100 Hours [+ All the Other Waking Moments]
Yesterday I crossed the 100th hour of chemo treatments. I have received chemo treatments for literally 100 hours at this point in my life, and just think, I only recently started this journey. 100 hours is daunting. If we allow ourselves to go all Gladwell-ian for a minute, it means I am still 9,900 hours away from being an expert at chemo. So the good news is that I am nowhere close to becoming a chemo expert. Whew.
And while I’m no expert, I have spent 100 hours of my life having healing poison drip into my body. I have sat in the chair. I have talked to the nurses. I have felt sick. For 100 hours, in the same place, in the name of this cancer.
Things I have learned in 100 hours:
- Allison is a champion. She is the best wife, chemo-buddy, social worker, and care-taker; and there is no way to fully express my gratitude for how hard she is working during this season.
- I like our nurses. I am the youngest patient in our chemo ward by decades. I don’t see a lot of the same patients consistently, but our nurses are there everyday and so we are getting to know each other. I think its because I am kinda around their ages that they treat me so well, but its probably because they like Allison and have to hang out with us so much. Or they hate us and just are really good at their jobs.
- The chemo room is not fun. It’s a big room, broken into 6 sections, with lots of chemo chairs. The patients don’t talk much to each other because it’s so draining, so instead we sit and watch each other go through some of the deepest struggles we will face in this lifetime. It’s a surreal spot to spend a lot of time. The only highlight that everyone talks about is the snack stash for anyone interested (I am not).
- My head is fairly normally shaped. I was real worried going into this whole chemo/hair-loss thing that I would have a lumpy head, but it turns out my head is fairly proportional so at least I’ve got that going for me, which is nice. I’m grateful for the hats I have been given to keep my head warm, they are invaluable some days, so thank you.
- I can’t read during chemo. You would think it would be an ideal time to catch up on all my reading but the medicine does not lend itself to mental focus. I read the same page in the same book like 4 times before I finally just put the book down. I can’t remember things either. Chemo-brain is real and it would be amusing if it weren’t a hassle. I wish I could regale you with stories of the funny things I have forgotten, but alas, the memories have lapsed.
- Your words mean a lot to me. I know I can’t respond quickly and I can’t really hang out, but the fact that you remember us and reach out means the world. So even if I am slow to respond and don’t have the energy to hang out in person, please keep saying hi, reminding me that you’re praying, and sharing funny jokes.
As it turns out, it’s not the 100 hours of chemo that are the hardest; it’s every other hour of my days when healing is fighting to take place outside the hospital. Healing is a slow process and the in-between chemo moments are just as valuable as every minute spent in the chair. But the in-between healing feels really slow.
Right now, I can’t do much of anything. My doctor has set pretty strict boundaries about what I am capable of doing (physically and emotionally). My full-time job is to focus on healing. Because of the intensity of my treatment, I have been semi-quarantined. We have been highly cautioned against being in groups of people because of the risk of germs, especially during sick/flu season – which means most social events and most public places (including church) are not an option for me. The isolation makes me feel a little withdrawn.
Things I’m learning in the in-between hours:
- I’m learning to be grateful for the process of healing; even for the moments of being home and feeling sick, of feeling tired, of feeling nauseous, of feeling restless and and of feeling defeated. This is all part of real healing.
- It’s hard to be present when I don’t feel good, but I want to be. And I’m learning how to celebrate small victories; for moments of feeling okay, for short visits from friends, for messages and texts that keep me going.
- The in-between time is teaching me about sabbath. Rest is hard – real hard. But even in the midst of cancer my doctors have built in moments of rest for my body even though it feels more like a reprieve. Reprieve is a probably a good word for Sabbath anyway.
- In the midst of this, in the midst of feeling like I can’t do anything, I’m learning more and more of what it means to be dependent on the process of healing.
- And more than anything, I am learning to just be. I can’t accomplish anything right now. I can’t do much for other people right now. I can’t feel proud of doing. So I am just learning to be. That’s harder than it sounds.
And so, I will keep being and I will keep healing. For 100 more hours.