My father was recently diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. Getting to the diagnosis took too long and he suffered with extreme chronic pain. Unfortunately the news wasn’t good – cancer at 83. Treatment has now begun – chemo and radiation is the normal protocol.
Last night I watched a program on the Knowledge Network called “Chemo” which followed a day in a Polish cancer clinic where people received their chemo treatment. I now have a sense of what chemo is like – I never knew this while my mother went through her treatments. It was usually easy to know who had cancer – just look for the bald head. They were young, old and in-between; one woman was pregnant. Lives turned upside down, dying on their mind, hopes for the future diminished, independent men and women not used to needing help from their spouses or children. They talked to the neighbour in the next bed or recliner chair sharing their stories, their fears and worries and sometimes their tears. All the while though they had their eye on the tube that dripped toxins into their bloodstreams.
The process takes all day – slow and agonizing. At the end of the day, they walked from the clinic exhausted and perhaps thinking how the next couple of days would be – the side-effects, the loss of several days because of the nausea, fatigue, pain and the knowledge that they would be returning again for another treatment. I felt sad at the end watching The Sister walking out of the clinic on her own. A woman asked her how God could cause this much suffering and the nun could only answer that it was a mystery and no one knew.
The one good thing was that most people talked about their cancer – a chance to speak the words out loud of what must be running through their heads. The important thing to remember if you go with someone for their chemo treatment is to just listen. The comments and questions are not for answering. This is no time to try to cheer them up with platitudes. Some people may be able to find a gift in their cancer but many others will not. It’s not a competition. This link will take you to one woman’s story of her illness. Prepared Patient Forum: The Lemon of Illness and the Demand for Lemonade « CFAH PPF Blog.