Chemo Week: It usually starts on a Monday and it lasts for five days. I have to visit the hospital for six hours per day. Today is the first day of chemo. I have been through this before and maybe that’s why I am tense. I have a vague memory of how it feels, but I don’t remember every detail. Besides, this is a new regimen. New drugs, new things to expect. I wake up in the morning having this feeling of anticipation, not the positive one though. My mom drives me to the hospital and after we take care of an essential bureaucratic process to prove that I’m actually sick and not getting the chemo for no apparent reason, I take the stairs to the first floor, where the outpatient clinic is located.
Chemo is kind of a ritual for me. During chemo week I don’t speak to anyone and don’t participate in anything my friends organize. I sit at the comfy chemo chairs and the nurse sets up the drugs. The drip starts to go through my IV and just like that I feel like a patient again. I haven’t felt like this for a long time, as it has been a year and a half since the last time I have had chemo. After a while, nausea starts to kick in and there’s a buzzing sound in my ears. I can’t stand the noise coming from the TV of the person sitting next to me and I don’t want to eat or drink anything. I take out my favorite blanket and wrap it around me, although the temperature in the room is over 20ο Celsius. I can’t concentrate on my book, so I switch on my laptop and try to watch a show. After what seemed like a couple of hours, the nurse comes by and says that the first day is over. I feel relieved. I walk out, get into my mom’s car and we drive home.
I just described a typical day of chemo. However, today is not one of those days. Tonight is game night, which means that my friends are coming over to play board games. Before they get here, I still have this patient – like feeling. It’s not typical for me to have friends over while doing chemo. I have kept my IV and my hand is tender. I walk in slow motion and lie down on the couch. My nausea is getting worse, which is a sign that I shouldn’t eat anything yet. The only thing that seems edible at this moment is strawberries. Strawberries are my new obsession, as I can eat only strawberries for days in a row. It doesn’t make any sense, but who said that nausea caused by chemo has ever made sense?
At 9 o’clock my friends walk in and something very strange happens. I don’t feel like a patient anymore. My movements become livelier and I forget about my nausea. I order pizza for them and as soon as my turn comes to play “Taboo”, my arm doesn’t feel tender anymore. We are being too loud, laughing and arguing about the game and time flies. I forget all about drugs, IVs and side effects, I feel like I am one of them now. It’s late and it’s time for them to leave.
The next morning I don’t wake up on my own. I am sleeping like a baby and I suddenly hear my mom’s voice saying that we are late. For a moment, I don’t remember what day it is and why we are late, but I soon realize that it’s day two of chemo. I am late for my treatment and as soon as I get there, I sit on the chair and the drugs start to drip. However, I don’t feel sick anymore. “Something is not right. I’m not supposed to feel well”, I think to myself. However, nothing was wrong. Last night my chemo – ritual was interrupted for the first time. The ritual that I thought was inevitable until today.
I don’t feel like a patient today. It’s not that side effects like nausea did not exist. Side effects have proven to be necessary results of the treatment. However, last night was a reminder that there is another way to dealing with chemo. These days should not be all about needles and anti nausea medications. Last night I realized that chemo days can be much more than that- they can be fun. Besides, the only thing that makes me different from my friends is that while they eat pizza, I am obsessed with strawberries. I sit back on the chair and smile. I feel well and that’s what matters, even though it might only be temporary.