Cancer is Boring

The biggest thing I didn’t expect about cancer: it’s boring. As I noted, there’s very little about it that makes for good TV. The diagnosis, delivered in person or over the phone, is just a bit of dialog. It feels dramatic, but unless you’re approaching terminal, there’s very little about it that happens quickly.

Chemo, despite its deserved reputation as a rough treatment, is very boring. Go in, get a blood test, wait for the results, go sit in a comfy chair, and then pass the time for 2 and a half to 4 or more hours as a series of drugs and saline solution are infused through an IV. Afterward, you might pee orange, but the side effects don’t tend to hit if all goes well, as anti nausea meds are the first things you get. But Amy, at least, doesn’t feel very different. Possibly sleepy if she got benadryl during the infusion, but otherwise fine. The effects kick in slowly throughout the next week or two, and some effects are cumulative over that time. It takes a few weeks for hair to begin noticeably falling out.

And if the other side effects are well-managed, the main effect seems to be that she’s too tired for much beyond lying on the couch and watching fairly light TV. (In her case: fashion and police procedurals.)

It sucks, there’s pain, you look different, and the changes are dramatic if you haven’t seen the person in a while…but it’s mainly boring.

That being said: despite the boredom, it’s still stressful. There’s very little acute stress, but a fair amount of low-level, constant stress. This leads to sleeplessness, which makes everything worse…but then again, everything is boring, so it’s hard to find and eliminate a stressor.

Except, of course, for the cancer. That’s what the whole point of this is. And it’s working: the tumor is now extremely hard to find manually. But that’s a long term goal. Amy’s a little more than halfway done with chemo, so we’re in the middle of a boring slog. A boring, stressful, unpleasant slog, which just highlights the surrealism of Cancer World.

All that being said, we’re still terribly lucky. Hell, it’s basically a routine now, and we both do well with routines. People’s support has been great, and I’m continually surprised how many people have experience as a patient or caregiver. Hopefully these posts will encourage more people to be open about it and demystify it a bit.

Because fuck cancer.