Get the substances working

1.     Keep in mind: Good to know the first round has been administered! Now the little warriors are fighting their way through your body. Whenever they come across a cancer cell: Front kick in the face. Domo arrigato!

2.     You feel sick when you wake up? Feel pleased, because the side effect is quite a valid proof of the effects. Hurray! Bugger off you bastard cancer cells! Hasta la non vista, fare ye not very well, au re jamais voir, auf nimmer Wiedersehen. Get up, switch on all the lights that you want to, take your anti-sickness tablet, nibble on a dry piece of bread, turn on your bestest music and – dance! If you feel weak, dance very slowly, or sit and move your upper body to the rhythm. Put on a big, fat smile! Your brain can be cheated into good mood this way.

3.     Is there anything that you would love to do, like going to IKEA, or the local Star Coffee or Costa Bucks? Good idea! Too tired to leave the sofa? Ask friends/ family/neighbours, the milkman or postperson to give you a lift/to accompany you/to fetch something for you. If you can only sit on one of the sofas in the IKEA exhibition, just sit and enjoy the bubbling life around you. Or hang out on one of the chairs or sofas in the restaurant. If they are occupied, be candid, but be friendly as well. If you cannot drink anything in the coffee shop, tell the staff in a nice way why you need to spend some time there without consuming. Or ask the people who accompany you to drink more, for your sake.

4.     Accept other people’s offers. They want to be kind. Because as they cannot change the essence of the situation, it is important for them to do SOMETHING. It reinstates their power, which is quite important, because otherwise they will feel helpless, and then: angry. For them doing something for you means they are useful. Allow them to be useful. If they can bake well and offer you to bake for you whatever you want to have – accept! And accept with a happy heart and a big “thank you”!

5.     Buy the latest season of your favourite TV show that you have wanted ever since it came out, but were too sensible and sober-minded to buy because it will cost a third AFTER christmas. So what!? Have it! To be honest, you are going through more than a scratch on the bum at the moment. Indulge! Endless hours of watching or sleeping in front of the telly, and nobody dares to tell you it is not good for you. And the remote control is all yours, too. Even if you sleep most of the time, nobody in their right mind will disturb you, or change the programme. Now is the time to take revenge on your kids for all the rows over the TV magazine. Keep it under control, tell them a day LATE what TV show they have missed. No. Only joking. Don’t take revenge on your children. Take revenge on your children AND your husband. 😉

6.     Seriously, don’t drink and don’t smoke. Ever thought that Don Quixote looks pathetic when he fights windmills on his decrepit horse? It looks even more pathetic to see people with their chemo drips outside hospital entrances with a fag on their lips. And to be honest, I think that during chemo your liver has enough to deal with WITHOUT booze.

7.  to 10. I have no idea. You might want to send tips.

Yours, gratefully,

Maid Manu.

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It´s chemo time!

Everything to make your first chemo session an agreeable or even pleasant event

Important note: Before you begin, please read About to ensure this is not a complete waste of time for you;-)

1.      Pack a few things that are your favourite colour, for example a green pillow, a blue  blanket. I always took an IKEA Polarvide plaid and pillow with me. They make them in all sorts of cheerful colours for under 3 bucks. Nope, hospital walls are not very colourful and they don’t change colour for you. Although you may think the walls change colour after a few drops of your medication. Loooooovelyyyy side effects.

2.      Welcome every chemo as if she were your best friend. Wait! She IS your best friend. Your life saver. I did this with every single chemo that I was happy to receive in a completely non-religious, un-spiritual way. I simply made use of the fact that we can bear a lot if we understand its necessity. Put on a big smile in hospital and say hello to every single nurse and doctor that you meet on chemo day. Say thank you for the blood samples they take, say thank you for the needles they stick into you. Welcome the first drops of chemo when they enter your body! For a very simple reason: If you tackle the chemo like this, if you expect the best from it, you won’t waste time on worries about side effects. And on top of this of course still everybody will feel sorry for you.

3.      Do you love films or TV series? Make sure to buy a portable DVD player or to bring your laptop AND headphones. Other patients may not want to hear what you watch and listen to. Especially if it is German porn. Or probably IF it is German porn, this could become an enjoyable shared activity within the chemo community.

