Dear Chemo

Dear Chemo,

I thought I’d commit some of my thoughts about you to paper. I’ll warn you that this may make for uncomfortable reading at times and I may seem a little harsh.

There is no doubt that just under two years ago when we first encountered each other you managed to save my life. I completely get that and am deeply grateful to the doctors and nurses who helped to prescribe you and infuse you into my damaged body that was teetering on the edge of remaining alive. I had always been a little stand offish about entering into a relationship with you though. I had seen what you could do to my own patients back when I toyed with the idea of becoming a Haematologist.

The first time we came together I will never forget the nausea and vomiting you caused. It was horrendous. I didn’t eat for days and couldn’t even swallow my tablets or sip on water. You also gave me the most horrible colicky abdominal pain that I think if someone had handed me a gun I would have pulled the trigger.

You soon got bored with reeking havoc on my gastrointestinal tract and instead got to work on destroying my bone marrow. This induced the most severe apathy in me. I could barely stand up at times. Then the fevers and rigors started as my immune system came under your control. This meant I was once again incarcerated in the hospital and isolated from the world in my mutilated state. There were days and days of waiting and praying for my bone marrow to overcome the struggle with you and start to function normally again.

Then you cast your spell over my hair follicles; out fell my lovely dark, glossy hair in clumps. I remember being unable to cope with it any longer and asking the nurses to shave it all off for me. Just another mutilation taking away another little essence of Kate.

And so this went on. We learnt to counteract some of the nastier side of your personality but after five rounds in the boxing ring I surrendered and walked away from our relationship. You had left me battered and bruised but had also definitely beaten up my cancer enough for me to escape death for at least a little while.

I’m sure you felt jealous and scorned that I walked away so you left a few little reminders of our relationship on my body; the permanent numbness and tingling of my fingertips that reduced my dexterity; the subtle effects on my cognition that stopped me from being able to juggle several tasks at once; the long term immunosuppression leaving me susceptible to every virus around.

So we met again just a few weeks ago; like lovers who had argued but come together again desperately trying to forgive one another for their indiscretions. With the passage of time I had forgotten much of the less appealing side of your personality. Sadly you haven’t changed though. You still like to make me vomit. You still stop my bone marrow working leaving me hospitalised with infection yet again. You still took my hair leaving my self confidence at rock bottom.

The thing is you and I both know that you will never cure me. You can try and hold the cancer at bay for a little while but that overall fight is not one you’re going to win. So do we stay in this poisonous relationship for as long as we can both tolerate it or do we go our separate ways? It’s a near impossible choice that I’m going to have to ponder some more before I make it. In the meantime I’m afraid you will have to wait.

Kind regards,

K

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