Let me preface this by saying that I appreciate all the kind well-wishes, prayers, and thoughts that everyone has offered. Lately, many of them have been centered on the fact that I’ve finished six of my twelve scheduled chemotherapy appointments treating my Stage IV Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
But halfway is NOT the milestone you think it is.
Halfway is defined thus: to half the distance; to midpoint
Are we at that point in my treatment? Yes. Does that mean what we think it does? Absolutely not.
If you’ve read my brain tumor book, you will remember how frustrated I got when people would tell me how “lucky” I was that my brain tumor hadn’t been cancer. While specifically true (obviously having brain cancer would have sucked), that statement immediately invalidated the fourteen hours of surgery, year of recovery time, loss of hearing in one ear, and significant paralysis on the left side of my face that I have been left with. If that’s lucky, I’ll be avoiding four-leaf clovers from now on, thanks…
I’ve even gotten some of that with my current situation. “You got the cancer to have if you’re going to get cancer” — seriously people? I’ve somehow drawn pocket aces again in the luck of the draw by having my lymphatic system, my liver, and my bones all riddled with cancer? I mean, maybe I really should have gotten treated in Las Vegas so I could hit the tables on the way home from chemo.
The “halfway” concept is really similar. Why? It’s simple. We are conditioned to think of halfway as a point on a line. When we hit mile 50 of a 100 mile drive? We’re halfway. When we hit Wednesday in the average work week? We’re halfway. No kidding, you say– so what? Why is finishing 6 out of 12 not halfway?
Because the two halves are completely unequal – halfway is not the landmark we’re used to in this case.
Chemotherapy gets worse each time.
Every chemotherapy session I go to is more uncomfortable. My recovery times continue to increase. My white blood cell counts get lower, constantly increasing my odds of getting sick. It’s like a marathon that starts on a flat surface at 75deg F – and then both the incline and the temperature increase by one degree every mile. By the time you hit the 13.1 mile mark, you would NOT be looking forward to the rest of the race – right? (runners, back me up on this one!)
Three weeks ago my 5th chemo session was unpleasant. Last week my 6th chemo session sucked. It was uncomfortable for the entire four hours. I finally had to just put back the recliner that they treat me in and go to sleep to ward off the discomfort. If that trend continues? Well, let’s just say I’m not looking forward to sessions 7-12.
Why am I telling you all this?
Is it because I’m horribly offended by people making what they assume to be very friendly and positive comments to me? No. Or maybe because I want everyone who offers encouraging words to people to feel like crap and question their own motives? As tempting of a social experiment as that might be some time… No, not at all. Obviously, when my family, friends, and fellow patients/survivors offer their congratulations on being halfway finished, I take those thoughts with their intended connotations. Those people are happy for me and wishing me the best. And as I mentioned earlier, I appreciate it.
I’m offering my thoughts on being “halfway” through my scheduled chemotherapy so that it might serve to change how we approach situations like this. I’m hoping that maybe we can figure out a more expressive way to show our concern or convey our well wishes. Let’s change the dynamic in how we deal with our loved ones who are ill. I’ve got pretty thick skin when it comes to people talking about my situation – I get what people are trying to say. No big deal. Let’s influence and improve the experience of the people around us! I remember when someone close to me was terminal and nearing the end of their life – I did my damndest to always say to that person, “It’s good to see you.” The one time I screwed it up and said the much more common “How are you?” Yeah, I got an honest answer – a lesson for which I am forever obliged. I promise that I’ll never get those two confused again.
So let’s change the culture a little bit. One sick guy, a bunch of people who are supporting him while he goes through chemotherapy, and a random website. What do you say? I think we can do it.
A couple of my ideas:
- “Wishing you a simple and easy second half.” – See? There we can keep the halfway concept intact while wishing for an easier time of it.
- “Can’t wait until they’re finished!” – That works. Me too, let me tell ya!
- “Past the Scylla, now on to the Charybdis!” – Okay, that’s a stretch – but I thought you literary types might enjoy the comparison of my odyssey to that of Odysseus… (Hey, you liked the Macbeth article, remember?). Obviously I’ve run out of even vaguely good ideas. I didn’t say I had a solution for this dilemma, I’m just the one identifying it. I need your help.
What about you? Who’s got a good idea? Put ’em in the comments and we’ll put together a Top 10 list of them to help family and friends of chemo patients!
Last thing: I know I’ve been promising you proof of the new hairdo…