4.      What drinks do you prefer? Cappuccino? Orange lemonade? Non-alcoholic beer? Pack a thermos flask, a bottle of lemonade, whatever you like. Except for wodka, probably, or absinth. Although the latter may help you with the wall colour.

5.      What is your favourite food at the moment? Prepare some of it and take it with you or keep in touch with somebody at home who can cook or buy something for you WITHIN  FIVE MINUTES when you suddenly feel hungry during chemo. You might feel the urge  to devour a horse, an apple, or a packet of crisps. Or a horse stuffed with apples and crisps. Eat whatever you want to. Who the fuck cares.

6.       Write an invitation for every chemo session to one of your friends or family. Be clear in what you expect from them. You don’t have a grown-in toenail. Or maybe you HAVE one in addition to everything else. You CAN expect them to take a holiday for you, paid or unpaid. No, you’re not a self-centred arse. You ARE in the centre of attention. And if others envy you your status, they can piss off and get their own cancer.

7.      Ask your friends to bring a game if you like to play to pass time. Russian Roulette is NOT exactly the pastime that I had in mind. I was thinking more along the lines of Monopoly or strip poker.

Right, this is it. If you can come up with anything as silly as my suggestions, feel free to send them.

Yours, ex-chemofully,

Maid Manu.

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The first day.

Thank you very much!

When I learned from my doctor (at that point he was a doctor) that I had a malignant carcinoma in both breasts, and that my right axillary lymphatic node was also affected, I was overpowered by fear. For a minute.

But then the doctor said something that turned him into MY doctor. He said that he would take steps against the cancer and that he would begin that same week. He then named the steps:

1.     He would perform surgery that week,

2.     a medical port would be implanted the week after,

3.     chemotherapy would be administered via the port over a period of 12 weeks,

4.     I would have radiation therapy after a short break after the end of chemotherapy,

5.     I would begin hormone therapy for 5 years soon.

Immediately, I began to feel grateful. Because my doctor had just shown me a road back to life. And I mean this in a completely non-esoteric way. I simply would not have survived without these steps. Ever since then I have been unable to feel grumpy, or to doubt the necessity of the treatment on my road to my second life. Questions like “Do I want chemo? Won’t I lose all of my hair?”, or “Is surgery really necessary?”, or “Isn’t radiation therapy painful?”, or “Won’t I put on weight from the hormones?” never came to my mind. Not once. Not for a single moment. At all.

I never talked to friends about “what they thought of chemo, surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, and so on, blah-blah”. I am firmly convinced that different people are good at different things. I am pretty damn sure that the lady at the supermarket checkout is better at checking out customers than I am. I am willing to believe in the qualifications of the pilots on any of my holiday trips, I trust in the knowledge of my kids’ teachers, I am quite sure that our carpenter is far better trained in building than I am, I don’t doubt our bank clerk’s advice in questions of money, I turn to my friends for support and good conversation. So why should I question my doctor ‘s expertise if it comes to healing me?

I didn’t waste time. I didn´t hesitate. When my doctor named the steps, I seized that opportunity fully and whole-heartedly. Never in the past two years (I was diagnosed on the 22nd of November in 2011) have I regretted any of the measures my doctor suggested.

Back to the role my friends played then. I talked to them about my life and about their lives and about school and about work and about EVERYTHING. And about how grateful I was for the simple fact that I was looked after so well. And about food and about the weather and about EVERYTHING. And about the luck that I was born in Europe, in a part of the world where you simply get treatment. Full stop! I talked to them about how much their friendship and support meant to me. And of course we just talked. About EVERYTHING.

Throughout the whole treatment I laughed more than in the 40 years before. Can you understand that for dejectedness and depression there is simply no space in my life? Bloody hell, why should I waste a single second on anything as useless as them? Every morning I wake up, feeling happy that I am alive. I love seeing my husband and our boys first thing in the morning. I relish the moment. It is the best thing in the world. How can I not be happy?!

Now, two years after diagnosis, I have lost two of my closest friends. Because they couldn’t accept that I didn’t turn to them in questions of cancer treatment. But yes. I am content with my life. Because I know that by now I would most certainly be dead without treatment. And I hope I have at least another forty years to be angry about these two lost friends. And yes. I say thank you to all the people who have participated in the process of saving my life. Thank you very much. Thank YOU, my doctor.

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