14 years today since my last round of chemotherapy.
This is an anniversary that I always remember, (without the help of FB memories. 😆)
I had my first round of chemotherapy at 15 for Hodgkins Lymphoma. I can't remember how many rounds I had for cancer. I then had radiation to make sure the cancer was gone. It was and has stayed at bay since then - 16 years ago.
During my treatment, apart from the memories of nausea, I also have special memories of my sisters sitting on my bed with me in the oncology, giggling away.
There is a picture of that somewhere, with me still in my school uniform from having gone to school that morning before the treatment. Carmen and Claire had taken a break from their studies in Cape Town to come and be with me. We lit the room up that day and they helped bring a smile to everyone's faces. Whenever I go for my checkups, the nurses and my oncologist always ask how they are, my precious sidekicks.
It took a while after that for me to be able to handle certain smells. I still feel nauseas to this day at certain cleaning detergents that can in an instant take me back to the oncology bathroom where I sometimes had to throw up.
After cancer, two and a half years later, came my blood disorder. All of the go-to treatments failed, including platelet transfusions, steroids and a splenectomy. My haematologist, the late Professor Peter Jacobs was the best haematologist in the country, and one of the leading in the world. I feel a touch of pride at having been his patient. My case was the most unique form of thrombocytopenia that South Africa had experienced and with all treatments failing, and my platelets on a life-threatening zero, Prof had to get creative.
For mine and my parents peace of mind, we were CC'd in on discussions between Prof and his fellow "A-Team" as he called them. The best of the best, and they were discussing how to not only save my life but to allow me once again to be able to actually live it, without a body full of deep purple and blue bruises everywhere and the fear of bleeding to death.
They decided on a concoction of drugs. Anti-cancer drugs, AKA chemotherapy.
I was only 18 but I was smitten with Prof (He was 74, hehe).
He wore a bow tie to the hospital every day and he looked at me and saw me. I felt he truly cared and was committed to helping me.
As a family, we trusted him. Whatever he said, we would do.
So I began chemotherapy once again, aged 18. It took three rounds. I once again lost about half of my hair, but my platelets had risen drastically. They have stayed at a healthy number ever since, for 14 years now.
For a few years after I lived in constant fear of what next.
The what next came at about 21 when my shoulder pain started but we only discovered the cause at 23. Avascular necrosis, causing deterioration of the bone to the point it needed to be replaced.
After that, I let go of the fear. I can't remember how, I think I just decided it wasn't worth it to live that way, scared of getting sick again. Whatever happens, happens, so we've got to live and love while we are able to.
The reality is that my immune system is compromised and always will be. I don't have a spleen and that puts me at a higher risk of infection and when I do get sick, I get properly sick. It's manageable. I have pain from the avascular necrosis and my shoulders hurt, but I am alive.
I am alive and I can jump and be merry without fear of bleeding out. I am more grateful for that than I can say.
Often when people hear about what I've been through, I am touched by their empathy as they say how sorry they are for me having to experience that.
I am too but in recent years, I have come to deeply appreciate it. I'm glad it happened. There is profound power in pain.
We have all experienced it in some way or another. Use it.
I've moved passed it but I haven't forgotten it.
I tap into it when I need to - when I need to be reminded how tough I am. I like to imagine there is a beast inside of me and sometimes I wake her up.
I am not a victim. I am a warrior, and so are you - if you choose to be.