After each in-house chemo treatment I received–there was a 48-hour, take-home pump that I had to wear. It administered about two milliliters of chemo meds, per hour, for nearly two days. My treatments began in February of this year. It was pretty easy to conceal the bulging needle that protruded through my port under sweaters and hoodies. Once the weather started warming up, I was faced with the decision to either hide my pump when I went out in public or walk proudly with my head held high.
The first time I went out in public, with my port/pump visibly showing, was in late May/early June. I remember it with such clarity. The temperature was in the high seventies, low eighties. There was no way I was leaving the house in a shirt heavier than a tank-top. My mother offered to watch my two munchkins for me so I could do some solo grocery shopping.
When I walked inside the store, I felt like everyone was staring at me. Even if they weren’t, it felt that way to me. Each time I went in for treatment–the looks I’d receive from the other chemo patients, from their families, sheer sadness. They didn’t have to say it, I knew what those looks meant. “She’s so young, How could she possibly be a cancer patient?, Poor kid, I’m so sorry she has to be here.” Each time, I’d look at them with eyes full of hope. Followed by a smile, as warm and genuine as I could manage.
That day in the grocery store, I decided to put my big girl panties on. I walked around as though I wasn’t wearing a chemo-carrying, shoulder-strapped, fanny-pack type contraption. I ignored the stares of curious fellow consumers. When we did make eye contact, I flashed a smile and said hi or hello. Carrying on about my business as usual.
Outtings this summer were that much easier after my first venture out in public. I became less and less self-conscious about my port showing or wearing the chemo-pump. Now it’s so routine, I don’t even think about it until I catch someone looking down at my shoulder. When I realize they’re staring at my port, which is hard to miss because of the placement of it and my petite size, it doesn’t bother me. I’m pretty open about my experience.
I’m a fighter, a survivor. Always have been. Most people are shocked by how nonchalant I speak about being diagnosed with cancer. I’m sure some people thought I was in denial about the whole thing because I’ve maintained such a positive attitude. The way I see it, life is what you make of it. I’m not the type to sit around, moping about, wondering “why me?” and being angry with the world.
Life presented me with a major opportunity for growth. For spiritual expansion, the ability to help others and (hopefully) inspire someone along the way.
I’m happy as heck to be done with wearing that pump!