The dictionary.com definition of Chemotherapy is: “the treatment of decease by chemicals, that have specific toxic effect upon the decease-producing microorganisms or that selectively destroy cancerous tissue.” My simple definition: It’s a chemical cocktail, for dealing with cancer.
For the last six months I have been receiving chemotherapy. Four months of weekly injections. Then a month of harvest, including recovery time, and the last month has been about the transplant. The injections at the beginning were small doses, meant to help my body build a tolerance to the drug. It was also killing cancer cells but not enough to make a difference. Each week for 16 weeks the potency of the cocktail was increased to small degrees but were all still small doses. I got my first large dosage the week before the harvest and it came in a bag.
Even the ‘harvest’ dosage was just an ‘chemo-light’, compared to the last dosage I received. Which was given to me my first full day in hospital. This last dosage of chemo was the maximum strength formula! Not some watered-down version!! This last dose was meant to finish the job of killing the cancer, with extreme prejudice!!! The next day I would get a whole new set of medically-modified stem cells. The slate needed to get wiped clean. A maximum strength dose of chemotherapy got delivered into my body to make this happen.
The chemotherapy drug itself, is only in my system for a day or two, then it is gone. The side-effects of the devastation it caused, not so much. I’m still experiencing side-effects two weeks after the chemo! Up until now I had only experienced a few side-effects. Baby-strength dose, gives baby-strength side-effect. There are 18 side-effects listed in my cancer handbook, affectionally referred as ‘Binder’. They cover 4 pages! Double-sided!!
Most of the 18 side-effects I had only read about in ‘Binder’. ‘Binder’ said I would probably not get them all and until this point I hadn’t. Maximum-strength dose, gives maximum-strength side-effects. Not just the few I had already been experiencing from the beginning, but a host of new ones. I’ve done some serious box-checking in ‘Binder’. Got that… got that… got that… had that, but got that now… don’t want that… ‘Binder’ had pages that told me what to expect. ‘Binder’ even said that certain side-effects could happen in the future, just before it said that I might not get certain side-effects!! I chose the ‘glass half-full’ perspective!! It hadn’t happened so far… right?
Two weeks after I received the ‘maxo-chemo’ and my second day home I took out my clippers and shaved my head. It had to be done! It was coming out in fistfuls! I was shedding worse than the cat!! My hair was everywhere and it was pissing the cat off!!! The only thing I didn’t remove was my moustache. It’s falling out too, but it has been around so long, I didn’t have the heart. ‘Binder’ says the hair will grow back, and I sure hope its right. I come from a family of bald people, father, brother, cousins, none of them have hair. It’s why I stood out! I wasn’t bald!! Even at 60, I had hair!!! To voluntarily join their ranks made me want to cry and a little nervous.
Yes, I could have hung on a little bit longer, just to be sure before I took this drastic measure. But after only one day, my black bathrobe had a grey cashmere scarf draped over the lapel. It was easy to see where this was headed. My friend Stream, would tell me that, ‘sometimes, you just have to own it’. Facing the inevitable, has pretty much described what the journey I’m on is about for me. Hair loss had always been a potential side-effect, one I had until now dodged. But with my clippers in hand, I had decided to ‘own it’, and do what was necessary to move on.
Don’t be looking for pictures… not going to happen.