Chemotherapy is not a one-size fit all experience. When you are faced with chemo, a billion things run through your mind. "How sick will I get?" "Will I vomit often?" " Will I lose my hair?" "Will it even work?"
Getting through chemo and recovering from it became the priority of my life for awhile. It is draining, both physically and mentally. The reality is, you can't control how your body is going to react or how fast you bounce back. I felt alone through this process most of the time. I didn't know anyone going through the same thing. And I honestly didn't care to know anyone going through this situation. Because of this, I felt alone.
But I wasn't alone.
This is Tiana. I met Tiana not too long after my treatment started. She got treatment at the same Phoenix Children's Hospital (PCH) clinic as I did, at a lot of the same times, I got mine. The first time I "met" her, I heard her talking to her mom a few feet away from me. I thought to myself "she sounds like she's my age". At this point in my treatment, I had only seen kids ranging from toddlers to pre-teens in the clinic or hospital getting treatment. No one my age. No one that fully grasped what we were all going through. I was very intrigued by this.
A few weeks went by and I went back for another round of treatment, Tiana was there again as well. This time my mom and I spoke to her and her mom before we got settled. They both seemed tired, as were my mom and I. However, I was happy to know that she would be there next to me again. Understanding exactly what I was going through, going through it "with me". Although I was not happy that we both had to be there for the reason we did, I was happy that we were there "together", and not alone. Knowing that someone close to my age was there, experiencing what I was experiencing.. it motivated me in a way. I thought to myself "If she can do it, I can keep pushing too." Unknowingly, Tiana became someone that helped me get through treatment because she was a constant reminder that I was not alone. And when she finished a few months before I did, I knew that, if she could finish, I could finish too.
Your family and friends can encourage you and motivate you throughout your treatment. They can remind you of how strong and brave you are. This may help some people, and I am very grateful that my family and friends did this for me. But no one did for me what Tiana did. No one was there "with" me, going through it with me. No one fully understood what I was going through. But I knew that Tiana did.
Tiana sat in the same hospital beds I did. She ate the same hospital food I did. She heard the same annoying beep of the machine you see above. And although every person's cancer and chemo experience are different, one can relate to another person who's gone through it. It is an unspoken understanding between people who've had cancer and gone through treatment.
After her last day at the clinic I didn't see Tiana for awhile. We did keep in touch, though! We became more than just "chemo neighbors". We became friends. I'm blessed to have Tiana. God allowed her to be in my life because he knew I needed someone to understand what I was going through. She never talked to me about her experience. I just knew she was next to me doing the same thing. It oddly kept me going. And believe me when I say I wanted to give up a million times.
People often talk about “fighting” cancer, as if you have some sort of control over whether the chemotherapy we poison ourselves with is actually effective. But you don’t.
What does cancer really look like? Most of the time it’s not a fight – it’s a full-on beating and you just have to sit there and take it because you don’t have any other choice.
And after that beating is over you try to restart your life. You’re overly optimistic and you push yourself, and when you can’t do something because you’re too weak and too tired you’re surprised. After it’s over, you have to admit that you’re still not where you thought you’d be years after being diagnosed. It’s hard.
But you're not alone. I'm not alone.
So, thank you, Tiana. For being there for me, even when you didn't know you were.