This is a subject very close to me heart - the stigma of chemotherapy, or chemo as it's referred to by it's friends!
Back in 2016 when I first received my breast cancer diagnosis, straight away I remember chemo being the thing that scared me, being sick, losing my hair and funnily enough putting weight on, as that was my experience with friends who'd gone through it. I remember quite clearly stating that I would like the 'skinny chemo' - this is my humour, my way of breaking the awkwardness and trying to lift my spirits with a bit of a joke! The nurse, I think, thought that I was a little bonkers but she quite soon realised my humour was a coping mechanism and so went along with it......the skinny chemo went with throughout treatment, although if you saw photos of me you would soon realise that they did not give me the 'skinny' chemo!!!
Anyway, back to the subject of the stigma of chemo. I think anyone who hears that word evokes an emotion of fear, anxiety and dread - even if it's not you having the treatment. And this is because any exposure we've had with the subject through the media has always shown people being sick, 'looking sick' in fact and losing their hair. Now I know that this treatment is not necessarily a pleasant one and that there are hundreds of side effects, many of which I've experienced myself that come with it - but my point here is very much that by creating the pictures and words we do around this treatment does not prepare us positively. That old adage 'better to know what you're facing' is no longer true, because if you start to tell yourself what it's going to be like then you are already creating that as a reality in your mind. 'Be careful what you wish for' my friends, I know we are not wishing those things on ourselves but our minds are so bloody pesky and incredibly clever and if we say "I'm going to feel sick, I'm not going to cope" then that is what our mind creates for us - that is our reality!
Instead we need to start to create positive pictures and words about chemo then this can only help ease us through this treatment - in 2021 I would say to myself "This chemo is going to be a breeze, I have incredible coping skills and I will get through this with ease". Now I know for anyone who has seen my story and follows me on social media you will know that like many people I had challenges through chemo and I did experience a lot of the negative, not so pleasant side effects - but I was not telling myself this was going to happen, I was easing myself through it with far more peace than back in 2016. I didn't fight the side effects, I almost embraced them with the knowledge that 'this too shall pass' - which surprisingly for me was a great help....telling myself this is temporary and I am going to be 'well and full of energy' was an ongoing message I planted in my subconscious mind.
When I had infections in my central line and chemo was delayed - instead of fighting this and being discouraged and anxious I embraced it as an opportunity to take a longer break. Everything that came my way I faced and took in my stride and I seriously believe this is because of what I was constantly and consistently telling myself.
This is a massive subject and as I've said, something that is close to my heart. I also have a massive beef with the person who started to call one of the FEC chemo combination drugs 'the red devil'! Now how on earth is that going to help anyone.....I ask you, for one thing it is not 'the devil', it's a drug that is fighting and destroying cancer cells. I've seen and heard women on support groups talk terrifyingly about the the fact that they think they are going to be on 'the red devil' and how are they going to cope. We are planting in our minds the fact that this drug is going to make us very poorly....after all there aren't any good associations with the word 'devil' - and to be honest in my experience there are worse chemo drugs; but I do not want to start that conversation.
So....let's stop calling anything related to chemo 'the red devil' or any other negative, scary, less than positive words and let's start to face chemo with more optimism, compassion and peace.