Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Bizarro Pregnancy

Going through cancer treatment is a lot like being pregnant, except that everything is turned on its head—bizarro pregnancy, if you will. How so? Let me count the ways:

LIKE PREGNANCY, everyone is focused on something inside of me.

I as an individual cease to be the protagonist of my own life, and everything revolves around the thing inside of my body.

BUT, instead of this growth inside of me being awaited and celebrated, it is feared and loathed, a thing to be gotten rid of and destroyed instead of a thing to be welcomed and cherished.

LIKE PREGNANCY, I am in doctors' offices all the time.

BUT, instead of receiving smiles, knowing glances, and perhaps even a look of envy at my swollen belly, I am looked upon with pity and surprise. I am no longer surrounded in the waiting room by women in my age group; I am always the youngest person there. And when the elderly are pitying you, you know something is seriously wrong.

LIKE PREGNANCY, people feel they have license to tell you anything and everything about their experience or the experience of anyone they have ever known, whether you want their input or not. In this area, there is actually little difference between pregnancy and cancer treatment. The degree of scientific backing for peoples' suggestions is exceedingly low in both situations; unverified internet information, old wives' tales, and personal experience (which by its nature is unique to every individual) suddenly become medical fact in the mind of the person talking to you. They undoubtedly know what you must/shouldn't/can't/had better do.

BUT, the content is of course different. Instead of "Oh, you're carrying high so it must be a girl," the prognosis is instead something like "Keep you body alkaline!" Or was it acidic? I can't remember now what the woman at the spa said when I hadn't asked for her advice...and besides, don't our bodies maintain a necessary pH level that isn't impacted by short-term changes to the hydrochloric acid in our stomachs? Soooo....

LIKE PREGNANCY, I am taking about six months off of work. And the entire ordeal will likely be 9-12 months.

BUT, there is nothing cute and cuddly at the end that I can walk around the office with.

What I hope for most is this:
LIKE PREGNANCY, cancer treatment will last for a defined amount of time and then end. Be over. There will be permanent, lasting changes—such is the nature of living in a body. And they will be unpredictable and personalized, a reminder that your body has gone through a significant challenge. But over time those changes become a part of who you are; they don't preclude feeling or looking good, or being normal.

BUT, it is a phase to be endured, and reaching that end calls for a drink.

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