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"You still take a dump in war."


My anxiety and depression developed when I was a teenager, and life always felt overwhelming. I longed for an escape, something that would put life into perspective. My mushy, half-developed brain would romanticize the idea of being at war. As an adult, I am fully aware of the absurdity of this idea. Still, when I was a teenager, that thought truly did comfort me. Let's blame my diluted thinking on being exposed to war movies at a tender age; in case you did not know, having your child watch Apocalypse Now is maybe not the best idea. My reasoning was that if you're at war, your life would be devoted to a singular purpose and mission to survive. All life's other worries would simply fade into the background of this one daunting job. 




This was a fantasy I kept myself until one day, commiserating with my brother, I told him. His response shook my fantasy. "Ginny, you know you still take a dump in war, right? What, do you think that all your problems go away? You still have the runs in war." I never considered that a possibility; I was confident that when your life is on the line, other problems fade away. Still, his logic made sense. Life is not like the movies. The truth is, as I grew into adulthood, I still only half believed him. My dream of being a soldier at war still stayed with me in my dark times as my little comfort blanket. 


 If cancer is like war, I can assure you that you both literally and figuratively still have to take a dump. Although my brother prepped me for this realization years ago, it is a reality I am continuing to grapple with. I truly hoped that the other overwhelming aspects of my life would be put into perspective in a way that would relieve me from the anxiety that's plagued me most of my life. That simply is not the case. All the other pre-cancer problems remain. Your family and friends continue their lives. Relationships are complicated and, at times, painful. Bills need to be paid, and many brand-new ones arrive in the mail every week. For me, cancer only exacerbated the anxiety and fear that I've always had.


After recovering from COVID-19, I got my first infusion of A/C, The Red Devil. Everyone who had experienced chemo told me that having infusions every three weeks is so much easier than the weekly infusion schedule that dictated the first phase of my chemo treatment plan. These veterans told me, "The first week is hard. The second week you're recovering, and the third week you're almost back to normal, and then you start over". I went into this phase of chemo, hopeful that it would be my experience. Everyone said, "Only 4 infusions to go; that's nothing; you can do this!" Well, I did, and I wish I could have been placed in a coma during those 3 months. You know how, with childbirth, you forget the pain? Well, I have not forgotten the pain of The Red Devil. Honestly, I've held back on posting this blog for so long because sharing these moments is difficult to describe despite all my passion for vulnerability. The trauma of looking and feeling the worst I ever experienced in my life and the loneliness and isolation- have changed me in unexpected ways. But let's get into the details, shall we?


Before starting The Red Devil, you must schedule a cardiogram to ensure your heart can handle the poison. This is serious stuff; you can only get a certain amount of Red Devil in your lifetimes because of the damage it does to your body and, hopefully, the cancer. I tried to think of The Red Devil as my little cancer-killing devil, who is ultimately on my side. 


Infusion 1: On the day of this infusion, I was already sick to my stomach from the nerves. I knew how I felt with Taxol and Carbo- the fear of what was to come made me ill. With A/C, my favorite pre-med of a Benadryl IV was not included- so I had to do this completely sober. After the pre-med infusion of steroids to get ahead of the nausea/inflammation, the nurse sits down and takes two large syringes filled with Hawaiian punch-colored liquids. The medicine is red, so if it leaks onto the skin, the nurses know where it is- because it can literally eat at your flesh, so they would need to act quickly. That's what they were putting into my body. A flesh-eating poison. Comforting. I was not the typical ball of joy I am during infusion, thanks to my pre-meds sans Benadryl, my happy drug. After the nurse slowly empties The Red Devil into my port, she sets up the bag of cyclophosphamide, and I let that drip into my veins for an hour. This is different; immediately, I have nausea, and a headache comes on. It goes straight to my head, and I feel like I am in a dream; brain fog sets in. When I get home, I lie on the couch in Delaney's room to watch her play, and I pass out; I wake up to Eli telling me it is time to get Delaney ready for bed. I feel like I got hit by a bus. The nausea is overwhelming, and the idea of food sounds repulsive.


 Remember how I had more energy and felt great with Taxol and Carbo the first two days after the infusion? That is not the case with A/C. The next day, the nausea lingers. Despite my fatigue, I want to see my friends, take the baby outside, and be normal, so I get her and myself ready for our congregation meeting. I do my makeup, wearing lashes, a scarf, and a pretty dress. Just as I am prepared to pack Delaney up to go, I glimpse myself in the mirror, and my reflection stops me in my tracks. Despite my false lashes and blush- I look sick.

I smile, trying to see the face I will present to the world, my friends. "I'm doing fine," I say out loud. Am I convincing? I break down in tears. I cannot let them see me like this. I untie my scarf, peel my lashes off, and exchange my little black dress for sweats. That day, I decided to stay home until I looked like myself again, not some bald alien trying to pass for a human. The Kingdom Hall, my congregation, has always been my happy place, my home, but I knew I could not do it. I couldn't look people in the eye and tell them I was okay. I was not okay. I didn't look okay, and I didn't feel okay. The rest of the first 10 days were taxing. One of the worst side effects came to the fore- the taste in my mouth. Everything tasted bad- except In N Out and ice-cold water. It's hard to describe the taste, but the closest I have gotten is that everything I ate and drank tasted like I had someone else's loogie in my mouth. Yum! And when I wasn't drinking or eating, it tasted and felt like I downed a bottle of bleach.

