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Mentally Preparing for Chemo
What to Expect

Mentally Preparing for Chemo

What to Expect


Aidan Morris

There are few things in life that stir up fear, like the word chemotherapy. The images that flash in your mind aren’t pretty, so ramping up for that can take some work. I am a "knowledge is power" person, so I wanted to have an idea of what to expect for my upcoming treatments.

First thing’s first: I needed to understand what my chemo cocktail was going to be. Once I knew what drugs I was going to be on, and started doing some light (keyword: light) research.    

             How is it administered?

             How long will it take?

             How does it make you feel (generally) and for how long?

             When do most people lose their hair?

I think it’s very important to note that a deep Google wormhole on my chemotherapy regimen would not have been helpful to me. The drugs I was prescribed were characterized as “incredibly toxic” and some of the harshest chemotherapies available. With descriptions like that I didn’t want to know everything. Additionally, drugs have different reactions for different people. Guessing how I was going to respond would be pointless. Instead I decided to put loose descriptions and timelines to work:

 I won’t feel great and will most likely be very tired the first day.

 I shouldn’t plan on getting up with the kids for two days after treatment, I’ll need my sleep.

 I should have some mild, but healthy foods available so I can fuel my body as it rebounds.

On Thursdays (2 days after treatment) I want to try and go for a long walk.

Once I had my “plan” I tried to keep my mind busy. I organized our house and went through the kids' toys, hung wallpaper in our bedroom, prepared meals, played countless games with my family, and worked out every day. While my looming chemotherapy treatment was a constant thought (how could it not be?!) it wasn’t the only thing I thought about. Somehow the days passed and it was infusion day.

I was anxious, nervous and excited on the drive over, but most importantly I was ready. Ready to stop thinking and start knowing what treatment would be like. We were about 10 minutes away when my phone rang. It was the infusion center calling to tell me they had a roof leak and all infusions that day were canceled. I would need to wait 24 more hours.

I. Lost. It.

I had backed in to this day. I had used every last one of my distraction tactics and depleted my patience stockpile – I was literally coasting into that appointment on fumes. So I went into action mode frantically calling other treatment centers and our local hospital to see if I could get treatment today. It quickly became clear that was not an option. So I had to tell myself I could do this. I could do this for one more day, and I did. This pep talk would be something I’d have to do many times over the coming years.

The next day my treatment happened. It went as planned and I was finally able to stop wondering…I knew. Let me tell you, I had it all wrong. Chemo was not something to fear, it was the exact opposite – it was a gift. It allowed me to fight and ultimately live. Letting that shift happen in my mind from enemy to savior had me see my treatments completely differently. I didn’t fear my infusions, I looked forward to them. At every session from there on out, when the drip started and the drugs began to go into my veins, I would thank that chemo for saving my life. Too many don’t have access to the treatments but I did. I was one of the lucky ones.

It was all how I approached it mentally.

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