The Thing About Cancer

They say it’s not the cancer that kills you, but the complications that arise from the cancer. The disease is just the impetus. While you are treating it with chemotherapy and radiation, something else sprouts up and gets you. That’s the damned thing about this disease.

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It’s been four months since my wife was blindsided by her breast cancer diagnosis.

No family history. No high risk factors. But she got early-stage one cancer at the age of 36. Thankfully, it was a type highly susceptible to the chemotherapy drugs we have to fight it. My aunt, who is an oncologist said, “Nobody wants to get breast cancer. But if I were to get breast cancer, I would want the kind you have.” Um. Thanks?

This Tuesday will be her last chemotherapy treatment. She has had to go every three weeks for six rounds. I’ve heard of other patients going every week. So, in that regard, I think she got off light. Still, it’s chemotherapy. It makes you feel like shit, you lose your hair, and your body has a difficult time battling even the common cold when levels are at their lowest in the days following treatment.

But, again, my wife seems to have gotten off easy. She never had any bouts of vomiting or periods where she couldn’t get off of the couch. Overall, this chemotherapy treatment has just seemed like an inconvenience, rather than something that could potentially save her life. It feels weird to say that when you’re talking about a loved one battling cancer, but that is just how it feels.

In less than a month, though, she will undergo a double mastectomy to (hopefully) ensure that the cancer doesn’t come back, since this type is very aggressive. And I have a feeling that this is when we will feel the full brunt of what this disease is capable of doing. It’s easy to go to a cancer center and sit in a chair and watch crappy daytime television while your body is pumped full of chemo drugs. It’s quite another thing to have both breasts removed and be incapacitated for weeks on the couch while you rely on others to help you do basic things like bathing. But that is the going rate for curing cancer nowadays.

If you would have told me four months ago that this would be our situation in early 2017 after receiving the diagnosis, I think we would have gladly taken it. Less than two weeks after the first treatment, our oncologist was confident the tumor was gone. That goes back to the fact that this type of cancer was treatable. But like a course of antibiotics, you have to see the treatment through to completion. So my wife will bravely go under the knife in less than 30 days to have healthy breast tissue removed from her body in the hopes that we never have to encounter this God damn fucking disease ever again.

Getting cancer in your 30s is not fair, but my wife has handled it with a fight and determination that I always knew she possessed, while I sat by and watched in awe.

The least I can do for her is help her take a bath.