The Beauty of Chemotherapy

The Beauty of Chemotherapy | Sedruola Maruska

Oooooo I know the moment I begin talking about the beauty of chemotherapy I’m opening myself up to all sorts of judgements. Thing is, before I had cancer, it was easy for me to judge too. All I ask is that you take a moment and hear what I’m saying.

The Beauty of Chemotherapy | Sedruola Maruska

Going through chemotherapy is not a fun process. It requires patience, stamina and a whole lot of understand on the part of those around you. Chemotherapy is a toxic poison that anyone not going through cancer can judge all they want. Now that we’re done with that, let’s get to the beauty of chemotherapy.

My Story

On January 2, 2018 I went in for my first chemotherapy infusion. I had no idea what to expect, but it was the course I’d decided on so there I was. My husband and I went to the Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center in Waltham and started my four month journey on chemotherapy drugs. That was also the first day I met my nurse, Jennie (who would later be known around my house as ‘my Jennie’). My veins did not cooperate on this first visit. They were hard to find so several nurses came in to help ‘my Jennie’ in placing the catheter. Everyone was so kind.

At my first chemotherapy appointment my husband accompanied me. After that appointment, I had someone new with me each time. Only my mom & sister/cousin Rose came with me twice. There were specific reasons, but the most prominent was that I enjoyed having the company. I also think it helped me keep front and center the support I had. By my third infusion I began to look forward to chemotherapy. I looked forward to seeing my Jennie, my Mary (the wonderful nurse who did acupuncture & acupressure for me and relieved my nausea by her third visit) and interacting with my hero of the day.

The cancer journey can be rigorous and lonely if you allow it to be. However, mine was always filled with love, support and lots of laughter. Although I felt frustrated at times, I never felt alone or lonely. Falling in love with my nurse and nursing staff made every visit an adventure.

Read my article: Working Through Chemo a Survival Guide

The Beauty of Chemotherapy

Now for the beauty. Chemotherapy, as much as we may hate it and consider it a poison, it works. I felt my mass melt away after the first infusion so that by the 5th infusion, we could barely find it. It shrinks tumors and helps give people back their lives.

Chemotherapy brings people together. I met amazing nurses, I’m thankful for my great doctors, but mostly my friends, family and community banded together to give my family the help we needed in going through a major medical crisis. Every call, card, flower, package, meal, blanket, text etc. served to help keep our spirits high and happy. Chemo lets you know who will or will not be there for you in the end. We all need to know that information.

Finally, the thing that chemotherapy did for me, that it seems nothing else ever could, is it gave me time to take time for myself. It knocked me down so that I could take time to allow my body to fight and heal. It taught me how important self-care is no matter what and gave me time to explore what that means to me.  Taking time out for yourself is beautiful, chemotherapy taught me that.

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Each Decision is Personal

How someone decides to fight their battle with cancer is highly personal. For anyone to berate someone going through chemotherapy is highly ignorant, insensitive and rude. We make choices based on what works for our lives. Whatever someone decides to do, as long as it’s the best thing for them, they should be allowed to do it. Chemotherapy is scary, but if you allow it, chemo will take you to a new level of respect for your mortality. There is beauty in chemotherapy, just as there is in anything that is trying, but you can overcome. Never feel guilty for choosing life via chemo. Those who don’t understand have never stood where you stand, they can’t.

Gratitude

Thank you to Myrna, my Jennie, my Mary and all the nurses at the MGH Cancer Center for making my process one to look forward to every two weeks until we were done. To my Oncologist, Jeff, thank you for being easy to understand and relate to. Finally, to my Jenna, who took over when Jennie had to change shifts, thank you. You all hold a special place in this survivor’s heart because you helped with the battle!

The Beauty of Chemotherapy | Sedruola Maruska
Lisandra, Gail, Myrna, Rose, Dr. Jeff, My Mary — My Angels

Disclaimer

Please know that this is MY experience with chemotherapy. I am a cancer survivor who knows and understands that there are as many stories as there are people fighting cancer. My goal is help someone going through or anticipating chemotherapy treatment know that they can do it. It’s not all bad and keeping a healthy mental attitude does wonders. I’m sure you have opinions, feel free to voice them in the comments, but do so in love. 🙂



You Are A Badass – A Badass Book Reveiw

“If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.”

It was December 17, 2017. We’d landed a day earlier in a magical place and I was ready to get my vacation on!

