Ten Great Things About Chemo-Therapy

I can tell you right now, my close friends who are reading this are thinking, “This will be just oozing with sarcasm.” Don’t be jumping to any hasty conclusions my friends. I’ve sworn off sarcasm due to it’s exceedingly unhealthy affect on my soul (and likely my cancer). Sarcasm is definitely off limits, although I make no such promises regarding wryness or irony.
Finding myself at the end of a cycle, once again I’m surprised at my own attitude towards this treatment. It isn’t that I don’t suffer from all the things I’ve already whined about; there are continued unpleasant effects, and they are growing proportionately with each infusion. However, there are a few pretty nice counterpoints to the side effects, which in and of themselves are actually great counters to the insult of these nasty chemicals.
It should be duly noted that I would not have noticed a number of these Great Things About Chemo if it weren’t for friends and acquaintances continued exclamations of, “You look GREAT!” Know that I’m pleased to hear this, and a little flattered. It isn’t like I don’t put my efforts into it. Afterall, I don’t WANT to look sickly. Yet the fact of the matter is, most days I really don’t look sick. And, I may not even look sick at the end of this (we’ll see, I expect I’ll have to roll with that if I get there). However, there is this little recoil in my brain every time I hear that I look great that makes me wonder, does this mean some people think the Chemo isn’t affecting me at all?
Well, probably that isn’t the point. Yet what really fascinates me about the continued exclamations is what makes it possible that I might look great.
For one thing, it’s the hair. #One Great Thing About Chemo actually turns out to be about the hair factor. Once you get over your chagrin that you’ve been robbed of your hair, you can actually make a great friend of your wig. Let’s face it, all wigs hair is better behaved than anyone’s natural hair. Wig hair is manufactured and styled to look fabulous. I tug that puppy on and I look freshly coiffed in six seconds flat. Boom. And it stays that way. That’s Great!
Then there’s my skin. #2nd Great Thing About Chemo is the skin. Okay, maybe this one is especially for people with normally oily skin, and given that allowance for me, even my skin is a whole lot drier from the chemo. At first the dryness was horribly alarming. All my smile lines became actual grooves; ditto for frown lines, worry lines, all those lines. But a good moisturizer really makes a difference with the lines, and, who knew? I haven’t had a white-head, or a black-head, or a blind-zit since week one of chemo! Sisters, can I get a Woot-Woot? I can’t remember the last time I went a whole week with a clear complexion.
Let’s not over-look the new lack of facial hair. No woman wants to own up to managing unwanted facial hair, but #3rd Great Thing About Chemo is I don’t have any unwanted hair on my face. The total bonus so far is, I do still have the WANTED facial hair, i.e. eyebrows and eyelashes. Although this is a topic to revisit in four weeks or so, I have my concerns on this count.
On to #4th Great Thing About Chemo is giving yourself a make-up allowance. True, chemo has made my complexion a little red some days, but foundation smooths that right over. Can you say “color correction?” Uh-huh, I knew you could. I invested in a good foundation and now I wear it regularly, where as I didn’t before, and, well, no wonder I look GREAT. Or, at least not sick. 🙂
So that covers the appearance aspects of chemo, but wait, there’s more!
The extra time I have in the morning by NOT shampooing and blowing dry is, #5th Great Thing About Chemo; better time management! So far, I have made exceedingly productive use of this time by sleeping a little longer. Don’t pretend you’re not jealous.
Next, money management. #6th Great Thing About Chemo is $avings. All right, I just told you I’m spending more on make-up, but that expenditure is still below “Even-Steven” compared to what I’m not spending on good shampoo, conditioner, anti-frizz cream and hair spray. Let’s not even mention salon spending. I’d like to ask you to just pause for a moment to pity my poor hair-dresser who is surely missing the income from my base-color, high-lights, low-lights, hair-cuts and blow-drys. One or two of those services every three weeks? Poor, dear girl. Sorry honey.
Then there’s the simple ‘lost that annoyance’ factor of the #7th Great Thing About Chemo: I don’t have to shave my legs for any reason. Bam. Enough said.
Oh, and this one has to be really good for me, #8th Great Thing About Chemo, I’m just not so into sugar anymore. Oh, I STILL consume some sugar, but less is good enough, and that there’s a miracle.
I had no idea of just how much I was depriving myself of the next one, but #9th Great Thing About Chemo is I am e-mailing, texting, and calling my brothers and sisters way more than I usually do, and wow, do I feel richer for it! Nothing like a little chemo to make you appreciate your loved ones and feel immensely grateful that they’re there, and you’re here, to communicate with them. It seriously makes you feel the power of love on a whole new level.
Finally, I’ve mentioned this before, but as I feel I didn’t stress it enough, and as it is so very valuable, it bears repeating on this list. #10th Great Thing About Chemo is the clarity you gain regarding what is valuable in life, and what is worth effort, and what is not.
Even if you never have to go through this kind of detour in your life, if my experience can make you ask yourself, “What am I investing most of my time in? Who am I investing most of my energy in? Are the rewards of these investments equal to the expenditure of effort and self, and are they worth the sacrifice of things I am not doing for myself or the people I love most? What is the payback for my concessions? Am I getting rewards that match the award of my personal investment? In short, is what I am doing for other people worth to me what it is to them?” If, overall, your honest appraisal of such a review is positive, your life is well lived, and if not, you may want to give yourself permission to revise your priorities.
Chemotherapy is giving me a clarity for what is most valuable in my life. I have an insight that I lacked six months ago. A good day is priceless. I wish you all innumerable good days.

7 thoughts on “Ten Great Things About Chemo-Therapy

  1. Such beautiful writing, dear sister. Thank you for these encouraging words, inspiration and entertainment. I love that your biggest cheerleader is your sweet mother-in-love. She’s a doll. Love her, love you! Gentle hugs and kisses.

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  2. As one of the people who perplexedly or annoyingly compliments your continued lovely appearance, I offer the following explanation. I KNOW you are getting chemo and I expect when I see you that you will LOOK like you’re getting chemo.But you don’t LOOK like your’e getting chemo. You don’t LOOK sick. You look like YOU. The most thing you put on your face is your smile. Luann without a smile would be more noticeable than Luann without hair.
    Your ability to see the silver lining of dark clouds and your tremendous faith has impressed me from the day I met you (okay, the cookies didn’t hurt). I am grateful that you are sharing your thoughts and feelings as you trudge this particular path of your life. Your positive (though ironic) sense of humor and lightheartedness are surely one of the myriad reasons you don’t look sick. The beauty of your soul shines through to the outside and it is more powerful than any toxins or cancer cells that are inside your body. You inspire me.

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  3. How proud am I to be one of your sister siblings??!! VERY! Thanks again, dear little sister, for reminding me to keep a steady pulse on what and whom I am spending time on! Your words have made my day great! 😉

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  4. Luann, the word whine appears near the top of this dispatch from the front, but I hope you know that what you are doing with this blog is the furthest thing from whining. You are filling in your fortunate friends on the details of an unbargained-for side trip from the life you had expected to be leading, and all of us are the richer for your reports. We’re all old enough to know that yeah, fighting cancer is tough. But you are showing us how the job gets done. And you’re doing it with the kind of grace that makes it look as effortless as Eric Clapton playing guitar or Fred Astaire dancing. My gratitude to you grows with each blog post, and I hope you will let me know if I can do anything to help. Thank you, my friend.

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