In this blog Valerie is sharing with us her experience and stress with going through chemotherapy for her breast cancer. Many of you may be able to relate to similar experiences, if not personally, maybe with someone close to you. We hope Valerie’s series of blogs will help you relate, not only to the stress, but also see how to free yourself from stress and move forward in your life.
Blob by Valerie Lower
As you can imagine, looking forward to doing chemotherapy was not high on my excitement list. But I knew I needed to do something to make the experience mean something. I searched for just the right place, i.e. hospital, cancer center, etc., that would help me on this journey. Some oncologists laughed when I said I wanted supplements to help me stay as healthy as possible. Others told me to eat whatever I wanted to when I said I wanted to keep my weight down (as I had heard that people gained weight on chemo now because of the steroids that are added to help with nausea), and others just said not to worry about it until the process was over.
I therefore, chose a cancer center that promised to nourish mind, body and spirit. I really believed I had done everything I could to choose what I thought would be as good an experience as possible. I had to travel by plane to get to the cancer center. The morning of my first chemo, September 2, 2003, I stood by Lake Michigan. The sun was rising, the wind was blowing through my shoulder length hair and I was prepared for what was to come.
The moment I walked into the waiting room with my wonderful husband, I felt as if I had entered the holocaust. Women with scarves around their heads, dark circles under their eyes, most looking very tired, a couple of them maybe smiling. It was packed in there. I breezed in trying to be positive and choked back tears. I was wearing a pretty pink shirt, lipstick and I had all of my beautifully highlighted hair. Once I sat down, I closed my eyes and breathed, trying not to concentrate on what was around me, yet also trying to send them all love, light and healing. That waiting room, however, was the beginning of what was to feel like I was being experimented upon in a mad scientist’s lab.
I would like to say here, that most experiences people have going through the whole cancer process is much better than mine. But I feel I need to tell my story so others can learn from my story which can hopefully help.
Many things were not what I expected. I had to have a subclavian inserted instead of a port. This meant that with each visit, I had to have a long extremely thin tube threaded through my vein above the right breast (the cancer had been in my left) with 2 tubes left hanging down for saline to be injected into one and blood to be taken with the other. Each time, the table was tilted backward and the doctor would say, “Pray to your maker that I don’t rip into your vein, or we’ll be in trouble.” Didn’t exactly instill trust in the doctor. It hurt like a ton of bricks had been laid on my chest. The nurse was not compassionate. So different from when I had my biopsy done. They put ice in a bag and sent me on my way.
They did the chemo over 3 days, as they said it would be less stressful on the body. This was not the case. It was more stressful, especially when they put me in a room with a woman who was in a bed, her skin the color of sheets, dying. All night long the nurses would come in to help her out, flipping on the light, talking loudly and on and on it went. Now, there happened to be six empty rooms that they could have put me in, but didn’t.
Of course I dreaded every time I was to go on the plane and take off to what felt like hell. My head was so clouded, my husband was so overwhelmed, it was difficult to know what was being done wasn’t supposed to be happening. I tried advocating for myself but was shot down each time I tried. Here’s where I should have transferred to a place close to home. I see that afterward. But I just kept going, counting down each time.
Throughout this, there were many things for which I was grateful. And I let God know it. Soon, the chemo would take even my spirit away, albeit temporarily. But I could still do gratitude. My husband was and is the best. Gary made me laugh when I needed to laugh. He held me when I needing holding. He got me mashed potatoes and tapioca pudding from Byerly’s for six weeks when I had mouth sores. And he wheeled me out of that clinic in a wheel chair on the last day when I couldn’t walk because I was so sick.
My best friend Nancy and I laughed a lot when I was home. And we cried. And we wondered, not why me, but what was this all about? She and I understood each other inside and out and she was my biggest cheerleader next to my husband. She made me what we termed “Best Bud Soup” which was heaven when I came back from chemo. Homemade chicken and brown rice soup with her special seasoning. All organic.
My neighbors hired a cleaning lady to come to the house once a week for three months! Other friends gave me gift certificates for massages. I received presents galore. Some fun, some useful, all caring. I felt loved and blessed during all of this. So many good friends! They helped me decorate my Christmas tree during radiation. Nancy helped me pick out wigs and hats. We cried some more and we laughed some more.
I tried to meditate, but the chemo just didn’t let me settle down. So I breathed. I tried to visualize. But I felt so worn out by having to advocate for myself so much, that I just didn’t. Everything I had started out doing in the beginning, I let fall by the wayside. I was discouraged. But having it happen this way taught me a lot for when I went through radiation.
Next week I will share with you the hopeful and wondrous things that happened for me during radiation, after I had put the horrible time of the cancer clinic behind me. I would even say it was a sacred time for me. It’s what can happen when forgiving the past, moving forward and staying mindful. As difficult as it was for me to live through this last part with you this week, it is laying the groundwork for all the good that is to come.
As Valerie will explain as she continues, it was the experience of working with the Unlimited Futures Core Course that made a huge difference in her and her husband’s ability to transform their lives. You may download a free introductory session of this course by simply clicking in the box on the side of this page requesting it.
I also wrote a book entitled Unlimited Futures where I explain this process in detail and give you step-by-step guidelines for working with the process.