I had chemo on Tuesday and, as usual, started vomiting even before the show got started. As usual, they administered IV anti-nausea drugs and knocked me out. Typically, once I get home, I continue to feel crappy until Thursday, when my chemo pump is done and I return to Dana Farber to have it disconnected. Then I return home, shower and rest and recuperate.
However, this week, once home on Tuesday, I couldn’t stop vomiting. I couldn’t take a sip of water without it coming back up. I couldn’t take any meds by mouth (because the water triggered vomiting). There is one pill that I could put under my tongue, but simply looking at it made me vomit. I could barely (and only sometimes) hold down small amounts of ice chips.
This continued throughout Wednesday, day and night. My skin smelled like chemo and, no matter how much I brushed, my teeth felt gross. I needed a change of scenery so, on Thursday morning went downstairs, only to get sick again in the closest bathroom. Unfortunately, that bathroom is used by the boys and their friends. Being on that bathroom floor was enough to trigger more vomiting, so I headed back upstairs.
I figured that I would feel better once I got disconnected from chemo later that day, but no. I vomited at Dana Farber before the disconnect as well as after, then continued after I arrived home. I showered, changed the sheets and aired out the bedroom. I tried moving around. Nothing made a difference.
I couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with all this suffering. I didn’t understand the reason or the purpose. I considered stopping chemo for good, but I also know that I will just be in a different kind of pain if I do that. No road ahead looked good. I prayed for someone to come and shoot me dead.
On Friday, the vomit-fest continued. I couldn’t get through my shower without getting sick and then spent most of the day in bed. I was so tired of living in my bedroom.
By now, vomiting was all I could think about. It felt like I was drowning in thoughts of what triggered it, trying to avoid it happening, and having it actually happen. These thoughts consumed every minute. I tried to be grateful that I was able to do chemo at all. I tried to be grateful that I was at home and not in the hospital. I tried to think of something other than chemo and sickness, but this now appeared to be my entire reality.
One of my coping mechanisms is to focus on the present, so late on Friday night, I practiced that. I wanted to focus on something outside of myself, outside of my room. I could hear, through my open window, the crickets chirping and, beyond that, the cars on the busy road near our house. I focused on those cars – were they a continuous stream? Were there breaks in between? Did I hear any trucks?
Suddenly I was about 8 years old, spending the night at my grandparents’ home. I slept in the front bedroom facing the busy street on which they lived. When I woke in the middle of the night, I loved seeing the glow of the streetlights and hearing the pattern of cars as they drove by. Sometimes, I would scramble to the foot of the bed and look out the window, watching the cars as they passed. At that time of night, there were only one, two, or maybe three cars at the same time, and I got to witness it.
This memory brought back all the wonderful feelings I had about staying with my grandparents and made me feel better. Throughout the night, each time I got nauseous, I would focus on the moment, listen to the cars and before long, find myself back at my grandparents’ home. Did it work every time? No. But it worked enough so that I could find some moments of peace.
Eventually, I felt well enough to page through Facebook. Friends of mine posted that they were in Gethsemane, and they both posted this photo:
I don’t want to walk this path. Not at all. But I suppose this is the path in front of me. I don’t have to be happy about it, but I do need to follow it.
I hope that, if you are mired in something that you cannot see or feel your way out of, that you can find an island of peace in your heart, and that a message comes to you from somewhere, somehow, to provide support and a little opening for the light to get in.