My most serious post ever
When you hear the word chemo, what do you think of? If you are one of my generation then you probably recall images from the movie ‘Dying Young’ (1991). A movie in which some rich kid (life lesson: the wealthy can get sick too?), with a beanie goes through chemo and vomits and vomits and possibly leaves Julia Roberts a lot of money after the ordeal has ended. Taking this role may have been a bad career move for her, in my opinion. But the movie was popular, it stuck because it shocked. It revealed many truths and it revealed a world few people understood, but sadly it did so in a sensationalist way, a way that would scare people of my generation forever and would cause them to immediately associate cancer with certain death.
If you are of my children’s generation then you probably think, ‘oh so mom has what Johnnie’s mom in my class has. His mom also lost her hair and she could take her wig off and throw it around and it was so much fun! And she slept forever and let Johnnie play computer games and never said no to ice cream’.
Once you’ve been inside a chemo lounge, and I’m not being sarcastic here; it really is a lounge, with coffee and tea and biscuits and amazing upbeat friendly people who work there, then you’ll know that all of this is both correct and wrong. There are old people and young people, people from all walks of life, some sleep, some wear wigs, some proudly show their scalps. Some are funky, some are old fashioned. For some, it’s not their first round in the ring, and you can see this. For some, it’s their first time of many. These people may go home after to sleep next to a toilet or they may go shopping. They may go and play with a friend’s twins like I did or they may go to bed where they will stay for 5-10 days.
It’s not always like the movies. It could be, and for some people it is. But not always. It’s not what you think and it doesn’t have to be depressing. These are warriors fighting their best fight and they bring their armies. In these chemo lounges you’ll find family members and friends. Some are alone, and I bet it’s by choice as it gives them space to work or read before they have a few off days. Some may say I don’t know what I’m talking about as they have seen far worse than the movies could ever show. I respect that and they are right. There are people out there who are a lot sicker than I could ever imagine. Their stories form part of this bigger tapestry called life that we could never truly understand but that we can only marvel at. Marvel, because they live on, either in real life or in the hearts and minds of their armies.
The first thing that any chemo patient, cancer survivor or member of your medical team will tell you is that you can never compare your journey. Your reaction to chemo is yours only and is completely unique. And it might not be the same every time. After my first round I went straight to bed and slept like a lion for almost 5 days (literally like a lion). This time around I’m still up after 11pm watching documentaries and writing this and wondering if I should post it as it has little to do with raising kids.
But actually it has everything to do with raising kids. Because whether or not you have a really bad hangover after you got a babysitter for the first time in 7 years, or you have flu, or you’re going for an operation or you’re battling cancer, they watch how you react and they form perceptions based on that and it shapes their life choices.
And when you don’t have kids then it’s your colleagues and your parents and your peers who are looking to you. Whoever said “We see the world not as it is, but as we are” never spoke a truer truth (many believe Stephen Covey said this but nobody knows for certain, Anaïs Nin, Immanuel Kant and others are said to be responsible for this famous quote). Perception really is everything. Chemo and cancer in general is one of those bad things that will expose you to so many good things and put you on an adventure of discovery like no other.
It sucks hairy balls but it teaches you to ask for help and it shows you what fun life really should be, it teaches you to not waste time. To do impromptu things. I love my camel man aka hunk more than ever. I smell my kids’ hair, I don’t allow myself to feel rushed. I’ve had a chance to really see my friends and see my community.
When we had our first two kids so close in age we thought we would never survive it. We cried a lot, we high fived each other a lot, we fought a lot and we panicked a lot. I remember that I kept thinking about that line in ‘A Tale Of Two Cities’ – “it was the best of times, it was the worst of times”. In order to truly enjoy life, you have to be able to hold these two contradictory ways of being in your head at the same time. If you can do that then you might hate your job, but you’ll recognize the experience you’re getting. You might hate never sleeping but you’ll never love that child more. You will hate having to miss out because you have to study or because you’ve been grounded but you’ll understand the why. This is just life. Some things you cause, but having cancer or having a child who never sleeps are definitely not things you cause. It’s things that happen and things you get through.
Yes, I’m way too positive for some. Like those annoying people who are always fucking smiling. I don’t by way (always smile), but feeling positive is my choice. As every reaction to life should be.
My youngest lion just woke up (one of the three who do not sleep like lions), and so I must go. I apologize in advance for any grammar or spelling mistakes as I’ll probably only be able to edit in 5 days or so. And by then this post will be old news. Love to you all! Keep finding the funny, it’s there.