Cancer is an enormous blow to your life. Worst-case scenario, you could die. But short of death, there are so many different and devastating ways cancer can turn you from someone who’s fit, healthy, and happy, to a person who’s in pain, overweight, weak… and discouraged. Here’s one virtue you should grab and hold onto early in the journey.
They say it’s a virtue, something to aspire to. But it can also be oh-so-elusive, when you’ve been through months and months of surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, drugs, and pain – the typical tortuous slog through cancer treatment.
At last, you finish the everyday visit to the hospital’s radiology department. Or you get that final Herceptin injection. Or you shake the remaining little tamoxifen pill out of the bottle, 5 years after you filled your first prescription.
Done! OK, I’m going to feel better now.
Only you don’t. Not today, not tomorrow, not after a week. Or two weeks.
You start to wonder. “If I don’t feel any different, was the treatment actually doing anything? And if it was, and it’s over – why don’t I feel better?”
The fact is, many of the medical interventions you’ve had are very serious, and a major assault to your body.
Cancer treatment continues to improve – if not by leaps and bounds, at least by steady, small steps. But we’re still in the era of slash, poison, and burn; the shotgun approach of surgery and chemotherapy and radiation, where doctor use every weapon in their arsenal – instead of just a precisely focused tool – to kill those cancer cells.
And this all-out war on cancer leaves plenty of casualties on both sides. Your cancer cells die; and the collateral damage to the rest of you is enormous.
They say that with major surgery, for every hour you’re under general anesthesia, it takes a day to get over it. And cancer treatment is similar. Chemotherapy drugs are injected into your bloodstream, which means they reach every cell in your body. Hormone drugs are ingested; and yes, they reach your bloodstream, too.
Radiation, though it may seem focused and topical, spreads like ripples from a stone dropped into a still pond. Ask a woman who’s had breast radiation to show you the burns under her arm; or describe the massive fatigue she feels every afternoon.
The point is, you’re not going to recover from breast cancer treatment quickly – especially if you’ve had the full complement of therapies. And the older you are, the tougher it is, and the slower it goes – like so many things in your life, post-menopause.
January is a time for resolutions. You know, “I’m going to lose weight this year, I really am.” And, “I’m joining a gym. I need to exercise.” Many of us have made similar resolutions each January for years, only to look at ourselves in April and realize those goals have disappeared just as completely as the snow in the backyard.