“Storms never last, do they baby. Bad times all pass with the wind.” – Waylon Jennings
When growing up in western Massachusetts, Angie had a series of encounters with one song that I’ve learned to love. She swears that every single time this particular song came on the radio, she found herself inside a moving vehicle while a bad storm was passing through. To many people, this may not seem like any reason to have disdain for any type of music or song, but when Angie frantically describes these storms to me, I can see why such a young kid would retain those emotions and associate them with one specific song.
THIS is the reason I can’t listen to “Two Princes” by the Spin Doctors when Angie and I are both in the car; it stirs up her old emotions and memories of those thunderstorms.
“Two Princes” isn’t a bad song. It’s upbeat, uplifting and it makes me feel good when I hear it. But, the heavy downpour, loud thunderclaps, and flashes of lightning associated with a storm have turned the Spin Doctors’ tune from a neutral stimulus to a conditioned one, leaving Angie with an emotional response similar to the distress of a young girl stuck in a storm.
Angie managed to make it to work for most of last week. Of course, there was a day mixed in there where she couldn’t find the strength or stomach to leave the house, but that’s just how this whole process seems to go. One day may be a good day, but the next day could easily be shitty. And so I’ve learned that’s just the way this thing is gonna go. So, we take the good days with the bad.
We’re one whole month into treatment, and Angie just wrapped up her third round of chemo. We had to drive through the snow to get to the cancer center. In the car ride Angie was wishing she had rescheduled the treatment for the next day so she could “have one more day of feeling normal.” If the past two treatments are any indicator of what’s to come, then we can expect the next few days to be a little rough. The drugs included in Angie’s chemo cocktail have a series of side effects that make the following week harder to deal.
Take Doxorubicin, for example. It’s commonly used for several types of cancer, including breast cancer. After Angie receives Taxol (among other drugs) she experiences hair loss (duh), nausea and vomiting, mouth sores, and hypersensitivity reaction. Imagine waking up one morning and feeling hungry, but you can’t eat because you’re nauseous. If you can eat, you’re wary because your mouth is sore. Throw in shortness of breath and a fever, next thing you know you’re having yourself a bad day. Sometimes these days are the ones where Angie’s determination is tested.
The 2nd weekend of January was a good weekend. Angie woke up Saturday morning with no pains or uncomfortable sensations. Her appetite was intact, no fevers, no fatigue. We worked on the house, we did laundry, we went out to watch the NFL playoffs, and we shared meals with family. It was a good weekend.
So, now I’m wondering what it is I should be focusing on, the good days or the bad. When all of this is said and done, what am I going to choose to recall? Will I look back and think of all the horrible days or will I look back and think about those good days peppered in between the bad ones? Will I remember the dry heaves, the hair loss, and the pain? Or will I choose to enshrine the days that glowed with victory and wellbeing? I could look back on 2018 and say to myself, “Jesus, Angie fought cancer that year and it was terrible!” Or, I can look back on 2018 and say, “It was a great year because when there were good days to be had, we took them.”
Don’t get me wrong; this whole experience has plenty of ugly moments. Whenever someone thinks about cancer, of course the first thing that comes to mind is the negative. How could we not? But, I’ve learned that we just have to focus on those morsels of good that eventually appear. Hopefully, when the fatigue sets in again, and the fever flares up, and the food won’t stay down, Angie will remember that she is just riding through a storm, and storms never last.