I just heard a a chef speaking on “Somebody Feed Phil” about her experience with cancer. She said “I think its about the attitude and how you look at it” in response to our host, Phil, remarking that she has a great attitude about it.
I take exception to that.
It made me angry. Because I had (and have) a good attitude about cancer and chemo and being pregnant since my diagnosis, but I couldn’t see how poorly I was doing at the beginning of treatments. Especially on Adriamycin and Cytoxan. It was awful. The bad feelings and sickness come on so suddenly, I didn’t even realize how immediately, terribly sick I became. It happened quicker than transitioning from day to night, as quick as a flash, more subtle than blinking. What was strange is apart from feeling like a skeleton some days, I don’t remember feeling any pain or significant discomfort in my bones or muscles or joints. I never noticed the moment I became sick. I just recall thinking that the infusion wasn’t as bad as I expected. And then I was lucky to never get nauseous or throw up.
Its literally not until two and a half months later, 84 days, after starting chemo that I’m realizing how much better I am on the Taxol drug.
But it ain’t great.
I am livid that she got to have an easy time with cancer treatment to say that a good attitude makes her appear and behave so well after a year of treatments.
If I were interviewed for my thoughts on battling cancer, I would say now that cancer isn’t fair. Chemotherapy is even less fair and more cruel. Every person experiences chemo differently. There are people who cannot- they just cannot- tolerate the side effects or the desired effects of chemo. No amount of positive attitude will remove the agony. There are others who tolerate chemo well. I do tolerate it well, I have a positive attitude, but the side effects will set me back and put me in bed from time to time.
I guess I was interviewed. What did I say? I said get yourself tested or examined even if you’re scared. I said my family has been supporting me and have made it possible for me to get treatment and keep my head above water. At the time I had that interview, I was in the thick of Adriamycin and Cytoxan and I had no idea how fiercely I was clinging to a mirage of normalcy. Hindsight is 20/20. (In my case, I think I’m still seeing 40/20 at best.)
During the rest of the TV show interview discussing the chef’s cancer she explained that she has had 12 treatments in the past year, and has 4 more to go. Lucky duck can space out her treatments once a month to recover before going back in. I’m just getting the shit kicked out of me each week.
I wonder what my course of treatment would have looked like if I wasn’t pregnant and didn’t have to accelerate and compress the chemo into five months. I wonder if I would feel less angry at this woman’s perfectly reasonable interview-brief of her cancer treatment.
I guess I’m mad because to say that its all about a good attitude is cliché. There are a lot of things out of your control that you are allowed to feel badly about from time to time. Or all the time. This evening, for example. The 70 degree sun in October felt so good, but I used up all my energy and everyone in our house was overtired by 6:30 PM. George gave me a good whack on the head from behind using a plastic toy hammer. We both cried because I was surprised and in pain. Baby powder got shaken onto the floor and gave me a coughing fit. A glass of water was spilled on the rug while I was immobile on the couch, reserving my last energy to stand for bed. I have a good attitude. I remained relatively calm and no one raised their voices, we communicated well, we got to bedtime at a good hour, and all this was difficult because I am sick with the side effects of chemo.
Sure, a bad attitude would make it worse, but a good attitude alone does not make this less awful. A good attitude is the least you can do to make it easier on your support network. Having a good attitude ensures good people are willing to keep helping you. The people in your life are what makes cancer and chemo bearable; saying that its your own good attitude cheapens the effort that people put in to getting you through this. Give a little credit where credit is due.
My village is the greatest of all time. My husband; my son; my unborn daughter; my mom and dad; Nick’s mom and dad; my brothers, and my brothers-and-sisters-in-law; my friends; my residents; my coworkers; my nurses; my doctors; my counselors; you, my readers. I would not be here without all of you. You all encourage me to have a good attitude, and you’re willing to help me fight, and I can fight because you support me in everything I do.
Do you see how its not just about my attitude? Its about love and respect and empathy and positive relationships helping one another.
I’m grateful to you.
This was a weepy one. But not a sad one. I’m exhausted and empowered. I hope you feel my love and if you feel my ferocity, don’t let it unsettle you for long. I’m going to sleep momentarily, and I suggest you do some self-care in the near future.
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