Cancer Shouldn’t Get You Dumped

Relationships don't stop because you have cancer.
Relationships don’t stop because you have cancer.

QUESTION: I’ve just been diagnosed with cancer and I’m terrified about telling my friends. I don’t know how they’ll react. Particularly my boyfriend – what if he dumps me? He’s my first real boyfriend, so I don’t really know what to do.  – DON’T WANT TO BE DUMPED

 

Dear Don’t Want to be Dumped,

That is a perfectly reasonable thing to be worried about. People react in a lot of different ways when their friends get cancer. Some of them are awesome and keep you sane; others drift away. The trick is to find out who is who quickly, so you can focus on them and not worry about the others.

I was scared of the same thing when I was diagnosed, but my boyfriend at the time, Nate, was really sweet about it. It took him a couple of minutes to process, but then he stayed by my side and supported me through the whole thing. I dragged him out of choir practice to go to the salon with me when I decided to shave my head. He visited me in the hospital. He continued to find me sexy, even when I was bald. He thought wearing different wigs on different days was hilarious… but I made sure to wear his favorite blond one when we were going out on a date.

We eventually did break up, but it had nothing to do with the cancer. We had been together for a year and a half, had grown apart, and both of us were ready to move on.

What would you do if he came to you and said he was sick? You would try to take care of him, right? I know he’s a guy, but give him some credit. You’re dating him for a reason. Or, alternatively, think about it this way: What kind of jerk dumps a girl when she’s just received such horrible news? Why would you want to be dating him anyway?

 

How did your significant other react when you were diagnosed? Were there any reactions that really surprised you?

 

Have a question of your own? Ask Chemo between Classes through the Question Submission Form or by emailing chemobetweenclasses@gmail.com . You can get new posts by subscribing via email in the lower right hand corner, liking me on Facebook, or following me on Twitter!

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Chemo is the World’s Worst Weight-loss Program

Seriously, chocolate can cure anything.
Seriously, chocolate can cure anything.

QUESTION: I’m in the middle of chemo and everyone seems to be worrying that I’m not eating enough. Yea, I’ve dropped some weight, but the doctors don’t think its unhealthy. Why is everyone else stressing out? – TOO SKINNY

 

Dear Too Skinny,

The same thing happened to me. All of my friends, and my mother, thought that I was getting too skinny and they kept making me eat treats. Not that I minded, cookies are delicious, but it did get annoying to have to keep telling them that NO, I was NOT ANOREXIC.

Really, they are all just worried about you and the weight loss is the most obvious external consequence of chemo. Once you have lost your hair, you keep getting poisoned and it keeps affecting your body, but no one can see it anymore. What they can see is that you are getting skinnier and you’re getting more tired and since those are the only things that they know how to fix, they try to fix them.

It helps to remember that you’re not going through this alone. Your friends are going through it with you, as much as they can, and they want to help, as much as they can. So, if it makes them feel better to make you eat a cookie… eat a cookie. (I mean, why would you NOT want to eat a cookie?) They’re right in that your body does need as much nutrition and calories and strength as it can muster in order to get to the other side of this.

One thing that I would not recommend is doing too much clothes shopping. I finished chemo in March and then, in May, all of the department stores were having huge sales on fancy prom-type dresses. So, in my brilliance, I went out an bought several GORGEOUS floor-length gowns, that fit me, at a deep discount.

Six months later, after I had regained all of my muscle mass and was a normal weight again, I couldn’t even get them past my hips. Le sigh. So sad. I ended up giving them to a couple of my younger cousins as they were entering high school….. and they were STILL too small. Seriously. I have no clue how I fit into those dresses when I bought them. No wonder people were worried about me. Jeez.

 

Did you lose a significant amount of weight on chemo? Were there any problems when you regained your healthy weight?

 

Have a question of your own? Ask Chemo between Classes through the Question Submission Form or by emailing chemobetweenclasses@gmail.com . You can get new posts by subscribing via email in the lower right hand corner, liking me on Facebook, or following me on Twitter!

End of an Era

Even though everyone is celebrating, it's very odd to be done with something as big as chemo.
Even though everyone is celebrating, it’s very odd to be done with something as big as chemo.

