Loose Screws & Skinned Knees

Contributed by Care Tuk

During chemo, I joined an elite group that enjoys a camaraderie that many hope not ever to know. You get to know people in a different way. You measure the progress of your treatment by the amount of hair loss (or eyebrows or eyelashes). You can tell what kind of week they have had by the color of their skin. Is it jaundice yellow? Is it pale and accompanied by sunken cheeks and black circles under their eyes? 

You can tell how they feel by how many blankets they request from the warmer, or how tightly wrapped they are in their own fleece blankets that they bring. You know not to ask questions when they bury themselves under the blankets, their nose and mouth barely visible. You often times hear people joke about the “molting season” they are in, as the skin on their hands and feet peel, layer after layer, week after week.

Conversely, there are those who are chatty, whose nausea is under control, or possibly who have found a chemo cocktail that agrees with their system. It may be a good week for them or maybe they are on a maintenance dose of medication—possibly on the hopeful side of remission of this ugly disease. 

In remission. Out of remission. Tumor markers look great. Tumor markers have risen. Blood levels are good. Blood levels have tanked. Transfusions. Infusions. Injections. Rejections. It is a white knuckle roller coaster ride. It is like being on a carnival ride that does not discriminate against age, height, weight, color of skin, ethnicity, heritage, gender, religious preference, political alliance, hair color, length or lack thereof. 
There are no rules. 

Yet, like the Big Top, it takes all kinds, shapes, and colors to pull off the “Greatest Show on Earth.” And the “Greatest Show on Earth” is life itself. 

Life is colored by people of all heritages, all lines of work, all social strata, all ethnicities, all ages, and all genders. And just like in life, in chemo you are thrown into the melting pot. Like any good recipe, a sourpuss attitude can ruin the whole batch, just as much as a bright personality with just the right seasoning of humor, friendliness, and levity will make the chemo go down a bit easier. 

So, we raise our hands high when we are at the top of our treatment, possibly in remission, possibly just having a good day. And on those days when the bottom drops out from underneath us, we know we have a cadre of new friends who will buoy us up, because they have been there. . . Because they care . . . Because they know. 

They remind me that I too can make it through, just as they have. We are each in our seats, belts and IV’s hooked tight, ready or not to go at it one more time . . . Until that time that we can get off the white knuckle ride, and climb back on the merry-go-round of “regular” everyday life.

And so the chemo went—slow and steady with regular bouts of nausea.
My new, yet again, normal.

About the Author

Care Tuk is a nationally known speaker, educator, and retreat/workshop leader. She has been a school, hospital, and home health occupational therapist for more than 30 years. She has been named as a Top Business Woman in America and recognized for her work with youth, disability outreach and awareness, and the American Cancer Society.

Care lives in Wasilla, Alaska with her husband Bill. They have two grown children, Jamie and Tim, who live nearby.

At the time this book went to print, Care was in complete remission from her eleventh bout with cancer.