Thank you Wendy for being my chemo buddy again today and being my lunch date! Even despite the chaos you caused in the chemo suite 😉
Today I met a brave soldier (although she doesn’t know that about herself just yet) soldier about to embark on her chemo journey. She was being prepped by one of the Sisters while connected to a drip, fluids to help reduce her calcium levels. They were talking about the chemo drugs, side effects, chemo normals, the options of ports vs veins…. and I thought, WOW that was me 13 treatments earlier!
Now I feel like the matric pupil (for those under 30, a grade 12!), I know the drill, I know the school, the prefects, the teachers, the routine and rules are familiar and I fit in… Looking at this newby standard 6 (grade 8 for those under 30!), unsure, scared and like my friend, Adele, about to head for the hills the first chance she gets….. wanting to be any place but here… I know the signs. I was there…
I listened vaguely to their conversation, the anxiety and fear, the look of disbelief as the realities are mapped out, the feeling of being rooted to the spot watching the bus hurtling towards you and not being able to do very much about it… listening intently in case you miss the part that may save your life….after all this is a lesson in chemo survival 101.
It just amazed me once again, how those Sisters become your life line: is this normal, does this look like an infection, “im sorry to bother you, but….”. Confidants and counsellors, with the power to crush your spirits when those blood results are too low and you get THAT call; then are elevated to the status of an Angel a day or two later with the words ” we have good news for you, your bloods are good” which means yay let’s go and pump you full of chemicals now, as you dance for joy! I am astounded at their patience, their professionalism and compassion especially as these are the same conversations they have all day, every day…
The standard six (I like being the Matric 🙂 it feels like it’s been earned, a right of passage I guess!) and I started chatting, she’s a year older and has breast cancer with spots on her liver. She told me about her two girls, her youngest is 5, the reality of her diagnosis and the terror of what that may mean for her family.
She will be having a port fitted on Tuesday, and I was very supportive of her decision (YES Me, the Vein girl!), I could see how she battled when they put in her drip…She will be coming for weekly chemos and hoping that the tumours respond to the treatment and start to shrink…..
We spoke about her fear of losing her hair while she was admiring my headscarf (thanks Adele!). She had questions about whether she should cut her hair shorter now, just how does the hair start falling out, how did I feel about it when it happened etc. Another reminder that underneath the cancer patient facade we are really all just girls; our hair is our identity, our protective wear. And how are we supposed to put up the biggest fight of our lives without the correct armour?
The Sister thanked me for chatting to her, she had not been in a good place when she arrived this morning with her first chemo looming next week, feeling very overwhelmed and fearful. And for me the reality hit: I had some Matric buddies when I first started down this road and if I wanted the Matric-like status, “the kid that’s been around the block and knows things”, the role comes with some responsibilities…. A kind smile showing respect for the start of her difficult journey, a brief tour of some unfamiliar ground, some emotional hand holding while the apron strings of previous lives are severed, reassurance that she is in the best hands possible and a “voice” on the other side of a phone call or sms as she finds her feet.
This almost matriculant has 2 to go!
“A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people – people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.” E.B. White
“Instruction does much, but encouragement everything.” Wolfgang von Goethe
“Never put off writing until you are better at it.” Gary Henderson
“There are so many stupid things that steal that purpose from us. The stupid things that you believe a lie that we ‘re not as important as we really are. That our life isn’t as important as it really is. It’s important to the people that you love, it’s important to the people that you will love in the future, it’s important to the world around you and it’s so important that you fulfill the purpose that only you can fulfill the way that you can fulfill that.” Lacey Mosley
“Encouragement from any source is like a drop of rain upon a parched desert. Thanks to all the many others who rained on me when I needed it, and even when I foolishly thought I didn’t”. Claire Gillian
“Their words of encouragement were just what I needed. I was doing a great job, and I appreciated their cheers.I felt a dormlike camaraderie in the burn unit, since each of us knew the challenges we were facing like no one else could, and therefore how meaningful each triumph was.” Stephanie Nielson