13: Out & About

During the first 4 or 5 chemo treatments, I was doing okay. I was able to go to work much of the time and even able to get some regular exercise. I had to take a few days off for each chemo infusion but was overall feeling pretty well between infusions. The next few chemo treatments were harder. My body just wasn't fully recovering anymore between infusions, and getting any exercise (other than walking) was not going to happen. It became an effort to just get the day-to-day stuff done, like the grocery shopping, taking care of the kids, etc. I developed a routine when I would do the grocery shopping: I would do my shopping, pay, and then have to rest for 5-10 minutes in the little cafe area before walking to the car. There were times when I was afraid I would pass out standing in line, but (thankfully) that never happened.

The most frustrating thing is the unpredictability. One minute, I'll feel fine, and then...I just won't. I don't know how many days I'll have to take off work after chemo treatments, or how long it will be before I feel okay to drive again. I try to go to as many of the kids' school events, but they also know that some days, I just can't be there. They're incredibly understanding about me being sick, even though it's meant me not being there for things when I normally would be, and many weekends that I've spent too sick to go sledding, go to the pool, drive them to dance class, etc. They have never complained about any of that.

There were, however, bits of good news along the way. Within a few weeks of starting chemo, the tumor already showed signs of shrinking. It turns out that highly-aggressive tumors also tend to respond really well to chemotherapy. (The whole chemotherapy-targets-rapidly-dividing-cells-and-highly-aggressive-tumor-cells-are-also-rapidly-dividing thing.) 

And then there were times that were incredibly awkward, like the time, four days after chemo, when I finally felt well enough to eat something and get out of the house, and my SO and I went down the street to get some pizza. I wasn't feeling great, physically, and I was upset about still feeling so crummy, and it took everything I had to get to the pizza place, but dammit, I wanted some actual food. I walked into the restaurant, which is one of these order-at-the-counter-and-we'll-bring-you-your-food places, and the young guy behind the counter started to tell me to "Cheer up and smile." I let it go, but he didn't. After a minute or so, I was in tears. I just wanted some damn pizza, and Hey, jerk, I don't feel like smiling because I have feel like crap and I have cancer and leave me alone. To make the whole thing worse, after we'd ordered and paid, I turned around to go sit down, and there was the kids' dentist who had, undoubtedly, just witnessed this whole interaction. The restaurant has since gone out of business. I'm assuming the two things are unrelated.

Like life in general, there are good days, and there are bad days. Kids still get sick, regardless of how busy/sick/tired their parents are. Certain people at work are still jerks. Bills still have to be paid. Groceries still have to be bought. But it's a good reminder that everyone needs a little help every now and then.

I always feel bad for parent s who are trying to get shopping done while trying to wrangle little kids. I've been there, and I know how frustrating and exhausting it can be, and how you feel like everyone is judging you poorly. But you know what? Kids have to eat, so parents still have to buy groceries. A kid may be in a great mood at home and during the drive to the store, and then 15 minutes you're in the middle of the store with a cart full of groceries and (at least) one kid having some sort of meltdown. It's hard. Sometimes I feel fine until part-way through my shopping trip, and then I don't feel fine. But the grocery fairy doesn't exist*, and shit still has to get done. I don't expect other people to go out of their way to help me, but when someone is having a rough moment - whether it's because they're recovering from surgery, sick from chemo, exhausted from dealing with a screaming toddler, or whatever it may be - most people will appreciate even the smallest act of kindness. 

TL;DR: Don't be a jerk. Or, in the words of Bill & Ted, Be excellent to each other.

*Yes, I know, there are now grocery delivery services, but they don't have everything, and it can get pricy. You still have to sometimes go to the store.