Long Lasting Side Effects

It has been almost 10 months since my last chemo.

I never knew that chemo side effects can last for years. After all chemo drugs wipe out many good cells along with the mutated ones it is targeting.

Picture your body as a huge forest. There are beautiful trees and ferns. Now picture chemo like a huge destructive tornado. The tornado uproots trees, flattens the ferns and rips them apart and much of the vegetation dies. Dont expect the trees to magically reroot and go back to the way they were in a few months or even years. Even the vegetation like the ferns, can take months or years to get back to the way they were before the tornado.

So here I sit. Periodic short bouts of tingling in my hands, hair growing back in, painful surgery scars, knotted muscles in my chest and ribs and a still 1/2 frozen shoulder.

Add that together with the long treatment from last year, the risky decision of refusing radiation & hormone blockers, the fact that the chemo I had could give me another cancer down the road or give me heart damage. Then add in I had to close my office in Hortonville because of said side effects. Add in that I still have days when I am just exhausted and sleep for 12 hours. Then add in waking every 2 hours to shift positions from my shoulder pain every night for 9 months now. Then add in chemo screwing up your hormones and pushing you into permanent menopause – complete with hot flashes, headaches and mood swings all beyond your control. Add in 5 or 6 therapy and counseling appointments every week for months working around your spouses schedule and your special needs child’s schedule. As well as trying to earn some $ to cover what we lost during this whole nasty trip I call cancer and you can see how a person may be a bit stressed out! Things that were once not such a big deal become like a knife to a nerve. It becomes harder and harder to stay calm, be focused on positive things and keep your emotions in check. Especially when there are very few breaks from this lifestyle.

Imagine having a 2 year old in your home for 15 years 24/7. Very seldom finding a sitter to give you a break? Yes I love my son but one can only handle daily meltdowns, repeated cartoon episodes, consistent stimming and constant supervision so he doesnt get into anything he shouldn’t for so long.

Because of this there are no family vacations. Sadly we must be on constant call even when we do have a “sitter” because if anything goes wrong we have a moment’s notice to go pick him up. Do you know that for just 48 hours of respite it costs over $400. Luckily the county helps us or we would never be able to afford much.

So yes, I admit I do get angry. I do yell. I do get upset and sometimes cry over what seems to be something small. Its been a long trip and just because I didnt have it as bad as others doesn’t mean it hasnt been devastating to me in many ways. It has been no cake walk. Had I done all the treatment they wanted me to I am sure I would be worse.

When you know someone who has been through cancer don’t ASSUME that after the treatment is over that life just magically goes back to how it was before the cancer. IT DOESN’T. Not for most people anyway. Not for me.

Try and walk in their shoes. Understand that just because you are emotional that it doesn’t mean you need medication! Try understanding before you even think of suggesting that.

You see, cancer tends to wake up a person. What I mean is that you realize just how much you have ignored your own needs, maybe for decades, and never focused on taking care of you. You let things slide that were so very important to you. You gave up things because you didnt want to be seen as “selfish”. And now, now you realize that there are certain things you just cant live with or without anymore because its what made you sick in the first place. Of course when you begin demanding that things change for the good of all you are suddenly seen as a, pardon my language, a big bad bitch. No one likes this change in you. They liked the status quo. They dont want anything to change again. They want to go back to the days when you were quiet and didn’t ask or beg for anything. When you put them first while you put your needs on the back burner. So when you dont want to “go back” then you are told you must be depressed and you should take medication. Medication that has some severe side effects. But then this will help you be convinced by others that you really dont need change. Because, after all, YOU must be the problem. No one else needs to change. They dont “use you”, its just that its supposed to be YOUR responsibility to take care of everyone else. Then somehow you will feel fulfilled?

Taking care of yourself and not being “used” by others is the key to health. So try to understand that things in life will need to change after cancer. And if someone is unwilling to change then maybe they never really cared to begin with.

I have had to do a lot of changing and much of it was out of my control. But I know I need to work on things and I am trying to do that. And I am understanding that I am the only person I can change. I will do that whether other people like it or not. I am healing in many ways and it may take awhile. I need to do what is best for me – finally. Things are improving, slowly, but they are going in the right direction. And I will leave it with that. Have a great day everyone!

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