I haven’t been writing because I’ve been busy waiting.
Waiting for school to start. Waiting to have the time to unpack my new apartment. Waiting for my boss to give me things to work on. Waiting to go on dates. Waiting for my sprained ankle to heal.
Right now I’m waiting, too. Waiting for the nurse to bring the labels so the lab can draw yet another vial of blood. Waiting for the results to come in. Waiting for the nurse to show the results to the doctor. Waiting for the doctor to look at the results. Waiting for the nurse to come out to tell me what the doctor said. Maybe, waiting for a prescription or for a shot.
And while I wait, I try not to get angry at the amount of time that I spend waiting in frigid, windowless waiting rooms and frigid, windowless exam rooms. Lately, too much time. Just this week: close to five hours. All of these hours adding up to days and weeks and months and years of my life, spent waiting. Maybe all of this waiting is helping put years on my life, but it might all even out in the end.
This chemo is not going well so far. I have to wait another month for a scan to tell me whether it’s working for the purpose it’s intended, but for now it’s content to wreck havoc on my bone marrow. It’s amazing, actually, that such a little, harmless-looking white pill can create so many problems in such a short period of time. Just four days on this pill, just four doses (or the combined effect of those four doses with all of the other doses I’ve ingested in the last month), sent my immunity spiraling to new lows. It sent my doctors and nurses running to sign the pieces of paper that allow them to load me up with shots and antibiotics.
I just have to sit and wait. I get alarmed at the low numbers that the lab sends back; but I feel fine. I feel worse when I get the shot that sends my immunity shooting to super-human levels. My skin feels tender like it does when I’m sick. And my bones just ache.
Someone asked me the other day, “Why keep taking this medication if it’s causing this many problems?”
It was a good question.
I said, “This medication is the last ‘easy’ option, where I can take a pill every day, experience supposedly minimal side effects, and keep the tumors at bay. It’s causing a lot of problems, but it might be working too.”
Now, as I wait, I wonder if what I said is true. This medication is not easy for me. It might be easy compared to some of the other treatments that cancer patients are made to endure. But really, when I spend most of my time waiting, or driving to and from the doctor, or laying on the couch because my bones ache (and because my sprained ankle is swollen), I don’t have much time left over to live my life.
I started this treatment thinking it would fail. After months of hearing doctors sing its shortcomings, and after taking a very similar medication that had very similar side effects that ended up failing, I wasn’t overly hopeful. So now I feel like I’m just waiting for the doctors to finally figure out what I’ve known all along: that this medication just isn’t going to work for me. I want to stand up, shut down the paper-signing and the lab-testing and announce, definitively, that I’m done. “Time to move on!” Start the next treatment already so I don’t have to wait anymore.
Still, I can’t be certain. There’s a glimmer of possibility: it could be working. It could be killing cancer cells while it’s killing white blood cells. The little bit of medication that I have been able to tolerate could be enough. It could be working while I wait. And that’s what matters, right?