A friend who also has cancer lent me Diane Dupuy’s Cocktails at the Chemo Lounge, an autobiography about her breast cancer journey, and I finished it yesterday. (Dupuy is the founder of the Famous People Players, the blacklight puppet company for people with developmental disabilities.)
I found the book hard to get into at first, but for an unusual reason: I couldn’t relate to Dupuy’s reactions to her diagnosis.
Dupuy was 60 when she got cancer, and was terrified out of her mind as she went through all the diagnostic tests. That just wasn’t my experience (although don’t get me wrong, the “not knowing” was hell – but only because I hate not knowing what I’m dealing with).
People keep telling me that I’m an inspiration and an anomaly – an outlier cancer patient. I have very little perspective; what are cancer patients supposed to be like?
I only have first-hand experience of supporting my dad on his cancer journey, and that was an entirely different kind of situation – an unexpected cancer diagnosis, an incredibly rare kind of cancer, a lot of unknowns.
Me… I can’t explain me. A colleague has called me an example of resilience. Maybe that’s it. I’ve been through some dark stuff in my life, and it’s taught me how to deal.
I think Dad’s cancer had a big impact on me. I saw him suffering so much, and I came to my own conclusions about how I wanted to experience a similar situation. I think my dad felt helpless in the face of his suffering. I wanted to be more proactive.
When I was at my family doctor’s last week about my migraines (which suffering, by the way, gave me a lot of empathy for dad, as did my severe pain after my surgery, which he also had), I told my doctor (when he asked about how I was doing with the whole cancer thing) that I don’t want to focus on how I might die, but how I’m going to live in the meantime.
Maybe that’s a key.
I don’t know. But anyhow, I couldn’t relate to Dupuy’s fears and anxieties. I learned some interesting things from the book, though. When her blood counts were too low to have chemo one time, and she asked how to get them up, they suggested walking. So she walked for hours, and the next day her counts were good enough to have chemo. That’s what’s gotten me so interested in getting more exercise while on chemo.
She also talked about getting her PICC line put in, something I have been afraid of if they ever can’t find a good vein in the chemo clinic, and she made it seem like not that big a deal. So maybe that wouldn’t be too bad.
(A PICC line is when they insert a tube into one of the veins in your upper arm, to receive chemo treatment. The tube actually empties into the vein close to the heart. It stays in place until your chemos are all over. That’s the part I don’t like. You have to care for it to make sure stuff doesn’t happen to it. And I probably couldn’t do some of the stretching I currently do with my arms. Yuck.)
So I’m feeling like I’m an exceptional patient. I don’t know what to do with that. Except maybe follow the advice that many of you have given me, to write a book about my own journey so that it might help others.