Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Chemo vs Surgery

I've had a few people ask in the last couple weeks which is worse, chemo or surgery. It's a hard question to answer, but just in case anyone out there is wondering the same thing, I thought I'd address it here.

Surgery is awful. (At least, mine are.) The post-op pain is indescribable. Coming out of the anesthesia, and those first few days in the hospital are horrific. The pain eventually gets better, but it takes weeks before I can breathe without pain. Because I am immobilized, it's incredibly difficult to get a good night's sleep for... oh... I'd say the first month after surgery. Losing my center of gravity, having to learn how to balance my own weight as I re-learn how to walk is one of the most difficult things I've ever done. (Over, and over, and over... oh, and over again.)

Chemo is also awful. My own personal issues with needles and injections and blood and all other bodily fluids make the process of administering the chemo unspeakably difficult for me. Part of me hates that it's come to this, that I am poisoning my body in an effort to save it - and part of me hates that my body's brought me to this place where poison is my best option. (I've been betrayed by my body, and my body's been betrayed by me. It's very much Dante's ninth circle of hell.) The side effects are wicked, unpredictable, and nearly impossible to control. I've had a "not typical" side effect pop up with every round so far, which doesn't exactly give me the warm and fuzzies when I consider that I'm three rounds in to... I have no idea how many it will take.

On the flip side...

Surgery is predictable. There are mile markers, and I know exactly where they are. I know how many weeks it takes for me to be able to have the strength to walk around my complex, and how many more it takes before I can walk a mile. I know what kind of diet I need to have, and how to medicate myself to keep all systems operating. As hard as it is to go from the walker to a treadmill to walking hands-free, I have done it, so I know I can do it. Surgery is wicked, but it's doable.

Chemo is also predictable. I know that I'm going to sleep 15 of the 24 hours of every day in the first week. I know that, between 10-12 days after the first day of treatment, my mouth is going to fall to crap and it's highly likely that my body's going to sprout some kind of weird infection.  As much as I hate the timelines of knowing when the worst side effects will fall into place, I also know that there will be 3 or 4 good days at the end of every three week cycle. Chemo is also wicked, but it, too, is doable. (Note that I'm saying this on one of the good days at the end of a cycle.)

The thing is, one isn't any better or worse than the other. They're both awful, but they're also both necessities in the body that I live in. So, I do them. With hope that, eventually, it will be the last surgery, or the last round and the cancer won't come back.

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