Monday, December 7, 2009
cancer patients FAQs
here's some stuff i didn't know or maybe never thought about:
one: cancer is not a death sentence. you don't need to go tiptoeing around people with a sad sad face like their dog just died.
lots and lots of people get cancer and get past it and get well.
could you please just make some jokes about it?
which brings us to
two: they say laughter is one of the best ways to increase your immune system. if you're going to visit someone with cancer, remember some jokes or funny stories or bring some funny dvds.
in my case, nothing too heavy. i am not feeling very intellectual right now.
three: chemotherapy and all those other drugs affect your vision, your short-term memory and other fun stuff. so if i lose the plot midway through the sentence - can you just laugh about it rather than looking alarmed? for about 3 days post-chemo, i am a nauseated zombie. it's really hard for me to talk on the phone, let alone sit up for great lengths of time.
easiest way to imagine it is a hangover. all those toxins are gradually exiting your body and everything aches. you can't see straight, words get all blurry, and you are so so tired like you were up partying all night (though in the case, it's without the fun).
four: chemotherapy makes you highly sensitive to scent. so if you're going to visit a cancer patient or ward, go lightly on the fragrance. i can tell you that all the victoria's secret fragrances make me sick to my stomach.
in fact, for me, all commercial fragrances make me feel really unwell - so if you've sprayed on something and you hug me, it feels like all the stuff has permeated my clothes for the rest of the day.
that said, i am liking natural oils - like lavender, rose and grapefruit.
however, you might find your fragrance necessary protection because as the chemo leaves my body - like alcohol, i guess - it makes my skin smell awful.
maybe the hugging is a bad idea to begin with.
five: hugging is a bad idea also because chemo greatly weakens your immune system. so in theory, i can catch every germ that goes by.
this doesn't mean i don't absolutely adore all your cute kids. i love them like mad and they make me laugh, but they are wandering around coughing all over the place and wiping their noses on their sleeves.
and all the doctors have turned me into a neurotic hypochondriac so i am terrified. plus, as i said, when you are all hungover, you just want quiet. even with MY kids, i am preferring them from a distance.
on a less amusing note:
six: chemotherapy and radiation are totally different. chemo (for short) is injections or a drip of highly toxic substances - think battery acid and dry cleaning fluid - that rushes through your veins like marauding hordes maiming and destroying until they get to the cancer which they kill. we hope.
in the meantime, if any leaks out onto your skin, as the nurse told me, "let me know if you feel any burning, because it eats through the flesh..."
then there is radiation.
which i have the pleasure not to experience. something like pointing an x-ray machine at the cancerous spot which is meant to dissolve on the spot, but also makes your bones ache.
more later... but just remember, cancer doesn't mean it's all over.