Conversations with chemo – Di Mather

Di Mather gives us a truthful peek at her relationship with chemotherapy.

Di Mather (53) lives in Salt Rock, Kwa-Zulu Natal with her husband, Cameron, and their two daughters, Courtney (23) and Nicole (20). She was diagnosed with HER2 positive breast cancer. She had a lumpectomy and is currently undergoing treatment: chemotherapy, Herceptin and radiation. 

See chemo as a friend

I was advised, by a friend, to see chemotherapy as a friend rather than some awful punishment. So, I decided to have conversations with my chemo, which I write down. I usually write after a session, when I can reflect on that cycle and compare it to the others.

Round One

Chemo: Here Di, have some nausea and vomiting. 

Me: No, thanks. I’m good.

Chemo: How about stomach ailments, extreme pain and more?

Me: Actually, I will pass on those. 

Chemo: Okay. But, when you think you feeling okay and are in the homestretch of this round, let’s keep your immune system compromised with total exhaustion and a mouth and throat full of ulcers. 

Me: Thank you so much. Just what I wanted.

Round One continued

Chemo: You cut your hair. Don’t worry, it’s still falling out…all over the place! 

Me: I’ve got you this time…I will simply shave it off! 

Chemo: Oh dear…plans foiled! 

Me: Bring on round 2. I am ready for you!

Round Two

Me: What’s it like?

Chemo: You know that rhyme? Second verse same as the first…a little bit better and a little bit worse! 

Me: Better? How?

Chemo: Because you know what’s coming!

Me: Worse? How? 

Chemo: Because you know what’s coming! Ha ha

Me: Will it be different? 

Chemo: Still got pain, nausea, fuzzy head, ulcers, no hair, numb foot, exhaustion? 

Me: Yes

Chemo: Eyebrows? 

Me: Yes

Chemo: Not for long! Ha ha 

Me: Well, what I do have this weekend is my whole family home. So, I will have immense joy, laughter and be surrounded by huge love! And there’s nothing you can do about that!

Round Three -The long one

Chemo: You’ve been quiet.

Me: Yes, I’m trying to figure you out! 

Chemo: Ha ha, good luck! 

Me: It seems that everything changes but everything stays the same! 

Chemo: How so?

Me: Well, after each round, the side effects are the same, follow the same pattern. Yet inside, I feel like I have changed.

Chemo: In what way?

Me: Well to start with, I’m scared. All the time! Terrified of people, in case they have germs! Places, in case they’re dirty! Food, in case it’s off! Air, in case it’s full of viruses and who knows what else! 

Chemo: Really? That’s not like you.

Me: Duh! And then there’s the fact that, barring the bald head, I look “so well” according to people.

Chemo: What do they say? 

Me: They look at me, obviously thinking: How can she be having chemo when she isn’t all skinny and sick- looking? But, meanwhile, inside I’m a raging volcano of hot flushes, brain fog, joint pain, nausea, and burning muscles. Should I go on?

Chemo: Please…No! That’s more than enough of my amazing talents! See, I’ve advanced so much that all that stuff happens inside so on the outside not much changes. Besides your lack of tresses. 

Me: Don’t remind me. But to be honest, I‘m loving the options of a wig, scarf, buff or naked head. Quite empowering actually! 

Chemo: Really?

Me: Yes, when you lose the hair and come to terms with it, you realise it doesn’t define you. Nothing like walking into a packed mall with a naked head to make you realise you can do anything.

Chemo: Damn, I really thought that would bring you down Di.

Me: Well, you’ll need to try something else. I’m sure you’ll in the next rounds. Just know I am ready for you! 

Chemo: Challenge accepted! 

Me: Bring it!