Thursday, February 3, 2011
A State of Chrysalis - Remembering Chemo
I took these pictures of myself while I was undergoing chemotherapy. I've been thinking about it a lot lately, as I was going through a bad bout of pain this last weekend and trying to comfort myself by saying,"it could be worse; at least this is not as bad as chemo!"
I wish I could take a picture that fully expresses the spectrum of the chemo experience. I felt like I was drowning, while simultaneously being bitten all over by red ants. The metallic chemical taste of it in my mouth when they started pushing it up my vein, the smells and fevers and vomiting come to mind as if it was yesterday. At the hospital restrooms, a sign tells chemo patients to flush the toilet twice after they pee. Urine comes out red after an infusion, and even the urine is dangerous if it splashed on you.
The whole experience leaves a big psychological scar. I liked to think of it as a state of chrysalis, out of which I would emerge renewed. Like a butterfly I guess. But then again, that makes me think of the Maidenek butterflies, where children drew countless butterflies on the walls of the gas chambers of the death camp before dying.
It's so strange that in order to treat cancer, we take a highly toxic poison that destroys ALL quickly-replicating cells and makes us dangerously ill. Reminds me of the dark ages. Maybe cancer patients should be bled at the same time, for good measure.
Chemo was an invisible prison, a strange embryonic state where my own body became alien, hair falling out, fingernails coming off. It transforms us into alien creatures.
I don't want to visit that planet ever again.
I'm re-posting this video I took early on when I was just beginning chemo. (Youtube deleted my old account for some reason) I was very scared and alone during the procedure, so I carried a camera like a security blanket. I find that if I make myself a third person by filming things happening to me, it helps me step out of my body and distance myself from the situation.
Sadly, I am supposed to be in chemo right now. Multiple doctors have been urging it since my last surgery, based on my medical situation. But I have declined it this time. Not just because because of the pain and illness. I have had permanent damage in several ways since the last round, and I am looking for alternatives. I would rather opt for a good quality shorter life than a little bit longer life in a chemo stupor if it came down to it.
The following books have been very helpful in making decisions about chemo - just click on the book cover to view details. (I actually had a personal consultation with the doctor who wrote Breast Cancer Survival Manual, Fourth Edition: A Step-by-Step Guide for the Woman With Newly Diagnosed Breast Cancer, as he was my Oncologist. He definitely supports going the chemo route, especially in my case.)
I also have a cancer blog for those interested at: http://www.modernamazon.blogspot.com