I cried in the shower this morning.
Not because I was hurting from falling over this morning playing scarecrows and face planting into the oval.
Not because my face hurts from my glasses bashing into my cheekbone during said face plant.
Not because my hands hurt from trying to stop my face plowing into the ground, or my hip or my knee.
I cried because I was dwelling on a couple of conversations I’ve had recently and the hurt they’ve caused me.
But I want to backtrack a little first.
On Thursday morning we made it to the oncology centre with minutes to spare before my first treatment. The traffic had been worse than we’d thought it was going to be at that time of the day.
I handed over my patient card to the receptionist who kindly acknowledged that it was my first time, then asked if I could move the time of my second treatment to later in the afternoon. That suited me better so I had no hesitation saying yes, that’s fine.
It wasn’t long before one of the radiotherapists called my name, took me on a tour of the, admittedly not huge, facility. Here’s the change room, there’s the loo, here’s the control room, and here’s the room you’ll be in to have treatment. There were red lines from the lasers all over the walls. I changed, put the blue gown on, put my clothes in the green bag that I was to bring to each treatment (along with the gown), and went back into the room with the big machine in it.
I lay on the bed, took off my glasses, put on the goggles, put my arms above my head and held onto the handlebars and then was instructed to ‘lie heavy. I need to move your arm, but let me do it’ said the radio therapist. My arm in position, my hip moved slightly to the right, numbers and positions flying between the two radio therapists, more marks on my body, a cube to measure my breathing taped to my stomach, the sleeves of the gown crossed over my breasts and it was time to start.
They left the room and I was instructed to take a long slow breath in, hold it for a moment, then out again. On the screen in my goggles appeared an x-ray of my spine and ribs. I wish I knew how to read it so I could assure myself that all was in order.
The x-ray disappeared and the yellow line and blue box reappeared. Take a long slow breath in for me Sharon and hold it. It’ll be a long one this time.
I moved the yellow line into the blue box, turning the line green, then concentrated really hard to keep it there for what felt like a really (really) long time.
And breathe normally again Sharon.
The line became yellow again as I exhaled, then ‘one more long slow deep breath Sharon and hold’.
I began to feel a little panicky the second time. It felt quite claustrophobic to be honest. What if I couldn’t hold my breath for as long as I was required to? The now green line bobbed up and down slightly as I concentrated on holding the green line within the box.
And breathe normally again Sharon. That’s it, we’re all done.
Goggles off, arms down, off the table, shoes on, glasses on, head off to the change room. The radio therapists’ friendly ‘see you tomorrow Sharon’ stopped me as I went through the curtain. Oh yes, I’ll be doing this again tomorrow … and for another 17 weekdays after that. It feels different knowing that it’s not a once off scan. This is real. This is really happening.
Friday … second treatment. Any questions? What happens if I can’t hold my breath for as long as I need to? That’s okay. The machine is clever enough to turn off and then we just pick it up where we left off when you’re ready.
Knowing that certainly eased my mind.
See you on Monday!
And now back to the real issue for me this morning: at least you’re not dying. At least you’re assured of a good outcome. At least you’re not 70 and having to hold your breath for that long. At least you don’t have to drive 200kms each day to have treatment.
I have a suggestion, perhaps even some advice.
If you have a friend or relative who’s going through cancer treatment, comparing their experience to your aunt’s cousin’s brother-in-law’s mother and starting a sentence with ‘at least’ negates the fact that your friend is going through an experience of their own. And while it might not be ‘as bad’ as someone else they know who’s going through cancer treatment, or has already gone through cancer treatment, they’re still experiencing something.
They’re still dealing with emotions and what ifs and potential side effects and uncertainty and not knowing and I know uncertainty is similar to not knowing but it’s kind of different too.
Don’t start a sentence with ‘at least …’.
Don’t tell them stories about their best friend who’s just died age 30 from bowel cancer.
Don’t tell them they’re lucky.
Don’t make out that their experience is any less than someone else’s.
It’s hurtful …
So much so that I cried in the shower this morning.