Last day of chemotherapy.

Why is seven a lucky number? There are seven days in a week, and while that’s got a long history it’s also pretty arbitrary—if we were smart we’d always have December 31st on Thursday so we’d have the weekend to recover. There are seven continents although that’s also pretty arbitrary because Europe and Asia are connected and so are North and South America, and the central part is pretty important too. There are supposedly seven stars in the Pleiades but look through a telescope and you’ll see a lot more than that. Supposedly there are seven colors in the rainbow but when was the last time you looked at a rainbow and really saw indigo? There’s the old dad joke that six is afraid of seven because seven eight nine, but that’s the kind of joke that’s only lucky if people are still willing to talk to you after you tell it. Maybe it’s something in the number itself. Seven is the largest single digit prime number, and it’s an odd number so you can separate it into two even groups of three with one standing in the middle alone, and it’s there saying, “Hey, do you know why six is afraid of seven?”

In games with two six-sided dice there’s a special significance to seven because it’s the number that has the most combinations so it’s the number you’re most likely to roll.

It’s also been seven years since I finished chemotherapy, which has me thinking a lot about how much happened in those first seven days.

My first day I went in not knowing what chemotherapy even meant, which sounds stupid now, but all I’d heard about chemotherapy was the side-effects: hair loss, weight loss, sickness. What would the procedure be? And I was afraid to ask which may sound even more stupid but I figured I’d find out soon enough, and it’s not as though I could negotiate or improvise something other than what was in the script.

With that first day, a Monday, I learned that chemo mostly involved sitting around letting IV bags of fluid drip into my veins. I expected it to be like a root canal but it was more like study hall in school, although less painful because I didn’t have a test on economics afterward.

Later in the week I’d develop severe swelling in my right leg from all the extra fluid, I was so exhausted from stress I fell asleep during an MRI, I got lost going to the bathroom and a nurse had to show me the way back to my room.

I had bouts of nausea and wondered if that was as bad as it would get, then it got worse: a guy with a guitar came around and sang “Edelweiss” to me.

I think it was during that first week that I had the minor surgery to have a chest port installed so I wouldn’t end up with arms like a heroin addict’s. I fell asleep during that too and woke up singing “Comfortably Numb” which everyone in the operating room found hilarious.

I wondered if I’d see any other side effects and, in fact, the following Monday when I went in I leaned my head back on a pillow while a nurse gave me a single shot. When I lifted my head up there was a clump of my hair on the pillow. The rest of it would fall out later.

Those first seven days didn’t so much establish a routine as get the worst of what I’d go through out of the way with things gradually getting better from there.

Six times now I’ve celebrated successfully finishing chemotherapy. It wasn’t the end of my cancer treatment—there was still recovery and surgeries that followed, but, as the one who had cancer, I get to choose, and I’ve arbitrarily picked this date as the one to celebrate. And six times it’s not really been something I’ve celebrated; it hasn’t been fun reflecting on what cancer meant to me, what it did to me. I’m glad to be here but six times I thought I’d be happier to be here if my body hadn’t turned on me, if I hadn’t lost so much to a cluster of runaway cluster of cells.

This time feels different. It’s lighter. It’s better. This time I just feel glad. I don’t know what comes next, but I’m ready to roll the dice.


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  1. Allison

    I literally laughed out loud at the guy singing Edelweiss. When my father was in hospice, a music therapist came to the house and offered to sing for Dad. He was unconscious, so she asked us what kind of music he liked. We told her: Reggae. She gave us Under the Boardwalk, Jimmy Buffet and some Elvis. It was surreal, and we were all trying not to bust out laughing, because my father would have haaaaaaaated the whole thing. I firmly believe that finding the small glimmers of levity in heavy times helps recovery. I am glad you are celebrating, and I’ll belt out a verse of Edelweiss today in your honor.
    Allison recently posted…Say What?My Profile

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      That’s hilarious and, yes, finding those moments of levity does help, not just the person in treatment (or hospice) but everyone. And I have to admit I like “Edelweiss”, although I prefer the song about the lonely goatherd, and I like Oklahoma! I’m a fan of musicals generally, but on that particular day that was just not what I wanted. Sort of like how my tastes in food changed while I was getting chemo, but that’s another story.

  2. BarbaraM

    Halloween will be my 8th celebration. Imagine waking up in your room after surgery with all the nurses in costume – first thought was, man, that’s some good drugs.
    Congratulations to us both and to every other reader with like experiences – may we all stay healthy during this nutzoid pandemic.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Hey, you get a special congratulations for being in surgery on Halloween.

  3. mydangblog

    7 and counting, and so happy that you can look back on this instead of it looming towards you:-) And thanks for that Ramones track–one of my favourites!

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      Somehow with each passing year it gets a little better, although the passing years also remind me of my mortality. And the Ramones are always great and this one just happened to come up on the radio a few months ago when I was thinking of the upcoming anniversary. It seemed like fate.


    Seven is definitely one of my lucky numbers, Chris, and we’re all very lucky you’re with us. May you bloom and grow, bloom and grow forever.

    1. Christopher Waldrop (Post author)

      I think you’ve left more than seven comments here but, whatever the number is, Ann, I’m lucky to call you a friend.


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