QUESTION:  I only have one more round of chemo. I’m happy I’m almost done but I also have mixed feelings… did you feel that way at the end of treatment or were you completely happy to finish? – MIXED UP

 

Dear Mixed Up,

It’s a weird thing, being done with chemo. Because on the one hand, obviously, YAY no dying! On the other, this is a huge thing that has taken up a significant portion of your life/energy/time/effort over the last year and having all of that back suddenly is a jolt. It’s the same for any large project really (my closest comparison for non-sick people is musical theatre shows – they eat your life), but cancer is something that’s much much bigger and scarier to deal with.
It’s over, but it won’t feel over for a while. You won’t be able to comprehend the fact that yes, you CAN do that thing that all your friends are doing because you won’t have to go to chemo that day. It will take a while for your hair to grow back, so you may not be able to ditch the wigs immediately, but there will come a day when it just looks like you got a cute buzz cut and you don’t need to worry about it anymore. For a while after the end of chemo, I would take a picture just before bed every night to watch the progression of my hair growing back in.
My big thing was that I wanted to study abroad and the most likely time to do that is Junior year. So when I finished chemo in March of sophomore year, I was proud of the fact that I’d stayed on schedule and would be able to study abroad as planned. It wasn’t so much happiness as satisfaction in a job executed as planned.
Then, once it’s over, you have to start thinking about how this whole huge experience will fit into your life. Will it define you? Will it move you to activism? Will you push it to the back of your mind and forget about it? Will you tell new friends or boyfriends? There are a myriad of questions that may not have occurred before. Which is why I’m here to help 🙂
(I recently read a post by Shannon Cox that addresses this same issue for breast cancer patients. It may also be helpful.)

 

How did you feel when you were finished with chemo? What was the most surprising thing about being done?

 

Have a question of your own? Ask Chemo between Classes through the Question Submission Form or by emailing chemobetweenclasses@gmail.com . You can get new posts by subscribing via email in the lower right hand corner, liking me on Facebook, or following me on Twitter!

Human Pincushion

Sometimes you feel like a pincushion with all the needles going in and out.
Sometimes you feel like a pincushion with all the needles going in and out.

QUESTION: I have a port and I’m wondering how the surgery was for you when you got yours out?  – REMOVAL WORRIES

 

Dear Removal Worries,

Port-a-caths are such a great invention. I was really happy that they could stop poking needles in my arm and I didn’t need to worry about keeping my arm straight all the time. As I’ve mentioned before, every time I go to get blood taken now, I’m sad that they took mine out.

The surgery was very easy to take it out. I mean, they put you under and such, but I don’t remember any major pain or restrictions moving or anything afterward. They did the surgery right on the same place where the port got put in, so I only ended up with one scar, which was nice. I don’t think they did the surgery right away after chemo ended, but it wasn’t too long after. They’ll just want to make sure your blood counts and things can handle it. (TLDR = NBD)

Did you have a problem with having your port put in or taken out?

Have a question of your own? Ask Chemo between Classes through the Question Submission Form or by emailing chemobetweenclasses@gmail.com . You can get new posts by subscribing via email in the lower right hand corner, liking me on Facebook, or following me on Twitter!

Just Say No

I will never smoke or do drugs because I don't want to go through this again if I can help it.
Why would you voluntarily give yourself cancer?

QUESTION: My best friend smokes. I’ve asked her not to because I don’t want her to get cancer, but she won’t listen. How can I explain how awful it is and get her to quit? – WORRIED FRIEND

 

Dear Worried Friend,

Unfortunately, there’s nothing you can do to “make” your friend quit smoking. You can offer the various nicotine patches , you can show her all of the disgusting images from health class, you can have her read this blog to learn about how cancer can affect you, but at the end of the day, it’s her choice.

Having said that, I personally have not and will never smoke. I have never done drugs (the illegal, non-prescription kind), and I never will. I try to eat healthy overall and stay out of the sun (failing at that one, tbh). Cancer, of any variation, is a horrible, painful thing to deal with and I will not subject myself to it again if I can help it.

My recommendation would be to be very open about your experience with cancer (or if someone else you know had cancer, talk about their experience). Don’t be too harsh or judgmental, since that may make her not want to hang out with you, but small consistent reminders of why cancer is bad could snowball into a compelling argument. However, there are many reasons why people start smoking in the first place. If you know why she started, perhaps that could help you both understand how to help her quit.

 

Since I’ve never dealt personally with smoking, is there anyone who can offer better advice on this question?

 

Have you been close with someone who smokes? What is the best way you have found to help them?

 

Have a question of your own? Ask Chemo between Classes through the Question Submission Form or by emailing chemobetweenclasses@gmail.com . You can get new posts by subscribing via email in the lower right hand corner, Liking my Facebook page, or following me on Twitter!