Phyllis Porché is a writer, storyteller, and teacher. She was born and raised in Chicago, and she believes the best stories come from the absurdities of life. Diagnosed at age 30, she is a 30-year cancer survivor and never leaves home without wearing earrings.
The oncologist said he wasn’t going to tell me all the possible side effects of the
chemotherapy cocktail he was giving me, but he did tell me the TV movie-of- the-week
ones: nausea, vomiting, and hair loss. I kinda wish he’d thrown in a little something about finger numbness; that one I discovered on my own. At first it was just a little tingle, then it got hard to hold a pen and coordinate the right amount of pressure to write anything except squiggles. It wasn’t that big a deal because I was home all day every day and really didn’t need to write that much. What I did need to do what eat, and that got harder because as time went on my fingers got more numb and I dropped everything I touched. I was glad my apartment building had concrete floors because whoever lived in the apartment below me would have quickly grown tired of hearing something smash against the ceiling followed by, “Dammit!”
Dropping flatware wasn’t so bad, it was the cups, plates, and saucers that suffered the most.
It was almost beautiful to watch as the plates slipped from my fingers, hit the floor, and
exploded. I said almost. It was frustrating because when it happened, my lunch or dinner
then splattered all over my tiny kitchen. By the time I finished 12 cycles of chemo, I had
one plate and one saucer left. I was nervous about using them because if they broke, I
would end up eating my meals standing over the stove and eating right from the pots. No
way was I going to risk holding a hot pot over the sink or my lap with numb fingers!
Side effects seemed to magically appear and disappear. I would wake up one morning and
one annoying thing would be gone and another would take its place. I remember the morning I woke and I could feel my fingers! That was also the morning all my fingernails turned black, but I’ll tell that story next time.