The side effects of chemotherapy are almost as much fun as cancer itself, as I'm sure every cancer survivor could tell you. It isn't bad enough that you have to endure losing all your hair, including eyebrows and lashes, you also get to feel so tired you could swear you just fought the civil war singlehandedly.
But that isn't all. Oh no. There are many more creative and insidious ways to suffer. It's as if the devil himself devised these unique and special "benefits" of the whole treatment process. For instance:
1. Chemo has caused my fingernails to soften and roughen until the surface of them has more ridges than a country road in chatter bump season.
2. Thanks to the steroids I have to take before, during and after each treatment, I have gained about five pounds with each chemo infusion. That should round out to at least 20 pounds total before this whole party is over. They say the weight gain is unavoidable, and I can attest to that. However, they also say the pounds should shed easily when the chemo is done. (Why do I not quite believe that one?)
3. The wound from removal of an abscess caused by chemo is still not completely healed, despite repeated sits baths and one tube of ointment that cost more than $150. (What's in this stuff, liquid gold?). Believe me, having that abscess lanced was a real joy. The only thing that could possibly have been worse was not lancing it, because the thing was more painful than a kiss on the cheek from Dracula himself.
4. Probably the worst side effect of all is the one I must inflict on myself day by day, staying home and never going anyplace where people congregate - no shopping, no eating out, no going to church or out with friends - so as to avoid exposure to all the bacteria and viruses that could attack my weakened immune system. This self-imposed isolation is only bearable because the consequences of an infection are infinitely worse.
I recently spent five days in the hospital because my fever spiked suddenly, and doctors feared I had contracted an infection. Over those five days they drew out what seemed like a gallon of blood and replaced it with at least a gallon of antibiotics - just in case. They cultured my blood and did every test known to medical science, all to no avail. The fever dissipated as fast as it arose and the only other sign of illness was a slight ear infection. However, the antibiotic they sent me home with did bless me with a yeast infection, just to keep me humble.
I have now been a cancer patient for more than six months, and there are likely at least three more months of it, including another surgery to complete the breast reconstruction. Still, I am blessed to have a positive prognosis, and I'm even more blessed to have so many wonderful, caring friends and relatives who continue to hold me up in prayer and send me all sorts of encouragement. Just this week I received the sweetest card from a former co-worker, Kim Heintz.
God has been with me all the way. Recently, I found myself praying, "Lord, I know you have important lessons for me from all of this. Don't let me miss a single one; help me to fully assimilate them all. And, Lord, especially, please don't let me get so wrapped up in self-pity that I fail to see your hand at work."
I can't think of anything worse than going through all of this and not learning anything.