Chemotherapy – a therapy with arguably the worst reputation out there. We often refer to it as a “chemo,” as if it didn’t deserve to carry the word “therapy” in its name. Or maybe giving it a nickname should make it easier to deal with?
Hardly anyone ever thinks of it as a healing or life-saving remedy. It simply is not that kind of therapy. Let’s face it, knowing someone who is undergoing “chemo,” usually make us feel sorry for them. And not only because it indicates that they have cancer (a disease with arguably the worst reputation), but also because the therapy itself is so toxic. It has such a long list of side effects that some people decide against the advice of their doctors and opt out of this…well, treatment option.
It works by killing the cells. Unfortunately, it kills the healthy ones too. Nausea, vomiting, hair loss, infections, and several more side effects come hand in hand with this…well, treatment.
Is it ok to kill a cell in order to save a cell? Or shall I say to save a life? Is the suffering we undergo while toxins are killing us worth the often-unsure results? Chemotherapy is just that – therapy, certainly not a cure. And as its name suggests, it is a chemical factory exploding in one’s beautiful body. A body that is already being consumed by usually a life-threatening disease.
So, is it worth it? Can one’s body even survive it? Or should the question be different? Do we owe it to our body to give it every possible option, however, taxing it may be? Should we trust our bodies to survive? Should we embrace the treatment?
Right after I was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia, I found out there is no magic bullet pill to cure me. My doctor advised, as per the typical treatment protocol, several rounds of chemotherapy, before they find a bone marrow donor.
“I am not going to the hospital!” Refusal vibrated every cell of my body. It was the second time that day I reacted this way. The first time was when I stormed out of the doctor’s office ignoring her objections.
We were standing in the middle of our living room. My husband looked at me mutely. What was there to say? And frankly, I didn’t quite think about his thoughts or feelings. I was overwhelmed by my own emotions. He was there for me, in silence, probably slowly dying inside. Scared for my life. Scared of the disease. Scared of me not wanting to get the treatment.
We didn’t speak; we just were there. At times sitting, at times walking around like lions in a cage. Processing the situation. Fighting it. Hoping it’s just a nightmare. Hoping to wake up.
My stubborn refusal was joined by anger that boiled every single drop of my blood. My sick blood. “That is just great! My own blood is trying to kill me!” I threw my hands in the air.
It was then when my husband stopped me, pulled me towards himself and hugged me. Safely in his arms, buried in his welcoming embrace, I finally started crying. In those long, horrible, confusing hours after the diagnosis, this was the first time I let go and cried. He held me, and I cried. He probably cried too, but I couldn’t see that. And in that teary moment of what could have been perceived as a weakness (isn’t that what we often mistake the tears for?), I started finding my strength. A different strength that I knew before.
For the first time in a very long time of being a wife, a mother, a friend, a co-worker, a manager, a daughter, I allowed my attention to be entirely on me. I stood there and thought of all the people that I loved. I melted in the arms of a man I loved. And it made me realized that in order to survive, I needed to start thinking of myself. I needed to start being there for myself. Selfishly! Or better, self-lovingly. A new concept! I was used to giving love and accepting others with love. But never myself!
I wanted to live, and my body was throwing a challenge on me. A challenge I could only overcome with extensive amounts of self-acceptance and love. (Note to self: in my next life, don’t wait for a devastating disease to teach me this lesson!)
“I will go to the hospital tomorrow to start the chemo.” I finally stopped crying. A wave of relief embraced our bodies. A short, but much needed, relief that helped us to take a breath and prepare for what is to come.
The next day, when a nurse pierced my arm with a needle to insert the catheter for the tubes that will be my companion for months to come, I closed my eyes and started to pray. I prayed for my family, and I prayed for myself. And I prayed for the chemotherapy. I thanked it for doing the right job and welcomed it with love. I kindly asked my blood to accept the treatment and heal.
“You seem so calm and content. I don’t see that often here,” commented the nurse.
“I am calm,” I smiled. “I am receiving this therapy with love.”
The nurse probably thought she didn’t hear right. “With love?”
I smiled and nodded my head gently.
The nurse shook her head. “Well, this chemo must be quite freaked out right now. No one has ever received it with love before!”
When the nurse left, I continued my healing prayer with a smile. Yes, I was calm. I was peaceful. Peace of mind, harmony in heart and stillness of my body was a starting meditation of a loving journey of self-acceptance.