from hospitals altogether.
This all ties back in with the ever relentless positivity business. There’s the bell, which is in infusion/chemo suites all over, you’re supposed to ring it the same number of times as your cycles (in my case, it would be eight), while everyone else in infusion applauds; for me, that’s a hellish notion, and I was more than relieved in managing to slip out quietly. I learned that other infusion/chemo suites have a certificate/diploma thing, which is even worse than the damn bell. Most of us don’t require false encouragement, we all have our own reasons to keep showing up for treatment, even when we are past sick of it, and long to walk away and forget. You experience resignation soon enough in treatment, and simply getting through one phase is just that, nothing more. What most cancer patients are looking toward is the final door, that light at the end of the fuckin’ tunnel, when you get to walk away for real. For other cancer patients, there is no exit door, they’ll be in treatment until they die, and in such cases, it’s really callous and rotten to get all positive and celebratory over a single phase of treatment. Chirpy, trite sentiments do not help in the least, and they give people something empty to say without having to expend any thought on the actual person and their situation. Sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say, and that’s okay. Silences don’t have to be filled every single time, and silence is better than a perky positivity landing in compleat awkwardness.
This is not to say I don’t understand someone having joy over getting through one phase or being happy for me; it’s that I don’t feel that joy myself. I’m still looking at months worth of treatment and pretty much the rest of this year being dominated by cancer. I want my life back, and if I get that, then I’ll celebrate. Quietly.
And now I have to get ready to return to 7.