I found great solace in the beauty of nature while undergoing chemotherapy. Views , which before I’d hardly noticed or took for granted were now indescribably beautiful, more intricate and complex than anything I’d ever seen before. The medication may have had something to do with this; perhaps the steroids; but I think it had something to do with the intensification of my senses and appreciation of life experiencing cancer. Inspired by the wondrous diversity of nature, I resolved to stay alive for as long as possible simply to go on celebrating the miracle of life, heartened to realize it’d all still be there for others to enjoy and celebrate long after my passing.
Getting ready for the gym I’d rug myself up against the intense cold outside, donning thermal underwear, woolen pants, jumpers, thick socks, beanie or skull cap and a hooded-jacket large as a circus big-top, then wrap a scarf around my mouth so my throat wouldn’t seize up in the cold air and tug on a pair of woolen gloves as an added precaution against cold and infection. Even the ordinarily simple matter of dressing whilst undergoing chemotherapy in a cold climate became a formidable chore.
I’d lie on the bed in the warmth of my bedroom, weary and demoralized, feeling a thousand-years old, wondering how I was going to cope with this new challenge to my life. I knew it was important to stay positive and as active as possible and, reading how exercise had a positive effect on fatigue, stress and moods, some doctors arguing it actually counteracted cancer, I decided to visit a gym as often as possible, no matter how tired or in what discomfort I might be, or how depressed, simply to get out of the house, stay active and socialize, consciously cultivating a good habit. Working out at the gym was occasionally tedious but helped maintain a veneer of ‘normalcy’, brought shape to the day, allowed me to exercise a measure of control over what was happening to me in the full knowledge that if I stayed home all day the unpleasant psychological and emotional side-effects of the chemo would take their toll.
“The gastroenterologist said she’d found two cancers and smiling cheerfully through a sedated haze Will thanked her and beamed up at Faith wondering why she seemed so perturbed.”
And so began the chemo affair.
Diagnosed with advanced bowel cancer Will commences extensive chemotherapy as Faith unearths a misappropriation of funds in the organisation she directs.
At first Will thinks the chemo won’t be too bad but he’s wrong. The side-effects are awful and not just physically – psychologically and emotionally. Weary, despondent or off with the ‘chemo fairies’ preoccupied with survival, Will feels as if he’s a worthless burden but soon tires of saying ‘sorry’.
Faith’s wrong, too, underestimating the impact Will’s chemo will have on her professional and domestic responsibilities. Exhausted, stressed and never knowing from one cycle to the next what Will’s moods or capacities will be, she soon tires of feeling guilty.
Inevitably misunderstandings develop dredging up unresolved antagonisms obscured by youth, career and family and pushing the relationship to the brink.
When Will’s therapy and Faith’s employment end with a disturbing twist, they confront an uncertain future. Has their faith in chemotherapy been warranted? Will their marriage survive The Chemo Affair?
Distinguished Australian historian Dr Gary Lewis has published extensively on agricultural, credit, consumer, worker and community-settlement co-operatives and co-operatives’ associations.
Wounded: a Great War novel, a historical fiction evoking his father’s experience in World War One was published by BookBaby in 2013.
The Chemo Affair is Gary’s first excursion into realistic fiction.
Dr Lewis lives in the beautiful Australian seaside township of Byron Bay.