It was October 2009 and close to my favorite time of the year… my eldest daughter Rochelle’s birthday in November and Christmas! Although I should’ve been relieved and looking forward to the festivities, I wasn’t particularly excited when my radiation finally came to an end, given the very long road that was still ahead of me. One good development that had taken place was the fact that the oncologist who had with great ineptitude announced my relapse, had left the hospital where I was based and had been replaced by, who turned out to be a much more competent doctor who had his finger very much on the pulse when it came to following the protocol that was right for the individual patients needs. After consulting with him once my radiation therapy was complete, he prescribed 6 more months of chemotherapy. In a way, knowing what lay ahead of me in terms of what to expect made it somewhat easier, but this is a double edged sword because at the same time you know how long and arduous it’s going to be…the fact that your hair is going to fall out, that you may experience nausea, that everything is going to taste like cardboard once again, that you’re going to feel weak and tired…that it’s going to take double the length of your chemotherapy to reclaim all of it again.
We had just moved house and there were still mountains of unopened boxes to be seen to, but I had much bigger things to worry about. My chemo started in early November and I was to go once a week for three weeks, with one weeks break in between. It was more gentle chemo and not so hard on my system, but this time I had a much harder battle to fight, because it wasn’t just adjuvant chemotherapy, but more of the hard core type. This was the reason for giving smaller amounts on a weekly basis with a week’s break in between so that I didn’t suffer from debilitating nausea and be at risk of septicemia ( a potentially deadly systemic infection brought on by low white blood cell counts). Every time I went for a session I would practice visualization, almost in the form of a Pac-man game. The Pac-man represented the chemotherapy and was the little mouth that was eating up all the cancer cells as it went along. By this time I had stopped praying to God…I wasn’t sure I could still rely on him. Instead I was praying to my late mum, begging her to help me through this.
Then disaster struck in the form of my hopeless medical aid. I got a phone call from my oncologist telling me that the medical aid was refusing to approve my next chemo session for the simple fact that I had exhausted my funds. Instantly I knew that this meant I had no choice but to return to the government hospital that I was at before…the one that makes you feel like a file number and a statistic, not a person…the one where you felt like the member of a herd of cattle. After many tears as well as phoning the medical aid to grovel without any success, I had to scrape my heart off the floor. Knowing that if I was to survive this time round, I had no choice but to go back to the said government hospital to complete my treatments. Every cell and nerve ending in my body was screaming…telling me to run the other way, but I couldn’t. To my utter astonishment, disbelief and dismay I found myself sitting in the consulting rooms of the very same doctor that had treated me there the last time. My trust in this oncologist was hanging by a thread and not once did he turn around to face Jaco or I during that consultation. Not once did he make eye contact. He was too busy typing in details for the last patient he’d just seen, as well as to catch up with my unwanted presence in the room. On arriving at the chemotherapy suites after leaving his rooms and being plugged in for my next session, I sobbed. The attending nurses all approached me to ask me what was wrong, but I naturally couldn’t confide in them. They were all part of the same team. The only thing that kept me from falling to pieces completely was Jaco’s presence and the fact that I knew without a shadow of a doubt that he would see me through all of this.