4 Ways Cancer Treatment Is Like the First Trimester – Seriously

by Jennifer Brown

Pancreatic cancer: Women lying face down in bed; two middle fingers pointing upwards

While there are some people who love being pregnant (I'm not one of them), no one likes cancer treatment.


©blackday / Adobe Stock

When I was pregnant with my first child, my husband’s grandfather, Nelson*, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Although he was 80 years old, he took it in stride and agreed to treatment even though I could sense he wasn’t excited about the whole idea. I think he did it more for his daughters, and to see his first great-grandchild — which he did.

Because my husband and I had just moved to Tucson from Rhode Island, I had no other friends or family here, which meant I ended up spending the early days of my pregnancy with Nelson, who held up my hair a couple of times as I puked. At one point, I asked the nurse if I could get an IV and bed beside him so I could finally feel better. The nurse just shook her head, apparently not too convinced of the gravity of my nauseous situation.

But it gets worse. As it turned out, Nelson and I shared a lot of symptoms during those dark days in Tucson.

1. Always Nauseous

Just as Nelson started chemotherapy, I started feeling morning sickness. Everything made me throw up, so when I went to see him in the Tucson hospital, we laughed about how much alike we were feeling. He was even surprised I drove over since I carried a little puke bag (don’t worry it was clean) with me wherever I went. I was that sick!

2. Always Tired

Nelson and I didn’t have much to talk about and really nothing in common except for the same symptoms we shared, including being exhausted all the time. When I would arrive at the start of visiting hours, I’d plop down on the chair next to his bed like I had just run a marathon. Nelson was usually too exhausted to do more than smile and wave his hand, something we quickly learned to do in unison like a code, albeit a sick person’s code.

3. No Awkward Conversations Here

When you’re sick to your stomach all the time and just being conscious is agony, the last thing you want is to have a conversation. Nelson felt the same. He didn’t tell me one single story from his military days during cancer treatment. Our conversations quickly shrank down and consisted of hello, goodbye, what do you want to watch, I’m going to the bathroom, and the occasional moans and groans only the nauseous can truly understand.

4. Misery Loves Company

While there are some people who love being pregnant (I’m not one of them), no one likes cancer treatment. The side effects are often what make people feel so uncomfortable about cancer. In other words, cancer treatment makes people sick, even if it’s just the storm before the calm. Many people who undergo cancer treatment feel miserable and, because of that, they need someone to tough it out with them.

*For privacy purposes, all names have been changed

Article by Jennifer Brown

Jennifer Brown is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington.



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