Four days earlier I’d gotten the news that I had breast cancer. Three days earlier I’d gone in for a CT Scan, Bi-lateral MRI and a bone scan. Two days earlier I’d learned that all my scans were clear. On December 16 we got on a plane with great friends and landed in Turks & Caico. I was primed to forget the past few days and focus on loving life.

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The Book

I’d picked up You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life at the Massachusetts Conference for Women because I loved the title and the bright yellow cover grabbed my attention. Little did I know what kind of ride I’d just decided to take.

The “You Are A Badass” book is written by Jen Sincero who is, among a ton of other things, a success coach. It’s a New York Times Bestseller so I’m sure you’ve seen it displayed at your local bookstore. I bought the paperback version which was easy to pack and enjoy on vacation. You probably have an electronic reader so you can pick up an electronic copy here, however, I still love the feel of real books.

When I opened the book I noticed it was separated into five sections each with their own overall theme. Having sections makes is easy for you to choose where you’d like to start if you don’t want to read the full book. Personally, I’d encourage you to go through the whole thing the first time, then pick and choose your second, third or fourth time around.

You Are A Badass - A Badass Book Review | Sedruola Maruska

The Voice

Jen speaks in a very down to earth conversational tone throughout the book. I think it’s one of the things I enjoyed most. She shares a ton of content in a way that makes you feel she’s your wiser older sister who really wants you to succeed.

I’ve started and put down a number of books that seemed to be talking at me and not to me. This book, You Are a Badass, was not one of them. I flew through this book as if my life depended on it (which after a cancer diagnosis, I felt it did). It was almost like having her across from me at the kitchen table, with our wine glasses between us, hashing out why I need to embrace all that is me.

The Message

Just as the title implies, the message of the book is that You Are A Badass but until you embrace that fully, you’ll keep living a life designed for you not by you. She wants you to learn to love yourself fully. That way, when life happens, you’re ready to meet it head on and decide how you want events or situations to unfold.

The book is full of butt kicking advice because it’s what we, as readers, need. If we didn’t she wouldn’t have had to write this book. However, the butt kicking is done with compassion and understanding. That’s not always easy to do, but she does a beautiful job.

What is Authenticity and are you Authentic?

My Conclusion

If you haven’t already, pick up a copy of You Are a Badass: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life and enjoy the ride read. Depending on where you are on your personal journey the content will bring out some emotions. Don’t be afraid to feel what you feel because it’s all a process.

My second read-through is happening with highlighter in hand (the reason I love books) so I can now work on internalizing the information and change my life. Even those of us who love and are infinitely grateful for the lives we have can use some adjusting and tweaking every now and then.

Your Turn

Have your read the book? What prompted you to read it? What was your assessment of the content. Please leave a message in the comments. I’d love to hear your perspective, especially if it’s different than mine on what you thought about this book. Can’t wait to hear your thoughts.



 

Working through Chemo – A Survival Guide

Working Through Chemo | Sedruola Maruska

I still think it’s funny that I get strange looks when I tell people I’m working through chemo. Thing is, working through chemo is not unusual, crazy or impossible. It’s just not easy.

When my diagnosis came, stopping work was not the first thing that came to mind. After getting through the initial shock of having cancer, my first thoughts turned to my children, my family and keeping the status quo as much as possible.

Working Through Chemo | Sedruola Maruska

Reasons Why I Work

Nothing turns your world around as much as a major health diagnosis. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, because there are major life events that really rock your existence. What I’m saying is a major health crisis is right there among the top choices. Finding out you’re sick, when you not only thought you were fine, but you feel fine is blindsiding. You’re not ready. We weren’t ready.

I knew I wasn’t going in to work on the day I was diagnosed. Then the day after I had a bunch of scans so I had to take that day off too. However, it never occurred to me to just call in my short term disability and stop working. I was fine. Looking back, here are a few reasons why I chose to working through chemo over other options:

