How To Get Through It: A brief guide for chemo patients
Be brave. By which I mean feel terrified and resolve to move forward anyway.Cancel your to do list.Call in every favor, but not all at once.Expect that it will be worse than you think. Know you will get through it anyway.Get used to the discomfort of other people doing things you feel like you should be able to do yourself, but actually can’t do yourself right now.Give yourself permission to be righteously furious. And then give yourself permission to speak that fury out loud (but don’t aim it at your immediate family).Let yourself off all the hooks.Get acupuncture. Often.Get used to crying.Conserve your energy for the things that matter most. Don’t let anyone else make that list for you.Resign yourself to the many pharmaceutical medications all lined up in their little orange bottles.Use marijuana medically and also when you just need a break from feeling everything.Say thank you often to your significant other, or parent, or child, or whoever is carrying the brunt of your care.Be really specific about helps you and what doesn’t.Remember that every cycle is going to be a little different.Get on YouTube and learn to wear a scarf from fabulously stylish women who have not actually lost their hair but wear scarves beautifully anyway.Toss out all the toxic beauty products in your bathroom (which will be most of them), and while you’re at it toss the razor because you won’t need it for a while.Buy a really good eyebrow pencil.Give yourself permission to hate your doctors a little or a lot, but maybe not to their faces.Remember to call the treatment “medicine” when talking to your doctors, even if you call it “torture” or “poison” when you talk to anyone else.Buy your own examination gown.Ignore all advice that has no meaning for you.Eat what tastes good, plus a lot of kale.Take a lot of naps.Learn to knit - handwork is supposed to be a good antidote for chemo brain.Use all the reminders in your calendar, because you will forget things.Ignore the platitudes, even if they are well meant, that make you want to punch someone. Like “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” and “Everything in life happens for a purpose.” Fuck that.Feel free to curse.Escapism is awesome. Read all the books, watch all the movies, and dive right into all the social media. Unless it makes you feel bad, and then delete that shit right off your phone.Find people who ask you how you are and really want to know, and then keep those people close to you.On days you feel normal, don’t question it, just act like everything is normal while that feeling lasts.Celebrate the small wins and also the end of each step of treatment.Don’t research unusual symptoms and side effects or alternative treatments on the internet. Just don’t.Give yourself a lot of credit. Chemo is fucking hard and anyone who hasn’t been through it doesn’t really understand how hard it is.Let go of how life used to be and don’t worry too much yet about how it will be, after.Remember there will be an after. This will not last forever.But also don’t let this treatment be your whole life. Keep dreaming. Hold babies. Witness the powerful thrust of life that is fruiting trees bursting into bloom in the spring. Sit down and quietly watch the sun rise or set. Listen to moving water. Smell flowers and fresh air. Eat your food slowly so you really taste it, and savor good conversations.Hold on tight to life. So tight.