The Wall


I've got to be honest. The last round of chemotherapy I had was the toughest of them all. It wasn't that driving snowy-icy roads in the dark for over an hour to get to the hospital on time had me frazzled. (Although they did. The car even tried to break down on the way home!) It wasn't that not getting enough to eat that morning caused some nausea issues, which in turn led to my first mouth sore since treatment #1. It wasn't that I felt sicker and more tired afterward than any other post-chemo experience. It wasn't even that it was two days before Christmas and I hadn't wrapped the presents yet.

I just . . . didn't want to do this anymore.

don't want to do this anymore.

I mentioned it to my best friend Janet, and she said simply, "You've hit the Wall."

You see, Janet has another friend with cancer; a friend who has had more difficulties than I have. It was that friend who told her about the wall and warned that I would be running into it sooner or later. Janet, bless her heart, was on the alert and her advice came straight from a veteran on the front lines of another battle.

I'm not paraphrasing by much when I quote:

"You've hit the Wall. You want to quit. You can't."

It seems like a no-brainer. It really does. If there is any cancer patient in the world who undergoes a chemo treatment and says, "Thank you sir, may I have another?" that, my friends, is a cancer patient residing in a psych ward somewhere. Of course, you still go to the next treatment, and the next. You have the surgery, undergo radiation, learn how to pop pills as though you are solely responsible for keeping the kids of pharmaceutical company employees from starving. You hold your arm obediently out for every needle stick. You learn how to style a wig. You do what you need to do. Of course you do.

Except for the times when you don't.

It's when you hit the Wall that treatments and regimens and indignities you took for granted as necessary evils on the road to remission become . . . negotiable. The shallower part of your survival instinct points out that not only is chemo not fun, it's actively bad for you. Maybe . . . just maybe, you've had enough. Maybe the worst won't happen. And even if it does, you whisper to yourself, it can't be worse than this. Can it?

Part of my problem is that there are always a few wonderful days between chemo treatments when I feel
very good. At the tail end of those few weeks of respite between chemo sessions, there's no queasiness, no exhaustion, no lingering unwellness, just the sweet solace of normality. Those are the days when I've developed a resistance to the idea of submitting myself to the next episode of feeling like something best scraped off the bottom of a shoe. I like normality. Intellectually, I know that those good days might just represent the eye of the hurricane, but by golly, it is soooo very tempting to consider that they might, in fact, represent happily ever after, if only I stopped right here.

A few months ago, after my last CT Scan showed marked improvement, my doctor and I discussed the probability of my moving on to radiation sooner rather than later. I thought it was curious when she commented that radiation was an option that I could refuse if I wished, but that having come so far, it would be hard to understand if I decided against it. At the time, I thought it would be hard to understand too!

But now, as I lean against the Wall and consider climbing over it and slogging ever-onward, I can see the other side of the equation. I can see why some people just up and quit, sometimes only changing their minds when it's too late, sometimes never changing their minds at all. I can see the attraction of quitting. I know, beyond any shadow of doubt, that if my next scan indicates a need for more chemotherapy, I will be absolutely crushed.

My only advantage is that despite my increasing antipathy, I have people in my support group who aren't going to take my "no more" for an answer. I might want to quit, I might even try to quit, but I have friends and family who will, without hesitation or remorse, boost me up and over the Wall despite my kicking and screaming. At gunpoint if necessary. Some of the equestrian types even own whips!

I can't promise not to resent the heck out of them. I can't promise a cooperative sunny attitude or a can-do philosophy where none might exist. Just because I seldom exhibit a bad attitude doesn't mean I'm incapable of one. To the contrary, I can be just as ugly tempered as the last shark to a feeding frenzy. I give fair warning.

But, I know this:

If chemotherapy is still in my future, or the inevitable radiation yanks the rug out from under me and I hit the Wall again and want to quit . . .

I can't.

So, thanks in advance.

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