The most prominent aftereffect was the loss of my hair after chemotherapy for the first breast cancer in 2012. The chemo drugs made me bald, so I invested in a few wigs and several hats. The next aftereffect was also from the chemo; my skin turned an ugly, greenish hue. Quite frankly, I looked like a walking dead person. Then, from the radiation came burnt skin and flakiness that was very disturbing. And then, there was the fatigue, which came from both treatments. And there was weight gain because I was so low energy. I was given an anti-cancer med, and it made me suicidal. Can’t remember the name of it. My oncologist took me off the pill and put me on Tamoxifen. No more suicidal feelings.
The point is that so much happened because of my cancer experience that was relatively predictable. Thank God the treatments cured me. Oh, there’s more. I can’t forget the surgeries and those devil drainage tubes. How could I forget that my fingernails fell off due to the chemo meds and that I developed horrific mouth sores, also from those meds.
But one thing that I couldn’t have anticipated so readily is that my son developed a huge avoidance of hospitals. This is because he visited me so many times while I was lying in a hospital bed.
Once, I developed a massive infection after my mastectomy. That was the time I had a temperature of 105 degrees. I remember my mother driving me to the hospital. I was delirious and talking out of my head. My breast area was a bright red color, where the infection was located. I remember looking in the mirror in our bathroom at the mess on my chest before she picked me up and saying out loud, “That doesn’t look right.”
I suffered through all of this, but so did my son.
Recently, he graduated from high school and was offered a gig in a hospital. It was a “work experience” where he’d try out several positions in the local hospital – gift shop attendant, instrument sterilizer, housekeeping aid, cafeteria worker, etc. We were all excited about the experience; everyone was but him. Even though the job would have paid excellent money, he absolutely refused to participate in it.
“Hospitals are sad places,” he said. “You almost died in one.”
I tried to put a nice spin on them. “Yes, but they are also places of new life, where babies are born and people come back from the dead when they flatline.”
He wasn’t buying it. He’d been too traumatized by my cancer experiences as an early child.
All in all, we can usually predict the aftereffects that cancer will bring, but not all of them.
I hope that my son will get over his phobia of hospitals, for his sake.
I see them as places of life, and I don’t know what I’d do without them.
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