My entire body ached, and my stomach was in constant pain, the way it feels on the cusp of vomiting. My body and mind were slow, and there was never enough sleep. Delaney was walking now, and we spent hours in her room, me on the couch watching her play, depressed, guilt-stricken, and in a fog. After 10 days on that first infusion, the physical side effects let up a bit, and I even had the energy to exercise for a whole week. I was winded but felt good, hoping every infusion would follow this pattern. 


Infusions 2-4: They did not follow that pattern. After that first infusion, the nausea started immediately and lasted until the next injection. I did not have one good day. Eli put me on a strict regimen of anti-nausea meds; every 3 hours, I would take something, Zofran, Compazine, and Ativan. All day, I would take one pill after another with little to no relief. On the rare occasion that I would get an appetite and something would taste good, I would eat so fast I would throw it up. For a few minutes after I vomited, I would feel relief and fall asleep, only to be woken up with the same nagging nausea. The depression was the worst; I would FaceTime my brother and sister-in-law or mom and cry. They would listen to my woes and always provide a needed distraction. But I would feel guilt that the majority of the conversation was dominated by me crying, "It's just so hard." Every night, when the baby was down, Eli and I would watch T.V. and around 8 pm, my vision would get blurry, my eyes would dry, and eye drops would not work. Eli knew I was done for the night when I would declare, "Me eyes are gone!" My brother thinks that was my brain shutting off my eyes to force me to get rest. Which I could never get enough of. Me hair was also gone, and me toenails died and turned grey. 


When I got my last infusion of A/C, I did my makeup and wore a nice outfit. Eli came with me. In theory, I was excited to be done with A/C. However, I knew I would still have to recover from this final round, the culmination of 6 grueling months of being steadily poisoned. It was a somber infusion. The nurses informed me that I wouldn't ring the bell until another 6 months of immunotherapy was done. So, although I was grateful for being done with phase 1 of my treatment- I still had 3 phases to go. It took another 30 days after my last infusion to have a good day or at least one with little to no nausea. My brain still felt poisoned, but how wonderful it is to not be in constant pain. 

Despite all the trauma you endure with cancer and its treatment, this experience has taught me lessons that I need to learn. I finally waved the white flag on my wartime fantasy. My brother was right; you still have to take a dump while at war; I can always count on Tommy to readjust my faulty thinking in a way that makes me laugh and cry simultaneously. I am learning how to truly rely on Jehovah for my daily needs and know now what it means to take life day-to-day, sometimes moment by moment. Psalms 145: 18,19 says "Jehovah is near to all those calling on him, To all who call on him in truth. He satisfies the desire of those who fear him; He hears their cry for help, and he rescues them." He heard my cries and pleas, and when I needed it most, he rescued me, often utilizing my family, friends, and colleagues. I would get a letter in the mail, a text message, or a thoughtful gift that made me feel loved and reminded me that even though I looked and felt like a monster, I was valued and loved. How can anyone do this alone?


P.S. If you are going through a war that is cancer, I would like to introduce you to a weapon powerful enough to fight off the menacing side effects of the battle- a bidet. Because you still have to take a dump in war. 

9 Comments


Guest
Mar 11

Whelp, you’re certainly an open book Ginny and we love you dearly for that. Of course your often “jovial” self depreciation is a call to arms that Kim or I (or both) rush up and (lovingly) swat away the merciless trash talk you hurl upon yourself. You're smart, interesting, funny and YES physically as well as internally beautiful. You’re a hot piece and with some help from the brothers we’ve flame proofed the back row of Hall seats (the ones you guys use) because now that your hairdo is coming back…no combustible surface is safe from your “back on the horse” fashion fury. War is Hell. Life is Hell. Until it isn’t. Until the big fat golden door opens, the…

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Guest
Feb 09

Dear Ginny. I am so blown away about the way you describe your feelings and what you are going through. Like you said, your day to day life still goes on like all of us. We have it easy when put into perspective. We do not have a little precious babygirl to mother and make her feel loved and secure. Not to mention the housework and laundry when you feel like crud. Then you have a husband and other people to deal with which can be sooo taxing

You do a great job cuz Delaney acts like this is just what a normal babyhood is. I saw her talking about it on the phone last week😂🥰😂🥰When she’s older and learn…

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Cancer, on behalf of Virginia, I am speaking to you now, I command you to Leave Now! Leave Right Now, In the name of Jesus, Virginia's Body. Cancer you are not wanted, in her Body, Leave Now, We Command you to Leave Now, Leave Now. No Weapon formed against Virginia shall prosper. In the Might Name of Jesus, We Receive and Believe, Virginia is healed. Amen.

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Guest
Feb 07

Thank you for sharing. I was thrilled to see another post from you . We do not know each other personally but I have done signings for your company and attended many of your online seminars. It is a true Braveheart who is willing to share such pain and sacrifice on their journey to recovery. In all this, you are an inspiration! That said, I am so sorry that you have to go through all this. A true warrior,. My prayer of course is for a complete victory! Also, for your family’s well being. I am looking forward to your next blog . Take your time. To you and yours, all the best.… Thomas

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You are always valued and loved!! Thank you for sharing your journey! You’re not in this alone, we are here for you. Praying for your full recovery and healing. ❤️

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