<SPOILER ALERT- if you are planning to watch the movie Creed and don’t want your experience spoiled, do NOT read any further until after you’ve seen the movie.>
When you have cancer, you aren’t the only one who suffers from the side effects. I think the hardest thing my family had to go through was the feeling of helplessness as they watched me going through such sickness and pain. My husband said it just about killed him to know that there was absolutely nothing he could do to take away my misery.
Of course, the good thing about it was that it gave me a reason to not wallow in my misery. Some days, it was all I could do to just exist through it as I waited for time to pass. But for the most part, I tried my hardest not to let my kids see how bad it was for me. At least I thought I hid it from them. I did my best to try to stay as normal as I could, even though I spent a lot of time on the couch or sleeping.
A few weekends ago, my daughter came home from college to visit and we were talking while she made herself a cup of coffee. She asked if I’d seen the movie “Creed” yet. She and her roommate had gone recently to see it and they both loved it – she had texted me right after they saw it to tell me it reminded her of me. I figured that was because she knew I was a huge Rocky fan as a teenager (in the 70’s who wasn’t a Rocky fan?).
When I told her I probably wouldn’t go see it, she asked if it was okay if she told me about the plot.
<This is where you should stop reading if you don’t want the movie spoiled for you.>
So, apparently, Apollo Creed’s illegitimate son is a boxer and ends up meeting Rocky and convincing him to be his trainer. Then Rocky finds out he has cancer and chooses at first not to do chemo, because it had made Adrian so sick and she died anyway. When Creed finds out, he tells Rocky – if I’m gonna fight, so are you. So as Rocky starts chemo, he begins to lose his hair and is in a lot of pain, having a hard time walking. As Chally was telling me this, she burst into tears. She said – “Mommy it was so hard to watch because it reminded me of how much you went through last summer when you were going through your chemo treatments.” Tears were streaming down her face as she told me about how Rocky struggled weakly to climb the stairs at the Philapdelpha Museum of Art, which he’d run up in his training during the original Rocky movie. “I thought about you, Mom, and how hard it was for you when you were so sick and in so much pain.”
See, when you have cancer, everyone who cares about you- your family, your friends – have cancer along with you. When you suffer, they suffer. When you worry, they worry. I did my best this past year to be strong for my kids, to not let them see quite how bad it was for me, but obviously I failed to completely protect them from it. Maybe that’s okay. Parents aren’t infallible or invulnerable. I think it’s okay for my kids to see that. The reality of cancer is something that unless you have to go through it, many people would prefer not to deal with. I don’t blame them. It’s an ugly disease. Luckily, I was blessed to have a cancer that can have a fairly high rate of survival compared to many other cancers.
But regardless of the type of cancer you have, chemo doesn’t distinguish between them. It makes most everyone sick -although some lucky few are not as sickened by it, and of course it depends on the type of chemo drugs you are given. I never realized before I had cancer that there are so many different chemo drugs available, and that each one has a different efficacy on the various cancer types. One of the drugs given to breast cancer patients is extremely nauseating (Cytoxan). To this day, I still can’t see an IV drip bag without getting nauseous, even though that particular drug is given in a shot into your IV tube, rather than through a drip bag. It’s also, ironically, pink in color, so I can’t see pink or red kool-aid without also feeling ill. Just writing about it right now is starting to make my stomach turn. 😦
While I went through the treatments, I had every hope that I would be cured. I can’t imagine going through the chemo and getting that sick while knowing that it is only likely to extend your life. I hope I never have to experience that. I’m grateful that my cancer responded extremely well to the treatments and I am blessedly cancer-free now.
I ended up purchasing the Creed movie on DVD and watched it yesterday. It was, as many critics say, as good as the first Rocky (unlike most of the other sequels). I had tears at times as I saw Rocky getting sick, and wearing the symbolic chemo hat. I cried as he walked up the stairs to the museum and had to stop, doubled-over to catch his breath. Not because I was remembering how I felt the exact same way for so many months, but because I saw it through the eyes of my daughter for the first time – the horror of watching someone you love basically fall apart in the fight for their life, and then begin to piece themselves back together.
I think my family is reaching the point where we can kind of look back on my cancer treatment with relief that it’s over. We can joke some about things that I went through during this past year. But, the wound is still raw enough for us – the pain and sickness, the worry that the treatments wouldn’t work, the worry that the cancer could come back, the long healing process and permanent scar on my chest- that we still feel it strongly. We had cancer. I am cancer-free now, but it has irrevocably changed my life and the lives of my family and friends. And I suppose once that bad thing, which you were certain would never happen to you, happens to you or your family, you are never worry-free again.