I’m waiting for the side-effects of Thursday’s chemo to kick in fully. I can feel the deep aches beginning to build in my joints, like cruel little harbingers of what’s to come. The waiting is a kind of mental torture – there is a feeling of helplessness knowing that the side-effects are coming and there’s just no getting out of their way.
My husband has to be away this week on business and to say the timing is bad would be to understate it absurdly; we both hate the idea of being apart through this time, knowing how difficult it was last time around, but we have reconciled ourselves to it.
The good thing is I’m not alone. My mom has moved in to take care of me and help wrangle my daughter, and friends and family have dropped off food, or dropped e-mails and phone calls offering their help — assuring me once again in ways big and small that I am not alone.
It makes a huge difference, this not being alone. I know that I am lucky, even if that’s not necessarily a word normally associated with someone who has cancer.
Right now, as I wait for the chemo to do its necessary evil, I’m thinking back to other times when the waiting was grueling: waiting for tests, waiting for results, waiting for the nausea, waiting to lose my hair… Sometimes the not-knowing was maddening, even if finding out was more devastating.
But I wasn’t alone during those times either – I’ve pretty much dragged everyone I love through every nuance of suspense and fear with me. I have sent e-mail updates covering such turns of events as “Now it’s in the lymph nodes…” or “Now we’re checking the liver, lungs and bones…” These were the missives waiting in the inboxes of my unsuspecting loved-ones from the very early days of my diagnosis. I used a lot of detail describing tests. I was almost perversely graphic and honest sometimes, using sound effects, like “schlook” and “ge-shunk” to vividly recreate the experiences of various biopsies.
Not strong on subtlety, I admit, but I always felt that people could choose to stop reading if it’s too much for them, whereas for my part I need to share it. Every time I put something out there, it’s no longer residing in me alone, building tension and choking me with fear. Every time someone replies, whether with a quick word or a dissertation, it bolsters me. I know for certain that I wouldn’t bear the psychological torment of these waiting games if I thought I was alone.
So my thoughts are with anyone else out there who is waiting today – for tests, for results, for side effects to kick in. My wish for you is that you’re not waiting alone, and whatever may come, you won’t face it alone. Or, if someone you know is waiting I hope that you can find some way to show them that you are standing by them, because, at least in my experience, courage doesn’t come in a vacuum, whereas fear seems to thrive in one.