Even with the great news that the chemo is working, going through it, still sucks. Its hard to quantify pain, so I don’t know if it was worse the first or the second time, or whether the fear of the unknown heightened the first experience, and the apprehension of guaranteed anguish heightened the second. The thing I do know is that all the love and support I received far outweighed the negative. As the chemo got tough, the love from my friends, acquaintances and even strangers have over and over again made me feel lucky.
During the first round of chemotherapy I kept trying to push myself to walk, to go to yoga, to shop, to cook and to make the heinous drive over to the west side. It ended up with me feeling like I had been slammed against a brick wall.
During my second round of chemo my roommates were out of town and Lauren had to work more so I knew I needed to do things differently. I stocked up on food, didn’t make appointments all over the place and one of my friends gave me an idea of creating a schedule. I winced when I thought of a schedule. I didn’t want to seem like I needed help, I didn’t want to ask for help and I didn’t want anyone to have to go out of their way just to help me.
Then I considered the alternative. If I didn’t make a schedule and I did have a desperate need for a ride or something from the pharmacy I would have to call someone last minute. Most of my friends are really busy and I know they would feel awful if I called and they were at work. Then I would feel bad, they would feel bad, then I would have to call someone else and have the same thing happen. I started to wince less at the schedule.
I took a deep breath, pushed my phantom hair behind my ears and made a list of some of the people who had specifically offered to help me with anything I needed. I decided to girl up and do the right thing. I set an email to find out my friends availability for either a daytime or an evening visit so I could draw up a two week schedule. I made sure everyone knew it was fine to cancel and not to feel weird about leaving me in the lurch since I wouldn’t be because there were other visitors who would be coming within a day.
Even as I started to get lovely responses from people delighted to come over, I struggled with feelings of guilt and worthiness. I was scared in case I was making a mountain out of a molehill. I convinced myself that lots of other people go chemotherapy and have children to look after or have to work. My brain seemed to forget all the other stories I heard of extreme fatigue or where someone was unable to look after their children and their mother came to stay. All I could focus on was there being something wrong with me and I was undeserving of all the incredible attention being offered.
As I wrote down my schedule on a little notepad beside my computer I remembered the pain after the Neupegon shots, the times I couldn’t drive and the days it took 3 hours to make myself breakfast. I knew it would be irresponsible to get sicker because I didn’t let anyone help.
I am such an outgoing, open person normally but when I am sick or depressed I usually want to keep that to myself. It is hard to see people when I feel vulnerable, and having no hair, little energy and depressing reactions to the chemo made me especially so. I allayed my fears of being a bother to people by only requesting a one-time visit, making sure they knew it didn’t have to be more than a couple of hours or a stop-by, knowing everyone knew they could cancel.
The response I received was amazing, over 20 people came by during those two weeks. Many expressed their thanks for allowing them to help. I didn’t expect that reaction but when I thought about it, I knew there have been other instances with my friends when I wanted to help when they were going through something but had no idea what tangibly to do. The schedule gave a framework that seemed to work for both sides.
There were moments I felt overwhelmed with how I am going to thank everyone for their kindnesses. I felt undeserving of all the attention. The thought that got me through was that that all this loveliness shown by my friends has taught me how to be there for other people. I now can’t wait to feel better and be in a position to pass it on.
I could write forever about all the wonderful people that came by with their entertaining personalities, body work treatments, homemade scrapbooks, patience and pot lemonade.
I run out of words when I think about how to say how touched I am by all the kindnesses bestowed on me both by the people close by and all those further away who have sent facebook messages, cards, presents and called me. I can say it really makes a difference, even on the worst days. Thank you.