Chapter One - Who's in Charge Here?...You Are!
I don’t think I gave myself cancer, but I didn’t do enough to prevent it, either. For example, there’s no way to prove it, but I’m convinced there’s a correlation between drinking too much over a period of time, and the metastases that showed up as a spot on my liver. But that’s water under the bridge, along with the fact that for at least a year before I was diagnosed, I walked around with a big tumor in my breast, hiding behind the cysts I had been told were no big deal. Yes, I was angry, but I had no time to waste on old business. Anger was an ally, my mental chemo, and I focused all of it on the cancer in my body, channeling it into killing cancer cells. Did it work? I’m here, and I have no discernable cancer. Best of all, my post-cancer life is way happier than before. I would never call getting cancer a gift, but in a lot of ways it turned into a good experience.
The stories of the people in “I’m Hot!…and I’m Bald”!: Chemotherapy for Winners, who thrive despite their physical problems, are all different, yet all of them have either had a course of chemotherapy, or will remain on chemo for the rest of their lives, as transplant recipients on anti-rejection medication must do. These men and women were “hot and bald” when they lost their hair, and they stayed that way, attitude-wise, after it grew back. Some of them were sicker than others, but they all focused on getting through their treatment with the least amount of interference in their lives. And they turned the experience into something positive.
These chemo patients’ stories prove you can rule your disease, and that’s what this book is about. You may lose your hair, you may even lose a little of your mind for awhile if you get “chemo brain”. You may, like a friend of mine at this very moment, require a port into your stomach because you can’t eat; or maybe you can eat, like another friend, but you can’t keep the food down and everything tastes like metal, anyway.
The side effects of chemo can be wicked. But you can condition yourself mentally to make the ordeal a lot easier. You know that somewhere there’s a calendar with a date circled, and on that date you’ll turn a corner. In many cases, your treatment will be over. From then on, at least until the next time, you’ll go on with your life. And if you handle your fear, you’ll look back on your disease, whatever it is, as the gift you never asked for, but made your life more precious than before.
All of us want to know certain things doctors can’t tell us:
Getting comprehensive information on chemotherapy isn’t easy. There are medical sources that are written in laymen’s words, but they’re hard to track down. This book will provide a wide range of accessible information resources, both on the net and elsewhere. You’ll find a Q & A chapter to provide answers to questions relating to chemotherapy that doctors seldom have time to answer during patient visits, and a glossary of definitions, and an index. There will be a section of great importance to us on treatments in the pipeline. But most important are the stories of people who have been where you are now. Just the fact that they made it helps us see that we’ll make it, too. And how they made it, how they handled the process, can make a real difference in our lives.
If you’re going through chemo, it’s too late to talk about prevention. The important thing is keeping as much control of your life as possible. The war going on between your disease and your treatment may be playing dirty tricks on your body, but you still control your mind. I say, kick that disease to the curb! Confront fear with the same determination as you’re attacking your disease, and try to find your own weird, interesting adventure. You may be surprised by how many really good things come out of it.