I did have a really neat thing happen yesterday in the waiting room at the clinic. I had my labs and was waiting to see the doctor to be ok'd for chemo. While waiting, another chemo patient came in for her shot. She was an older woman, having a good 20-30 years on me. I didn't catch her name but she came in and sat down in the chair next to me. She took one look at me and pulled her hat off. She had almost as much hair as I do. She said that if I could be comfortable putting it out there so could she! We then discussed our feelings about losing our hair. When it was time for her shot, the nurse exclaimed that she didn't recognize her without her hat. She told the nurse to get used to it as she now plans to remove her hat whenever she comes in. It made me feel really good to have inspired her to be comfortable with her new, albeit temporary, hairdo.
In the case of cancer, patients change drastically during the different phases of diagnosis, treatment and post treatment. Cancer itself often causes little if any pain, especially in the early stages. But treatment can make people dog sick and bone tired; chemotherapy makes some people feel like they have eaten some bad sushi or been KO'd the H1N1 virus. After completing treatment, many patients report feeling heady with freedom and gratitude one day but unable to climb out from between the safety of their sheets the next. Without a doubt, the hardest part of having cancer for me is going through the treatments.
Having cancer is hard enough by itself partly because it's always on your mind. Every time I watch TV or read a magazine or newspaper, there it is -- someone was diagnosed with cancer on a TV show, or there is a new study linking cancer risks with yet another common food or activity, or even worse, the news reports that some famous person has died from cancer. It is EVERYWHERE! Maybe I just didn't pay attention to it before I was diagnosed, but it has gotten to the point that I would actually be surprised to make it through an hour without being reminded of my cancer.