There’s a lot of misinformation about the treatment of cancer, what to expect, and the aftermath. Much of it is from movies, television, and those “feel good” charity commercials. They all want you to believe we’re in this fight together and that a support system will magically appear around you when the shit hits the fan. I wish that had been the case.
Let’s be honest, there’s no Dr. Wilson from House M.D. coming to shower you with infinite compassion and a crack team of doctors. What you get is a brutally efficient system of treatment that, in my case, happened so quickly I didn’t even have time to understand what I was undergoing. Diagnosed on a Monday, surgery the next week, and my 1st chemo the very next day. You may remember how well that turned out, with a severe reaction to Rituxan and a single nurse keeping her cool while half a dozen others stared at me as I convulsed. Good times.
Some people were nice, but many were either ignorant of the process or indifferent to it, sometimes cruelly so. I still vividly remember the nurse who tugged on my power port like it was bolted to my chest with rivets instead of just skin. The way she jammed a syringe of morphine so quickly into my port, in spite of my protests, that I almost threw up on her shoes. No blissful euphoria there only a terrible twisting of my stomach and dizzying bout of nausea. Pumped full of painkillers I still couldn’t sleep as she stomped in and out of my room on her hourly checks, ignoring the fact that me and my wife (cramped in a chair next to me) were trying to get some meager semblance of sleep. These were just a few lovely moments from the ordeal of my treatment.
Another fallacy I encountered was the idea that there’d be an instant outpouring of support from my friends and family. My tale played out a little differently. There was me, rocketed through surgeries and treatments at a breakneck speed. Then there was my loving wife who watched as her husband deteriorated before her eyes, on several occasions not knowing if I’d survive the night. And finally there was… no one else. No family, no friends, nothing. I received less than a handful of concerned calls while my wife received zero. The closest I came to a visit was when I hallucinated a friend coming to see me when I was in the neutropenic ward. A 106 degree fever will do that to you.
I really don’t know why things turned out that way. Some people told me, after I had already recovered, that they were afraid and didn’t know what to say. “Hello” would have been nice. Others got defensive when I called them out on it saying I should have asked them to visit. Really? My slow agonizing death wasn’t enough of a clue that you should see me because, quite frankly, I might not be alive tomorrow?
After the turmoil, pain, financial drain, and slow crawl back to normal, all I’m left with is an overriding numbness. I wasn’t imbued with a new lease on life or a spark in my heart. That’s for Hollywood endings. I’m beaten, war-torn, and exhausted. The little energy I have remaining is focused on climbing out of the abyss that cancer opened up beneath me. My body is still rebelling against its brush with death. My power port still sits in my chest as a constant reminder that I’m not done yet. The broken pieces of my life are not just shattered, but incinerated. I sit here amongst the smoldering remains with a tone ceaselessly playing in my ears, similar to the aftermath of an explosion, wondering what the FUCK happened.