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True Toughness -- Chemotherapy

My wife has now had four chemotherapy treatments for her breast cancer. She will have two more, the last of which is scheduled for right around Christmas. Usually, it seems that Christmas comes too quickly. This year, I can't wait for it to arrive!

I never knew anyone closely who went through chemotherapy. I did know some people who had it, but I did not understand what they were going through. Most of us hear that chemotherapy is very difficult. From my wife's experience, I can say that this is extremely true. The first week after chemotherapy is like being sick with the flu, back aches, weakness, dizziness, nausea, and other unexpected side effects all combined. The second and third weeks are better, but still hard. Then it is time for another treatment and it starts all over again.

When I attended the Okinawan festival earlier this year, I spoke to an oncology (cancer treatment) nurse who herself was going through chemotherapy for breast cancer. She said that although she had worked closely with cancer patients for many years, she never truly understood the pain and suffering they experience until she experienced it herself.

I know that I cannot truly understand my wife's suffering, and that of other chemotherapy patients. But what little I can understand makes me respect them deeply.

Sometimes my wife's sleep schedule is thrown off. Today, she woke up before 5 a.m. and could not go back to sleep. So she went to the kitchen and made food for the day. I am often awoken by the sounds of chopping coming from the kitchen. My wife is a great cook. And even if she can't eat certain foods because of her treatment, she will cook them for us.

My wife has not let chemotherapy get her down. No matter how hard it might be, she goes to work each day, cooks for our family, and plans all the family activities. She rarely takes naps, even when she is tired. She is always thinking about others, and never complains. She is even coordinating a fund raiser for our dojo.

I take naps when I am healthy and complain about little things, like a sore neck! So who is tough?

My wife is much tougher than me. She had four children by C-section and got back to work right away. Now with chemotherapy, she maintains a positive and cheerful attitude and does almost everything as normal.

It is funny. When you watch medicine commercials on the television, they often disclose a long list of side effects. With her chemotherapy experience, my wife sometimes comments, "those don't sound so bad."

A great fighter is tough. But a person who endures suffering without giving up is also tough.

Many people have written to me about their own relatives' and friends' experiences with cancer. Many have sent their thoughts and prayers. My wife and I appreciate this deeply. We send our own thoughts and prayers to other cancer patients and their families.

Here is something to think about. Just one of the chemotherapy drugs that my wife receives, costs over $3,000 per dose. That is just one drug given one time. I can't even think about all of the drugs that she is being given. We are very fortunate to have health insurance that covers the majority of expenses. A major illness or disease makes clear and urgent the need for comprehensive health care for everyone.


Charles C. Goodin