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The Enemy Within

Cancer is the enemy within. It’s the enemy that cannot be defeated alone. It takes an army, a team to take it on. You tell yourself that you can do it alone, that it’s you that has to deal with it, no one else. You’re the one that is battling it, you’re the one that it’s decided to ravage, to attack. You’re the one that will that will be going through the long months of hardship, of sleepless nights and restless days. You’re the one that’s life has been turned upside down, that’s been destroyed. You’re told that things won’t change, but you know that they’ll never be the same again. There’s no way that it can’t change, because you have cancer.

You have to be careful of just walking out the door. You have to be careful of your skin peeling off, because if it does, it won’t grow back. You have to be careful of getting sick, because your immune system is shot. It’s not working the way that it should be, with the drugs of chemo therapy making their way through your system, the drugs that are supposed to heal you, that are supposed to help you fight it, but they’re also lowering your immune system. And there’s always that fear that this might be the week that you have to get a shot, a painful shot to raise your immune system, to make sure that you don’t get sick.

But you can’t do it alone. And nor should you. Because if you did have  to go through with all of the sessions of chemo therapy, all of the blood work, scans and tests alone, then there’s no way that you’ll come out of the experience sane. There’s no way that you can beat the cancer. You have to have people there for you. You have to have someone to lean on, because they’re going through the cancer just as much as you, even if they don’t have it. You have to let your family, your friends, and your doctors be there for you. Each and everyone one of them are as dedicated to beating this disease as you are.

I have to say, if it wasn’t for my family, my friends, and my doctors and nurses I would have gone crazy within the first month of my treatments. I never would have been able to make it through six months of treatments. I never would have been able to continue to smile and laugh, to enjoy what had become my life. My life had changed, every time I left the house I needed to cover up, to wear sun block. And in the middle of summer, when temperatures would reach ninety degrees or more, being forced to wear long sleeves and jeans every day wasn’t fun, wasn’t comfortable. I couldn’t even stay outside for more than thirty minutes at a time without worrying at what could happen, without worrying about getting burned.

I couldn’t enjoy the summer. I couldn’t enjoy going to the pool and relaxing in the sun, or going to the beach. I couldn’t go out to watch a baseball game, or even really go to school for fear of catching something that someone had. Not to mention that after every session of chemo I would sleep for three straight days, only staying awake long enough to eat at times. In the beginning I would be perfectly fine for a day or two after a treatment and then I would sleep. But the further into my treatments I got the sooner I would get tired, and the longer it would last.

When you think of someone going through chemo, you picture a person that has lost their hair, and is plagued with sickness. It was something that chilled me at the beginning. It made me want to live with the cancer, not even go through with the treatments. But I knew that I needed to, knew that I couldn’t not go through with it. And you know what; I proved everything that I had ever heard about chemo wrong, at least with me. Instead of feeling sick I felt hungry, extremely so after a treatment. So much so that I could hardly wait to get home to eat, and couldn’t even wait for something to be made. I would have to stop somewhere on the way home to get something.

However that didn’t last long, with only four sessions left that had changed. While I would still feel hungry, the day after a treatment I would feel so bad that I would hardly eat. Nothing would taste good, and I constantly felt as if I would get sick. I would take two bites of a sandwich and not be able to eat anymore, soup was slightly better, but still not within my ability to eat. I soon learned that fish and mashed potatoes, as well as ice cream were the only things that’s would taste good. They were the only thing’s I could eat on Thursdays, the only thing that I could keep down. So, after learning this, I would constantly go to Outback, and I would order a grilled salmon, vegetables and side of mashed potatoes. And later that night would visit an ice cream or yogurt stand.

It’s now a month after my last treatment of chemo, a month after getting the good news that I was cancer free, and I can’t help but look back on my experience. It’s almost impossible not to think about the days where I would spend hours sitting in a chair, having drugs pumped into me. It’s almost impossible not to think about the days that I couldn’t enjoy being outside until the sun had gone down, especially now that I can walk in the sun. It’s completely impossible to not look at my life differently now. To be able to consider that before this had started I had taken everything in my life for granted. It’s crazy to think that just riding a bus can be enjoyable, that walking into a packed store can be therapeutic when before it was almost frightening. It’s even crazier to think that you will miss the doctors and nurses that worked with you. You soon come to think of them as extended members of your own family, and once you’re done with your treatments, and don’t see them every week it’s like you’ve moved away.

But you know that they will always be there for you. Because they are your backup, they are that shoulder to lean on when things get hard. They’re your team, they’re your family. They’re the people that will always be there for you. And that’s the way that it should be. Because if you did this alone, even after you were done, then you couldn’t make it through the experience. And that’s how you beat chemo. By working with others, by having others be there for you.

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