by Sibyl Jules
How do you describe the old chemo trip which, incidentally, I finished 2 weeks ago after 6 months of 2 weekly cycles? This is only my experience- everyone has different sorts of chemo and some are much worse than others. My side effects were horrible on one drug, which I was spared after 4 cycles because of weird stuff happening. I never wanted to know what the side effects might be beforehand- then I’d only get them! A useful tip shared by an oncology nurse friend was to keep the literature they gave me as a reference if something did feel unusual or bad, and just read it as you need to. This helped me avoid worrying about things that might happen and to respond appropriately to them if they did.
I can’t say chemo was easy, but when I meet with any of my ‘cancer club’ as my partner calls them, he always comments how happy we all are. We are, after all, alive, and eating, drinking (albeit a modified beverage of choice) and laughing with friends. I think that the last 6 months of chemo has taught me to enjoy and savour every tiny joy- cooking and sharing food and wine with good friends and family has always been an important part of our lives- so when chemo flattens me for a week, being able to eat and drink and meet friends again- or go to WOMAD, the happiest 4 days of the year as I know it- gives me much to be happy about. Every tiny joy helps…Look for them- they make you feel safe and help to stave off the anxiety and fear.
Oddly, chemo has also reminded me how much I love my work. I’ve been able to work two or three days a week, throughout chemo. I found that focusing on thinking and working, surrounded by busy people doing interesting things has helped me to avoid the pitfalls of the ‘poor-me-illness-behaviour mode’, which I might be prone to without the focus! I’m lucky I can choose when I go to work and if I feel too bad I crash and burn, but usually I get some days in each week. I’m also fortunate I love my work. And having a supportive and loving family and partner has helped too of course. I’ve loved having old friends call up out of the blue, and have been overwhelmed by the incredible generosity and thoughtfulness of people around me. Totally unexpected and humbling.
On grumbling about chemo prior to treatment starting, a surgeon reminded me that I am very lucky to be offered chemo- a treatment that may help keep me alive. For some things there is no such treatment and for that reason I knew I’d just have to go with it, knowing that every 2 weeks, just as I’m beginning to feel a bit ‘normal’ again, another bus will run me over.
Jules is a perceptive observer and an irrepressible, positive force as well as director and publisher for the Neuro Orthopaedic Institute, Adelaide, SA. And here is the Chemo Fashionista post of the fabulous Jules at WOMAD, Adelaide.