I had a hard time when I went through chemo. I may have mentioned it once or twice. Chemo sucks – hugely. I’m beyond amazed when I talk to someone who didn’t struggle with their chemo. And by “beyond amazed” I mean I’m usually furious. In a real hey-good-for-you sort of way. Sometimes I talk to people who say things like, “Yeah chemo? It wasn’t bad at all.” Or “I went horseback riding on my days off.” Or “Well, I would just take a long lunch to take my chemo and then head back to work.” And I just want to go, “Oh come ON! You can’t be serious!” I mean how can something that completely wiped me out be like nothing at all to another person? It would be like watching someone get their fingernails pulled out giggle and then say, “Do it again do it again!” How is it possible that people can just shrug off chemo? Am I just a wimp? Did I accidentally get a double shot of chemo? I accidentally ordered a double shot of whiskey one time and I can tell you it DOES make a difference. Maybe that was the problem. Was I just extra sensitive? I know my nurses said that my chemo cocktail was exceptionally rough but is that really true or were they just saying it to make me feel better?
Sometimes I wonder if these chemo-superstars are pulling my leg. Perhaps it’s the same phenomenon that I see in new mothers when they are all like, this baby thing is the best thing ever! I’ve many times wondered if they were faking it. Especially when they say, it’s the best thing that’s ever happened to them while mopping baby poo off their forehead and trying to find a spitsy rag to wipe the puke off my new cashmere sweater. And it gets worse when every mom in the room nods and goes, “Oh yes! The best thing! The very very best thing!” It has always been in those moments when I want to go, Okay ladies, gig is up. Because seriously? I mean I know kids are awesome, you don’t have to convince me, but in that moment I mean really? Aren’t you exhausted? And really? Aren’t you a little olfactorily damaged and really? Don’t you need a drink?
But I don’t say a word because I know they wouldn’t admit it. Because wouldn’t they look silly being the only mom to say, “Holy crap I wish I could send this screaming ball of flesh back where it came from.”
So what else is there to say? Of COURSE you’re going to say it’s the best thing that’s every happened to you. Of course you are. And I could never really call a mom out because who knows? Maybe it IS the best thing. Maybe your body chemically changes when you engineer a child and things like poop on your forehead are actually appealing. Maybe your memory is altered and you can’t remember all the other things that rank higher in life than changing a diaper. Like lima beans. And dental cleanings. Since I’ve never given birth, I can’t with conviction call bullshit.
So I keep my mouth shut when someone says how great it is to have a new baby and I just soak up all the good things about a friend having a new baby – like the new baby smell and the fact that I can squeeze their fat new baby feet and say things like “ah ga ga ga ga!” And then give them back. But it is much harder with chemo. Much harder to believe someone else thinks it is okay. Much. Because I’ve been through chemo. And it sucks. So when someone else says it wasn’t so bad … I don’t know.
I just have a hard time with that.
There were times, going through treatment, when I thought it wasn’t worth it. Many times in fact. I know how that sounds. I know it seems unbelievable. But it is true. I shared a lot here. A lot about chemo and the difficulties. I didn’t share it all. And if you’ve read every chemo post that should scare you. It scares me. Still. Maybe the best evidence of how awful it was is how I feel about every having to go through treatment again. Maybe the best evidence is how terrified The Hub is to ever have to face treatment himself. Maybe the best is the memory of the moment when I was laying curled up and crying in bed last year when that darling husband of mine whispered, “Hold on … Thursday is coming … Thursdays are good days.” and I said, “I don’t think I can. It’s too far away.”
And it was Wednesday.
My father once told me that after his first surgery – the one that removed his spleen – he woke up and thought, “Well, that’s it. I’ll never bend over again.” And my mother told me after her first episiotomy she thought she’d never run again and I know what they meant. In those moments, those times of feeling the awful you just can’t see the light. You just can’t.
No matter what someone else says.
So you hold on. You look for little things that will keep you going. You can’t believe life will ever be normal or good again so you just hope it won’t suck. It’s too much to believe you’ll ever really feel good. That you’ll laugh with abandon, that you’ll run up and down stairs, that you’ll make dinner for company, that you’ll clean the tub just because you like the way it looks when it is shiny. So you simply hold on. What choice do you have?
Then one day you wake up and it’s done. You got through it. I got through it. Unexplainable.
People still ask me what they can say to loved ones or to themselves to keep them going when their chemo experience is similar to mine. They email me and ask me for advice. They wonder if I can remember anything that helped. Truth is, I can’t. I wish I knew the magic combination of words or prayers that would inspire or give someone the something they need to look forward to. How can I tell others what it is? I couldn’t even tell myself.
But … last week The Kid got her grades. She was really proud of them. I don’t need to tell you how much joy this kid already brings to me. But last night, when I was downloading the pictures from her and her father’s weekend in New Jersey I came across this video. And as I sat and watched, all I could think of was, if I could just go back in time and show this clip to “Chemo Jenne” I know it would be THE thing. The thing that I would look at and say….it will all be worth it.
With that, I give you Nena Fromm with the Report Card Song. Written, produced, directed, art directed and starring The Kid. Lead guitar by The Hub.