Sometimes the body needs to complain

I woke up allergic to myself. Swelling from the inside, coughing up a bunch of phlegm. Days like today I remember that chemotherapy only begins when they inject it in me. It keeps going until it’s out of my system entirely.

So here I sit at work, popping Sudafed, trying to focus. The coughing comes and goes, but mostly my body feels tired everywhere. It feels tired on the inside, as if all my cells are working extra hard to make everything function as usual.

I admit that I dislike doing this to my body. I work on health for the space between treatments, and then willingly sit in the chair to knock myself back. All of us with cancer are faced with this, our foe is inside of our own body, we battle ourselves to see who wins.

In the chemotherapy chair last Friday I sat beside an old man whose wife hovered over him anxiously. She fed him bananas, yogurt, vitamins, rice stew, anything to get him to eat. “He doesn’t want to eat anymore,” she said to me anxiously. “How do you keep healthy between treatments?”

“Every body is different. Whatever his body needs and wants,” I replied.  “I hope you can find it.”

My stomach doesn’t play nice between treatments either, and the less I eat for a few days, the better. Due to the nature of my cancer, digestion takes second place to coping with the treatment, and this gets uncomfortable. Still, I use what natural remedies I can, and sometimes it almost feels like a familiar (if slightly masochistic) routine.

What do I eat? Ginger, in all forms. Ginger tea, ginger candy. Khow mun gai (Thai rice cooked with ginger topped with chicken and ginger sauce). Ginger on top of ginger, but just enough to get me by. Then, I drink protein-rich smoothies, and when my stomach burbles in protest, ginger ale. Mint occasionally helps too, but not as much.

When the bloated and puffy feelings begin to subside, I try my best to exercise, a little each day. Yoga helps my joints so that I don’t get gout, and walking helps me reconnect to the world in my own ritual.

The new house is restful, and my family does what they can. I’m blessed in all kinds of ways, and sometimes counting all of these blessings is what helps most until my body bounces back enough for me to breathe again.