I remember when Peter Jennings was diagnosed with lung cancer and had to leave ABC World News Tonight. I remember that like it was yesterday because I, who’d been fighting breast cancer for one entire year at the time, thought “OMG–cancer can get Peter Jennings?”
Having been a news reporter, I felt Peter Jennings was like the Pope to my Catholic mass cantor. Or the Supreme Court Justice to my paralegal status. He was the big dog and I was the runt of runt of the runt of the litter. He was Peter Jennings, the world famous news journalist and anchor! And there I was, having only ever been a piddly bureau reporter from tiny Lewiston, Maine.
And when he died–just 4 short months after his public diagnosis–you can imagine what I felt.
But what I want to mention today is Peter Jenning’s cancer blog; notes he took while he was battling his battle (which I wanted to link here but I can’t find online anymore.) And why I’m mentioning that is because I remember a specific line he wrote when referring to chemotherapy: he said something like, “I try to walk across the room and then–I can’t. Chemo strikes.” He meant the exhaustion–the feeling like you’re not you, you’ve been squeezed from the inside out and you’ve got nothing to give, you gotta lie down…like all day long.
I’ve been thinking of the “chemo strikes” line all this week because chemo struck me this week but HARD.
I’ve had 10 rounds, one per week, of a drug called Taxol to help beat off the cancer in my lungs, liver and brain (and it’s been working!) and I’ve been lucky enough to not have the usual side effects. I’ve worked out, run errands, been out with friends, traveled with my family–in short, other than the no-hair thing I haven’t behaved, looked like or felt like a stage 4 breast cancer patient in the least.
So last week (and in truth–the two days prior to my departure for the one-hundred 2 weeks ago) when I started feeling like I’d been run over by a truck, I thought I was sick with the flu or something. Turns out it’s the side effects of chemotherapy finally catching up with me.
Here’s the thing: when I don’t feel sick, I don’t think that I’m sick. Like before I lost my hair people would look at me working out or doing my usual strong thing and think, “she can’t be sick!” and I’d think, “yeah, I can’t be sick!” Then my hair fell out and I looked sick, and people started treating me like I was sick. Which, excuse the term but it fits so well, sucked.
So here I am looking AND feeling sick…and it double sucks. I just hate this.
But I love the chemotherapy–I love that fact that after 10 rounds it’s beaten this beast down 2/3rds of the way–my tumor markers are almost 70 % less than what they were in April. Ya-freakin-HOO!
But the emotional markers–the ones that gage how I’m doing in my mind as I work to get this body healthy–those have taken a hit with the side-effect-situation.
I will get used to it, I will. For me it’s always about diving into the new stuff and finding a way to come to terms with whatever it is that’s happening that gets me through. Whatever the latest cancer crap is I can bear it after I take some time to chew it over, shed some tears, throw a few plates, take a breather–
then I get back in the game and push on. I did work out this week, by the way–and I will continue to; but my energy is half what is has been and my extra mojo is missing.
Feeling sick blows, whatever your problem. And when it comes to chemo, people like Peter Jennings, everyone at my infusion center and the hundreds of thousands of cancer patients across this country and around the world know just what I’m talking about. “Chemo strikes” and when it does, it knocks you down.
But then again, like they say in the sports world, three strikes and you’re out, buddy. Chemo may have me on the bench now but that will change. So take your best shots against me, chemotherapy side effects– because I warn you, I’m winning this game of life.
I’m winning it.