Tumors and babies

Published by pam on Sun, 04/08/2012 - 3:52pm



So, my sister in law (who as of last week is really my sister in law, even though I have been referring to her as such for quite a while now) is a nurse and has worked with chemo patients for some time.  She has been an amazing source of information and for that I am eternally grateful.  One of the pearls of wisdom she offered is this: chemo, and to a degree, cancer, is a lot like pregnancy.  Most of the parallels she describes have to do with the notion that during this process, one's body is  not one's own.   A force has taken up residence and that force has needs.  There are food cravings and food aversions and nausea and so on.  But the similarities go well beyond the obvious.  Let me explain:


 1.  Something is growing.  It doesn't kick, but it's growing none the less.  It wants certain foods.  It doesn't like other foods. It eats before you do, often depriving the rest of your body of what it needs most.

 2.  Sorry, no alcohol.  It's back to non-alcoholic beer.   NA beer probably isn't  much better for you, but alcohol is off limits.  And at least NA beer lets you pretend that you don't feel quite so left out when everyone else is drinking a really good martini.  

 3.  Weight gain.  Doesn't that suck?  Chemo patients are more likely to gain weight than loose it.  And some people gain quite a lot.  The weight gain is mostly due to the steroids, although some of it is the result of chemically induced menopause.

 4.  Mood swings.  See #3.  

 5.  Nausea (its not just for mornings anymore).  Chemo patients are advised to address their nausea by eating frequent, small, bland meals.  Saltines, rice, white bread, and so on.  I didn't have much nausea while pregnant, but when I did, the only thing that helped was Smarties.  Really.  Smarties.  I'd eat about five packs around 10am and be set for the rest of the day.  Think there's any chance it will work here? No, me neither.

 6.  Husbands can be a bit clueless.  Husbands seem to think chemo (a baby) wont change things much.  Really.  It's just a baby (chemo).  How big of a deal could it be?  It's not like splitting wood or doing taxes or something.  It's treatment (labor).  You'll be fine.  No reason to think any of this will get in the way of next summer's vacation plans.

 7.  Horror stories.  People you meet in the supermarket insist on telling you the most awful things that happened to their second cousin's best friend's sister.  The chemo (labor) ate her spine, paralyzed the left side of her face, destroyed a part of her brain and now she's taken to swearing uncontrollably at church.  Of course, a lot of the stories involve dying.  There are plenty of those.  But at least no one asks to touch your tumor.  Not so far, anyway.

 8.  It's Twins!!!!  It happens, as I well know.  Two for the price of one. Twice blessed.  What a deal.

 9.  Suddenly, everything is about the baby (the cancer).  It defines each minute of each day.  When people talk about things unrelated to the baby (the cancer), you wonder why.  After all, you are pregnant (with tumor).  Can anything be more important than that?  Don't they understand?  Then you catch yourself and realize you have become incredibly selfish and secretly fear that you will soon be swearing uncontrollably in church.  Clearly the cancer ( baby) is eating away at your brain.

 10. Your number one job is to take care of yourself.  The future (your future) really does depend on it.  You work on stress reduction and eating right.  You sleep more and try to be kind to yourself.  And occasionally play the cancer (I'm pregnant) card and tell everyone else they have to be nice to you too.

 11.  Finally,  you tell yourself that chemo (pregnancy) doesn't last forever.  Eventually, you'll loose the weight, you'll get your mind back, your body back. Your life will return to a state of normalcy.  And just maybe, if you're really lucky, you'll be a little stronger and wiser for the whole experience.   Maybe.  At least that's the hope.