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A Sensory Reminder

Every patient has a thing that makes them sick. It’s a sensory thing. Something that reminds them of the awful time they spent sick. For some, it’s the smell of the hand soap at the hospital. For others, it’s the sound of an IV pump chugging away.

For me?

I will be happy when the day comes that I never have to open another antiseptic wipe again.

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Ripping into one of of these, as the strong sterile smell of medical alcohol hits my nostrils, makes me feel queasy. It reminds me of the two needles I have to give myself at home every single day. It reminds me of the countless blood tests every week. Of IV insertions, of cleaning IV ports before they push in the chemo.

I know a lot of people talk about how after cancer, they discover it was some sort of blessing. That it changed their lives and they are better people now for it. There’s no denying that I too am a changed person because of cancer. Probably for the better as well. But I still fucking hate it.

It’s nice to learn all these things about life at 25 years of age, sure. But I often get really pissed off that cancer took that ignorance from me. I was not supposed to learn like this.

Every time I open an alcohol swab, I’m reminded of the new sterile life I lead. One where I live in fear of getting sick, because a small regular infection during treatment could kill me. Keeping clean at home means keeping out of the isolation room at the hospital. It’s eating my foods well cooked, brushing my teeth four times a day, washing my hands after petting my favourite animals. I can’t even shave my legs or pop my pimples.

The smell of an alcohol pad reminds me of all of this, and so, so much more. I tend not to get angry about my situation because I am generally an easy going, well-tempered person. But this sensory object almost always brings out a bit of “cancer rage” within me.

I can’t wait until the day when I no longer have to rip these packages open. And when I no longer have to worry about the needle prick that always follows.

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