The strangest of my cancer side-effects (and they’re mostly not physical)

I feel guilty for not being at my best, for having appointments, for feeling vaguely crappy with no outwardly discernible reason. I feel guilty for taking time to take care of myself, either physically or emotionally. I don’t like feeling guilty. I’m trying not to.

I have this annoying feeling of pressure on the right side of my esophagus. It is merely annoying at this point. I feel it more some days than others. It affects my singing voice more than anything else. If the tumor keeps growing, I imagine it could become more problematic. But that’s what chemotherapy is for.

I feel like I’m walking around in stealth-cancer mode all the time. On the train, shopping for a pumpkin, in restaurants, on the street — I feel as though I’m somehow lying to all these random strangers. Not that I think they need to know, but that I might be hiding something from them. And it makes me wonder who else is walking around with their own stealth-cancer…

Pumpkins are great.
Pumpkins are great.

I also feel that because I’ve got this comparatively easy-to-cure cancer, I don’t really have much reason or excuse to complain about things. Not that I’ve really felt much like complaining, but on the occasions when I have I start to feel like I don’t have a bad enough cancer to complain about it. Yeah, that’s kind of sad actually, now that I think about it. I should probably let myself complain once in a while.

Sometimes I seem to act a bit disconnected and distant from reality, and from people close to me. I don’t always notice it, and when I do I try to bring myself back, but it can be hard. I’m easily distracted. From what I’ve read in my chemo literature, this may happen more often once I’m in active treatment. It’s even got a name: chemo-brain. Yay.

Fatigue comes and goes. I still can’t always tell if it’s parental fatigue or cancer fatigue. It might be both.

There are days when I feel generally down. Those are the days I’m most disconnected, and the days where I’m pretty sure if a friend gave me a hug it’s possible I might start crying on their shoulder. Not because of anything specific… just the pressure of dealing with all of this stuff. It builds up over time, and then I can feel the depression I used to handle daily trying to creep its way back into my life. This can last a day, or two, or three, but eventually I remember that I know how to fight that feeling; I have the emotional tools, and I spent years honing them.

Maybe it’s a good thing I had those years of depression and therapy and building support networks and figuring out how to use them. I’m equipped now to take care of myself, and to know how to ask for the things that I need to help me off the edge of that ravine. Not that I think it was good I was depressed; more that I feel like since I survived that, and all the things combined that put me there, then cancer treatment is going to be easy and straightforward — because it’s real, it’s tangible, it can’t be waved away as just being stupid emotions.

But I suppose that’s all I’ve noticed so far. I expect the side-effects of chemotherapy to be interesting.


  • Anonymous

    October 20, 2013 at 11:20 am

    Dear Jenny Lee,
    This is Marie. Again. I’ve introduced myself before on a comment I’ve sent you. I’ll assume you’ve received it and that I don’t need to introduce myself again.

    Jenny Lee, I’ll be straight to the point. I’m sorry you are dealing with cancer. I really am. And, my husband and I are working with a modality that may be of great benefit to you and I want to let you know about it. I’m not saying that this modality wil cure your cancer, nope, sorry. But what I do know, is that it is a modality that will help you go through chimo a lot better, smoother and with way less side effects.
    I know this because, the founder of this modality Lee Gerdes, has just finished going through chimo himslef for lung cancer and has used it while going through the treatments and says that it has made a huge difference for him. I guess he’d have to go through chimo once more without it to really measure the difference, but I don’t wish that on him.
    So the modality is called Brainwave Optimization techonologies, and we operate under the name BrainHeart Synergy and our website is
    Jenny, I felt I should at least tell you that this existed for your information, and that it has been proven to be of great benefit to many, for many different reasons. As a great support while going through chimo is one of them.
    There are no undesirable side effects to Brainwave Optimization other than time. It takes time to do this, which is one aspect of your life that you may feel may be a challenge. None the less Jenny, I felt compelled to share this with you.

    Roland, my husband, and I, will be happy to meet with you if you want to know more about this modality and how we could possibly be of support to you while you go through your treatments.

    I love reading your Blog Jeeny Lee. I love how authentic and genuine you are. I always feel touched, moved and inspired after I read your blog, and I always look forward to your next posting. My heart goes to you and to your family, and so does my good wishes and thoughts for a quick return to wholesome health.

    much love,

    Marie Naubert

    • Jenny Lee Silver

      October 26, 2013 at 10:26 am

      Hi Marie,

      Thanks for the messages. I’ve been pretty busy lately, sorry for the delayed reply. Things are moving forward pretty quickly and keeping me busy with appointments in between work and taking care of the girls. I appreciate your offer to meet with me about the Brainwave Optimization, but there’s so much going on with all of this that I can’t handle anything else on top of things, however beneficial it may be.

      I’m glad you’re enjoying my writing… it’s a big part of how I handle and process things internally. And thanks for your understanding and support.


  • emilywalsh688

    October 28, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Great post on the side effects of chemo and I would recommend this to others that who are also going through treatment. My name is Emily and I wanted to know if you would be able to answer a quick question about your blog. Please feel free to email me whenever you get the chance, thanks so much Jenny Lee!