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Surprise! You Have Cancer, Part 5 - Brothers In Harm

Note - Today I part from my usual cheery self and sort of get dramatic. I don't want you to worry, I'm ok, I'm not depressed


Cancer is a monster. Cancer is unfair. Cancer is deadly. Cancer leaves wives without husbands, husbands without wives, children without a parent, and parents without a child.
Cancer can take your brother or sister, or even your best friend. Cancer is a monster.

Cancer is vulnerable. If you are vigilant, or lucky, you may catch it before it grows into an unbeatable foe. And even if cancer has won, it can't be vanquished, it may still leave its victims with time to fight the good fight, face the inevitable, and prepare for the closed door.

Cancer is a fickle monster that sometimes brings families closer together, brings out the best in friends, and can bring it's victim to his knees to exclaim "I am more important than I ever knew, I have never felt so overwhelmed with love, I have never appreciated life more".

I am fighting the good fight, and I might win.

One of the challenges of defeating the monster is undergoing the chemotherapy scene. This is the battlefield.

My chemo facility is a bright sunny atrium feeling room lined with recliner chairs on both sides. Between each chair is a rolling rack for hanging the chemical brews that will make you sick, make you hurt, make you suffer enough so that in your mind you will scream "THIS is how much I want to live".

Fighting the monster becomes routine. It's the same battle fought over and over. You show up at the facility, and meet your brothers in harm. You know most of them, you see the same people most of the time.

Sometimes a new warrior arrives, looking terrified but determined. All the brothers pitch in with encouraging words, with solid advice and the answers to all the questions we all had before we became battle hardened. We know how you feel.

Sometimes someone is missing. Sometimes it is a relief to find that they had some complication and rescheduled, or needed to skip a session.
Sometimes it's not.

We all arrive in good spirits most of the time. Smiles all around. Don't let your friends down with that sad face. We are ready for battle.


And so it begins.

The needles come out, the IVs are hung, here come the cuts, the punctures, the bloodletting. Most will get a quick blood test to determine if you are fit for battle. Your blood might be dangerously low in any of several vital levels. The chemo that is your ally might have turned on you, your body needs to heal. You get a reprieve, sit this one out. We will see you next time.

But if you are battle ready it's time to elevate the fight. We are going to poison our own body to kill the monster inside.

Here comes the anti-nausea meds, the steroids, the prophylactic drugs that will protect most of your body while hopefully concentrating the damage on the monster. Then comes the destroyers, the bombs, the chemical warfare. There is a LOT of collateral damage. Make no mistake, your whole body is being poisoned.
To win you must still be standing after the monster has died.

After a while, the smiles fade. They are still there but not in the eyes.

Every so often you catch the eyes of another soldier during the heat of battle.
In a flash you both understand. Why me, life isn't fair, look at what we have to go through, this is taking a toll on me, I don't know how much more I can take. But here I am. Do I want to live? Yes, I do. Well then, I'm here with you brother.

Finally, hours later it's over. Time to stand down. The tubes and needles are removed. Time for the "everything is fine", "no worries" act. See you next time!

Now we can go home and suffer the consequences of battle. Be with our families, tell them how we think we are winning, yeah I'm sick, weak, and hurting but I will be alright.

We will slowly recover a little, but the cancer clock is ticking, and guess what time it is? It's time to join our brothers in harm.

photo credits: iStockPhoto

Continued - Part 6



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