  • Structure – I have an eleven year old son and a six year old daughter. I want them to have normal days with normal worries and a structured schedule. To me, stopping work would make is seem that things were off kilter. Don’t misunderstand, my kids are well aware of what’s happening. I’ve talked to each of them separately and they both do worry that “mommy’s going to get sicker”. Even in the midst of keeping a stable structure they see my struggle and they worry. But how much more traumatic would it be if I didn’t do any of the things they’re used to me doing?
  • Financial Stability – When you wake up one day and have 40% of your income stripped without any prior notice you’re going to feel the burn. That’s what would’ve happened if I’d gone straight to STD. Working as much as I can gives us the opportunity to plan ahead emotionally and financially for the time when I will definitely need to be home to recover from surgery. Financially, we need time to strip the excess, tighten our spending and prep for some lean times.
  • Emotional Stability – If I stopped working as soon as I began chemo, I would be an emotional wreck. Working gives me structure and stability. Working gives me more to think about than my side-effects or the next chemo treatment. If I didn’t work I think I’d find a way to fill my days, but it might drive my family and me crazy in the end. Yes, I’m exhausted when I get home from work, but I’m thankful that I was able to feel and be useful for the day.
  • Distraction – Working distracts me from the fact that I am actively fighting and surviving cancer. It also distracts me from worrying about all that “may” happen after treatment and surgery. Staying at work keeps me grounded in the present so I’m not off making up multiple scenarios to induce fear into my current situation. When I’m working and taking care of the normal day-to-day activities and needs, I don’t have time to imagine the worst. Thankfully.

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Survival Guide

We’re all different and diagnosis along with decisions you make afterward will depend on your particular situation. I know there are protocols that do not allow you to work while on chemo because of the timing and aggressive nature of the treatment. Please make sure that all decisions are what’s best for you and your family.

However, if like me, you’re able and you’ve opted to keep working through chemo here are a few tips to help you survive the daily grind:

  1. Take life one day at a time. Assess each day individually and work accordingly. Do not take in a larger picture than that day.
  2. Notify all pertinent parties at work what’s going on with your health. It may not be comfortable and you may want to keep it completely to yourself, however, if there’s any chance that your company is willing to accommodate your needs, you owe it to yourself to find out. Don’t suffer in silence.
  3. If you have a “work from home” option, use it! Always assess your day (see #1) but I know there are days when I can’t get to the office, but I can pull up my laptop onto my bed and work. Always keep it as an option if it’s available to you.
  4. On the days when it’s just too much and you don’t feel you can work, take the day off. I know it’s a financial thing, but it’s also a “get healthy” thing. Your body is working hard when you’re going through treatments so any support you give is important. When your body says rest, please take time to rest, your body knows.
  5. Pack your snacks and lunches so you can support yourself nutritionally. I’m not going to give you any nutritional advice right now (I’m sure you’ve gotten your fair share already). If you’re working on improving your diet to help support your immune system, the easiest way is to pack your own food every day. I’m aware of the fatigue that comes with chemo and you may lack the energy to be fancy, but you don’t have to be fancy. My husband makes a huge salad each week that goes in the refrigerator so I usually just grab some pieces of fruit and maybe a bit of the salad for lunch. Believe me, I’m the last person to pile anything extra on your plate, but stocking your fridge with easy to grab foods is the best thing you can do.
  6. Protect your health while you’re in the workplace by making sure you have masks (if needed), tissue, lotion & sanitizer easily accessible. Like it or not people go to work sick all the time. While going through chemo your immune system isn’t ready to do major battle with even the most minor germs. If you’ve got sick co-workers don’t worry about wearing your mask at work. They shouldn’t be at work if they’re sick and you need to protect yourself. Wash your hands often and use both the sanitizer and lotion regularly (lotion, cause chemo dries out your hands something awful). Finally, avoid touching communal hard surfaces with your bare hands (handles, doors, tables, etc)Being a germ-phob at this time in your life is not only smart, but totally encouraged.
  7.  Gauge your energy level. Not everything needs to be done right away or even today. Make sure not to wear yourself out too much. Making sure you can get enough rest overnight to make it back in the morning is important. If you over exert yourself after a few days you’ll pay the price and it won’t be helpful to your or your job (see #1). Pace yourself and you should be able to keep working throughout chemo.
  8. Drink lots of water to keep yourself hydrated and your energy level up. Staying hydrated helps your body do the work it needs to do during the day. Plus, those ventilation systems are extra drying. Chemo dries out your skin so drink as much water as you can muster everyday (even when you’re not working).
  9. When in doubt . . . see #1

If you’ve got cancer Crazy Sexy Cancer Tips is a good book to have, hold and reference!

Your Turn

It’s your turn. What are some tips you’d like to share with your fellow sister warriors about working through chemo? This is my first experience with cancer and I know I may have missed a few tips. Share your best tip in the comments below. It’s about helping each other thrive and survive through our experiences with cancer.