CAVEAT EMPTOR: Most people want to read about people going through chemo about as much as having chemo themselves. I hope you will give this a chance as it tries to be funny not dreary – and it is always positive with not too many gory details…unless you ask for some.
Nobody wants to go through chemo. It’s not on anyone’s bucket, to-do or wish list. The conversation doesn’t go: “It’s in the diary, skiing in Aspen this March, Greece in August, chemo in November!” When it happened, I knew that my fears had come true. With my disease, it was going to happen sooner or later. (See about me for more.) I was really scared but felt I had to be strong. I hoped I could deal with it and go back to normality unchanged.
My doctor informed me, in the kindest possible way, that the cocktail of drugs I would spend my summer imbibing would make me constipated, nauseated and gain weight, that did not include the hundreds of other side effects I might encounter. The only good news was I might not lose all my hair – because I have quite a frizzy, full beehive.
As the commencement day neared, I was filled with questions: what happens when they call you in for your first session, are you alone or in a room with hundreds going through the same thing? Do they put the IV in your arm? Can you read, can you move, do needlepoint, watch TV, text? Can someone come with me? What do you wear? Will you feel cold, hot, tired, wiped out?
I was totally overwhelmed as I’m sure everyone who has experienced this moment was. I was torn between wanting to seek advice and wanting to soldier on, not asking anybody anything and just getting on with it. I did a quick google search and found books, blogs, tips, advice columns.
The only postings I found went on and on about the negatives of chemo. Nothing talk about the positives. I know you are scratching your head in wonder. If you take an aspirin, no one complains, “Gosh, my blood is going to thin, my stomach might get a bit acidy.” They think, “Yeah, this is going to cure my headache.” I had to feel the same way about adriamycin, bleomycin, vinblastine, and dacarbazine. These drugs were going to save me and I was going to live. That to me is a big POSITIVE. Yes, my hair might fall out, I would feel sick to my stomach but that was all par for the game.
WHAT DO LOUBOUTINS HAVE TO DO WITH THIS?
Even though I sound gung-ho, I am filled with fear – fear of death, fear of missing out on the future, scared for my parents, my boyfriend, myself. Does this mean I will never get to trek to Machu Picchu, will I never see my wedding day, will I have missed my chance of ever having a child? When I look toward the future there is only a black void. It’s in my nature to put on a tough veneer and not let my guard down; take care of everyone else and be strong so they don’t worry while inside I am terrified. Although the doctor is saying it’s curable – what about if the chemo doesn’t work? It’s all there under the surface, a miasma of destructive thoughts, and there has to be a way to deal with all this stuff brewing below that could very easily consume me. But how? Who is strong enough? Little by little, we need to find a way, anyway and mine, hopefully, will start with my shoe collection.
Now let me explain one thing. I am a shoe person. There are bag fetishists, clotheshorses, lovers of jewelry. My obsession is shoes. I scrimp and save to buy works of art from the world’s top cordwainers, mostly Mr. Louboutin’s creations. I have been finding them at shop sales, sample sales, outlets for years. The thing is, I don’t wear them! I always joke that I wish I had the life my shoes deserve…cocktail parties, dinners, soirees that get you photographed in Tatler, Vogue, Bazaar. They sit there in my closet, little statues gathering dust, looking beautiful without ever tripping any light fantastic.
As I packed my bags in London to come Stateside for four months of treatment, I looked at those gorgeous, untouched gems and knew they had to come with me. If I were going to a cocktail party every two weeks, then damn it, I was going to dress for one. No sweats, elastic waistband or “comfortable” clothes! I vowed that every time I went into the hospital for anything, I was going to look and feel glamorous. This party was invitation only and the dress code was glam.
Now I understand that not everyone has a Louboutin obsession like I do, but I do know that everyone must have a Louboutin equivalent – that something special that makes you feel and look fabulous inside and out. It could be the Target scarf you love to tie around your hair Jackie O style or the pair of earrings you wore at your wedding or the Payless shoes you bought on sale at an outlet in the late 90’s. Whatever it is, this is the time to get them out and feel your best – even when you want to throw up. Don’t wait.
Will this really help me conquer all those fears? I don’t know. I am just beginning this journey and can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel – at least not just yet. Please stick with me and let’s get through it together.
NEXT POST: THE FIRST DAY OF CHEMO