Cancer Talk #20: Dilemma

May – July 2015

I hated being on painkillers, not because I wanted to feel my pain in a sadistic kind of way, no, more because I knew that the pain would only be gone temporarily. It wasn’t a permanent thing, and I needed a permanent fix. Some of the steroid withdrawal symptoms were the same as the effects of chemo, so I didn’t know which pain I was having. But really at the end of the day, it didn’t really matter, pain was pain.

Although the back cramps stopped, my rib cage felt like it was about to break every time I laid down on the bed. Even when I was in bed, I had to be careful when moving as it would worsen the pain. At this time my doctor already put a painkiller patch on my chest (the patch could last up to three days) but this was not enough for me as the pain was so severe. I remember every night trying not to feel the pain but ended up asking the nurse for a painkiller. So when I couldn’t handle it anymore the nurse (after having the doctor’s approval) would give me liquid morphine. After taking that, my pain would slowly subside and I could fall asleep. In the morning I would slowly feel the pain all over again.

Of course having pain killers had its own unpleasant side effects from nausea to confusions and feeling exhausted.

On top of all that I had a physiotherapist coming in every day to help me loosen my stiff muscles and help me to walk again. Walking as far as 100 metres would get me out of breath, and I wondered if I could ever go back to the way I normally walked. The exercises, though effortless for healthy people, were really tough for me. I hated myself for being so weak.

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Picture from here

In July, I was feeling a little bit better then I realized that I lost my hair. For the first few weeks, I would cry whenever I caught my sight in the mirror. I felt ugly. My parents and the nurses always tried to convince me that it would be OK. Then my sister and one of my close friends came to visit me at the hospital. My sister already knew that I lost my hair so she wasn’t too shocked, but I was afraid of my friend’s reaction, I was afraid that he wouldn’t see the friend he met several years ago. But all my worry vanished when I saw my friend, he only smiled and hugged me. We haven’t seen each other since we finished our masters, I was glad that he didn’t look at me differently or weirdly with my bald hair, he was just glad to see me. This made me realized that loosing my hair was not a big deal, this was just part of my treatment and besides, it would grow again.

Their visit somehow restored my tired energy. A few days after they left, my doctor convinced me that I could finally be released from the hospital. Of course if I was in Yogyakarta, I would only be ecstatic, but I was in Kuala Lumpur. “Going home” meant either staying at some apartment or the dreadful hotel across the hospital as it was not advised for me to fly back home.

So I didn’t know whether I should be happy or not. Dilemma.

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