Last Thursday we were off to the hospital for another chemotherapy session. This was the third of six which means that I am at the halfway point - 50% done which is a milestone of sorts. Like the other "cures" (treatments) the procedure itself was not too bad. Around three hours at the hospital spent reading and chatting with my fellow patients. These days when I walk into the waiting room, I see many familiar faces....
The 48 hours following the treatment are another matter. Ghastly is how I would describe it and I am well aware from talking to other patients that I am in the middle range when it come to side effects. Others have had a much worse reaction so I can count myself among the lucky - someone who played the lottery and is happy to have won 10 Euros but is still well aware that it was not the 10 million Euro jackpot. It is what it is and it's important to recognize that there's been a lot of progress. One of my nurses gave me a short description of what chemo was like before all the anti-nausea medication and it sounded like sheer hell. Still, as a family member said to me recently in an email, "I wonder sometimes if people in the far future will look back at us and shudder at our standard of treatment for cancer. Like the way we view bloodletting or surgery with no anesthetic."
Round three caused me to rethink some of my earlier critical remarks about the standard use of tranquilizers in the Chemo Cocktail. After one or two treatments the body and mind start to anticipate what is to come and that generates a lot of stress and anxiety. Morale matters in this battle and not everyone is "bien entouré" with friends and family to offer support and comfort. Prior to being diagnosed I had heard stories of people who refused chemotherapy, or who tried to stop the treatments once they started. I understand much better now why someone would make that choice. And I see all to clearly why someone going through this with less support, more fear and, not every 21 days as I do, but every week, might welcome something to blunt the sharper edges of that experience.
As I slowly surface, rising more often from my bed and reacquainting myself with my garden, the "bilan" (accounting) looks like this: not one whit wiser but experiencing from time to time an expansion of empathy and the stirring of a softer more forgiving heart.