Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Social Life of a Cancer Patient

No matter what was going on with my treatment, I tried to get out. I tried to have the social life of a 26/27 year old. I didn’t drink, (I am pretty sure) I looked horrible, and sometimes, I had trouble keeping up with everyone. But I needed the interaction with more than my parents and doctors. I was determined to go through all the treatments and appointments alone, but I needed something to do in my evenings to keep my mind active and keep a positive attitude.

Even though I wasn’t working I would often have lunch with my co-workers, who treated it like a party almost every time I stepped in the door. On Fridays, I would drive down there a little before noon and then wander around the office for a bit and say hi to everyone while I was waiting for lunch. It was so nice for me to go around and visit. I got hugs, and all my coworkers would talk to me about how I felt. Once in a while, one of the girls that I worked with would tell me that she knew how I felt because she had some sort of flu. We would all laugh about that later, because she really had no idea as to how I felt. 

The Fancy Lunch Crew

My co-workers were so supportive, that even when I wasn’t able to make it down there. Because of my immunities and the fear of catching a cold or something that may be circling the office, or because I was just too sick to drive, they always made sure that I knew they loved me. I would often get a card with get-well wishes, usually on days that I would need it the most. This group of people was amazing. They always just seemed to know. I would get tons of emails. I started running a trivia question of the day via email, and it was so fun to get the funny answers that I would get. It was really uplifting.

My parents threw a get well party for all my friends to attend, and I think to meet them, and know what we were dealing with. My parents fell in love with the ones who came, and I just loved them all a little more. We had a barbecue, and there were few people there, but it was so nice just to hang out with everyone in the comfort of my own home. 

Friends and I would go out, sometimes to bars. We had a favorite one downtown, right by the pier, that had a great cover band.  We would sit outside and I would laugh at them while they got drunk and acted silly. 

One of my favorite times when I went out with my friends, was when a bunch of us went out to this storefront karaoke studio in Fountain Valley (It was called Elvis!? Karaoke Studios).  I love to sing. And I love Karaoke. It had studio rooms, and you could record yourself singing. There were around 7 of us, and we went in and were told “No Drinky,” because they wanted you to buy drinks from them, and not bring in your own. To this day, it’s a huge joke with a couple of us. We were there for a couple of hours, singing away. We sang quite a mix of songs. We had a funny time, as replayed by the tape we made that night. 

My dad had known that I was having trouble with nausea, so earlier in the day, he tried an experiment. Dad made me pot brownies. I had one about a half an hour before we left to go to the karaoke place. It didn’t help much with the nausea, but it made me giggle a lot. By the time we got to karaoke, I couldn’t feel my legs, so I had to be helped. The brownie effect was referenced in several songs that we sang that night. It also loosened me up to where I was no longer shy to sing in front of other people. Apparently, I have a good voice. And judging from the conversations of the night, I was very well loved.  

My parents were really good about letting people visit, too. On chemo days, I often didn’t want to leave the house after I got home. Sometimes when I was feeling down, my parents would call or email one of my friends and they would come over in the evening and visit. My old upstairs neighbor, Dawn came over once in a while with my friend Linda. Linda would entertain me and often bring me animal books to read, while Dawn hung out and teased my dad. Kim would come over every night to give me my Neupogen shot and try to visit for a bit until her husband started thinking that she was having an affair and demanded that she come straight home after work every night. And Sweet Elizabeth who tried to bring her cute little dog, Teddy, over as often as she could. Even one of my best friends, Damon came all the way from Sacramento with his daughter and step-son. It was wonderful to meet them both, and to see him.

Damon, the kids and Me

Friends also offered to go to chemo with me. It was very nice of them, but I only allowed it twice. I always felt that if anyone was visiting or was with me, I needed to be entertaining. It was so time consuming and tiring, it was hard for me to be able to even talk for that amount of time. Elizabeth went with me to my second one, and Linda went with me to my last one. I loved that they cared enough to go with me, and that they took me out afterward, but it was so hard to remain interesting.

I met a few people in chemo that were actually my age. Rachel was a year or two older than me, I think. And Michael - the cute boy from the Gallium scan - who WAS someone I went to high school with. They ended up dating for a period of time, and we often saw each other with our corresponding check ups and chemos - mostly just in passing, but once in a while we’d talk.

On the day that it was Rachel’s last chemo, so I stopped by to celebrate with her. While she was waiting to go in, we started talking about an ER episode that was on the night before. It was one where two of the doctors were dealing with a man that was on the attack around the hospital. He ended up stabbing one of the main doctors and an intern. He killed the intern. It was a really shocking episode. While we were talking about it, Dr. Sapra peeked his head into the waiting room and just blurted out “Shit like that happens!” And then just disappeared again. We could NOT stop laughing. It was so out of character for him. I mentioned it to him and he said to me, “well, it DOES!”

I lived for all the visits, cards, nights out, lunches, dinners and humor that I got from every single person. Those people (and they know who they are) will forever live in my heart for the wonderful things that they did when I was sick. They were what kept me going. Of all the things I take from this illness, I will take their love and friendship most of all.


Mrs G said...

I love that you are writing again! I missed it when you didn't have the time. I like this entry because you tied together lots of events from the social aspect and included things that helped you so others will know what is a good thing to do for a sick friend. Good job, Jen!

Miss Tustall said...

I am a cancer survivor also. It is so wonderful you had such a good support system. I think the best thing about cancer, for me anyway, is discovering how much people really love you. Wish you the best.