Remember that band during the regrettable third-wave ska revival of the late ’90s? Well, this post isn’t about them, though I hope we can all agree that pop-ska period was a terrible time for music. I’m referring to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. I think my body is messing with me.

As I mentioned before, it’s not uncommon for my veins to feel a little sore the day after chemotherapy. I had chemo in my right arm yesterday. So why does my left forearm hurt? Sympathy pain? Is my arm faking it like the beloved ’80s film icon, Ferris Bueller? Again, with the random Operation-type pains. Someone is having trouble removing the funny bone.

The only thing I can think of is that when I arrived home from chemo yesterday, in my Benadryl fog, I laid down for my post-chemo nap, and my cat put her paw on my right hand, where I’d had the IV. Does she have some sort of healing touch? Should I apply a cat on both arms next time? My left knee also aches, but I have only two cats.

Also, I have another new side effect. My toenails are kind of falling off. The corners of my big toes turned black and blue, then parts of the nail bed turned funny colors and now they hurt. The doctor I saw this week said that sometimes that just happens. He explained that nails in general get chemo spots or rings in them, like a tree. (Or my hair.) And sometimes they fall off.

It’s not a very big deal, though, because I hate feet. Not in function, mind you, but I just don’t like looking at feet. You’ll never see my feet on display in sandals or flip flops, which I can’t walk in. Some people think I have webbed toes or a sixth toe or unsightly feet, but they were, until recently, completely fine. Since almost all my shoes are closed-toe, no one, except for people reading this, will know about my big toe nails. But it’s weird to have toenail beds that hurt.

Mostly, I feel it’s just rude of my nails to try to leave me like this. In a time of body crisis. First, some of my hair goes. Et tu, nails?

As for my fingernails, they’re so short, I don’t know what’s going on with them. I bite them. I have since I was 4. I remember the exact moment I started biting my nails. I was playing in my yard, and I noticed that the skin under the nails separated a bit and I’ve been biting my nails ever since, for 31 years.

I thought I would stop during chemo, because I’m supposed to avoid germs, and what’s more disgusting that putting your fingers in your mouth all the time? Not much. But it’s my one remaining vice.

I can’t drink. Well, I do a little here and there. But if there’s any time when you might need a stiff drink, it’s while you’re dealing with cancer, and it’s not allowed, sadly. Plus, if you type in “ABVD” and “alcohol,” most message boards will tell you to use good judgment. Isn’t that the first thing that goes out the window when you have a drink or two? (Is that just me?) Plus, whenever I do have a drink, I’m convinced my liver starts hurting. Again, probably just my body up to its cruel tricks.

I gave up smoking years ago, though I have to confess: When I got my cancer diagnosis, I irrationally wanted a cigarette. Just kind of as a way to say, “Oh, yeah? Cancer? Well, take this!”

Of course, having cancer and visiting a cancer hospital will scare the desire to smoke out of you. It’s not like one of those Beyond Scared Straight shows on A&E, where they scare at-risk kids with visits to prison. I know a lot of anti-smoking ads focus on the gruesome aspects of lung cancer and emphysema. But what gets to you at the hospital is the tedium. The insurance red tape, the bills, the fact that one expensive habit leads to an expensive fight for your life.

I have always felt, whenever I get sick, mostly with colds or eye infections, that my body is betraying me somehow. It’s mind versus body. And cancer is really one of the ultimate betrayals.

Before I got Hodgkin’s lymphoma, I was in pretty good shape. I tried to work out almost every day, either going to fitness boot camp, vinyasa yoga or Bikram yoga classes. I was eating right. I drank a lot of water. I thought my body and I were cool.

Some people get really angry about having cancer. I don’t know if it’s because I have one of the “best kinds”—unlike lung cancer, which I was heading towards during my smoking years. Hodgkin’s lymphoma seems like kind of a mystery as far as causes go. It seems like bad luck.

Also, since cancer is your body’s own cells going renegade, it seems like a form of self-hatred to get angry at the cancer. It’s part of you, in a way. It’s like something else that you don’t like about yourself—a big nose or a slow metabolism or paralyzing shyness—times a million.

So I’m not angry. I’m just…hurt.

Until then, I will apply a cat to my left arm, in case that actually works. I don’t want it trying to play hooky and getting into all sorts of hijinks. Or do I?


  1. […] the past months during treatment, I’ve had pain pangs in my abdomen that I’ve assigned various possible causes in my mind, from liver failure to intestinal distress. It’s the cancer, probably (hopefully) […]

  2. […] it easy while my right arm has been taking the brunt of the chemo. I even accused my left arm of faking it to get out of […]

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