Sunday, April 14, 2013

Hey, cancer, I want my life back!

Cancer has stolen my life from me. 

It's true that I'm in remission now, that my chemo treatments are done.  It's also true that I was able to maintain much of my normal lifestyle while I was going through chemo.  I went to work most days, and enjoyed social activities with my friends.  But cancer still stole some of my life from me.

I had to give up one of my favorite activities, studying Chinese, while going through chemo.  I just didn't have enough energy or ability to concentrate to keep going to class.  I gave up weekly meetings at a coffee shop with other Chinese students for the same reasons.  I gave up working on my fiction writing because I  couldn't concentrate on it.  I cut my work hours.  I lost vacation time to chemotherapy.  I gave up driving so my husband had to be my chauffeur.  I gave up going for long walks. 

Now that I'm in remission, my oncologist wants to keep me on a maintenance regimen of Rituxan, the monoclonal antibody I received during chemo.  Every other month I have to return to the chemo infusion center to receive an intravenous dose of Rituxan.  If the Rituxan makes me feel tired afterward, I'll have to sacrifice some vacation time for the treatments.  If that is the case, then over the next two years I'll have to use six PTO days a year for medical treatments.  That's vacation time I could have used for long weekends, trips to the beach, or just a day to loaf around the house and pamper myself. And now I have to work my treatments around other activities like actual vacations, other medical appointments, and workplace commitments.

I'll also have to spend the rest of my life having annual CT scans and going to see my oncologist at least once a year.  I like my oncologist, but there's a part of me that resents having to spend so much time seeing him.  I resent all those CT scans, and especially the hated barium sulfate contrast solution I have to consume before each scan.   I have to worry about the cancer recurring and what treatment I'll receive the next time it comes back.  I have to think about what I'll do if there isn't any viable treatment for me next time beyond a stem cell or bone marrow transplant, and whether I want to give up quality of life for quantity.  I have to think about a lot of things I really don't want to think about. 

I know my problems are small compared to many other people.  But that doesn't make me feel any better about the intrusion of cancer into my life and the ways it's going to change me in the future. I resent it, and I want my pre-cancer life back.

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