August 16, 2023

note to self

Chemotherapy is like fighting against yourself. Both physically and mentally. At least, that’s what it felt like to me. Hi, I’m Lauren. I was a 20-year-old college student from New York, and I had Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.

After being diagnosed with cancer, my oncologist told me that I had to complete six cycles of ABVD over six months. This meant I had 12 rounds of chemo every other week from January to June of 2023.

It’s ok to not be ok

There’s nothing that can truly prepare you emotionally for your first day of chemo, no matter how many people you talk to, articles you read, or even this blog (though I so badly wish it could). What I can do is share my experience so that you know you are not alone and that everything and anything you feel is normal.

I had chemo every other Tuesday at 11 am for three hours each visit. Walking into the infusion center for the first time was surreal and obviously not in a good way. I wanted to say, “Nope, not me. You’ve got the wrong person.” and walk right out of there but of course that wasn’t possible, so instead, I kept walking to my chair. After being introduced to my infusion nurse Jackie and learning about each type of chemo I was receiving, she accessed my port. When she left, and I was sitting there hooked up to the infusion machine, there was nothing I wanted to do more than just scream and cry. I was so so angry, and all I wanted to do was leave. I pretty much felt the same way every time I was back in that chair.

“There was nothing I wanted to do more than just scream and cry.”

Chemo is brutal and relentless

To say chemo is brutal and relentless is an understatement. It doesn’t get easier. It adds up and takes a toll on your body. Each round was harder than the last for me. I was so angry when everyone would say something like, “At least you only have five left” or “At least you’re halfway done.” To anyone else, this would seem sweet, encouraging, and kind. And yes, that’s how it was meant, but when I was fighting cancer there was no “only so many rounds” to me. It didn’t make me feel any better or make it any easier. It made chemo seem trivial and easy when it is anything but. Every single round of chemo was worse than the last, and it didn’t end the day of an infusion. It was the entire week. The day before chemo I was always in a horrible mood and was mad at everyone and everything. I knew I had no choice but to go to chemo the next day, and that meant a whole week lost because I was so out of it and uncomfortable.

The day of chemo felt like a fight. I had to wake up that morning and force myself to get out of bed. I had to eat breakfast and hydrate even though I couldn’t stand the thought of food. Despite being so angry and sad, I stood in front of the mirror with tears rolling down my cheeks every week telling myself that I am strong and that I can and will get through chemo. This wasn’t even the hard part.

I hated the smells, the tastes, the infusion room, and how I felt. When I finally got to leave and go home, I left knowing that the next five days were going to be even harder. I felt uncomfortable. I felt tired. My bones hurt, and my skin was sensitive. I didn’t even have enough energy to talk, let alone eat or drink. My body didn’t feel like mine and all I could do was lay in bed. I had no energy left to even feel mad or upset.

I had to do it

A few days after treatment, I always started to feel more and more like myself. My appetite slowly came back, and I had more energy. I was able to go on walks and see my friends. I was happier and believed I could do it again the following week. Although each round was worse than the last, I knew I could do it. I knew I could make it through all 12 rounds, despite how hard they were.

Finally, on June 27th, I had my last round of chemo, and after five days of feeling awful, I started to feel better. I felt like myself. I felt proud.

To be continued…

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