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Saturday, September 28, 2013


Since coming up on my chemo-versary last week, I've been reflecting on the experience. Most of my thoughts are of the "What the fuck?!' variety. As in, what the fuck, I went to work? What the fuck, I rode the subway? What the fuck, I didn't demand breakfast in bed and carpet of rose petals?!?

I stayed pretty normal throughout chemo. I clung to normal. So I rode the PATH and subway (even home from chemo sometimes... Yeesh). I went out, I wore perfume. I worked on a fashion shoot, despite my dip into the world of unisex clothing. I didn't buy a particular pair of shoes that were too expensive, even though I had the world's best excuse. I kept on doing all that old Emily stuff, so that I didn't die along with my cancer cells (and hair follicles).

The treatment that kills your cancer can also kill you. Because cancer is not a bacteria or a fungus. It is born of us. So any assault on a tumor is also an assault on the body as a whole. Parts of you are dead or dying all the time.

So there's an undead thing going on. A chemozombie. You're pumped full of poison. You should probably be dead, but you're walking around. Your brain's fried, so you're about as dumb as a real zombie. Your joints are stiff from chemopause and taxol and herceptin, so you kind of walk like this:

Hook 'em up to IV stands and these guys can be seen in infusion suites across the nation.


  1. Emily,
    You are so right about all that you have posted. I too went through breast cancer treatments this past year. Mine started in December 2012. I wish I had taken pictures. I had 16 chemo treatments (one kind was even nick named by the nurses as the red devil) prior to surgery (double mastectomy) about a month after that I had 33 radiation treatments then I have 52 Herceptin treatments I am in the process of taking now. I didn't do quite as well as you did I had to quit working. I had a production job were you had to be able to process so many documents per each shift and lift 50 pound boxes as part of the retrieving documents to work on. Plus with chemo brain that didn't work too well either. But hey I should be positive I am here right. LOL I will be done with the Herceptin in March 2014. I am hoping I feel better by then. Thank you again for sharing.

  2. The red devil! The most bad ass of all chemos.
    I don't think I could lift a 50lb box on my best day, let alone during treatment! I am lucky with my job, in that I can do a lot from my desk. I also got extra help with anything that required lifting. I'm glad you took care of yourself and took time to heal. Chemo can keep doing weird things to our bodies for a long time -- I still don't feel completely normal. Hope you're having a big party in March! All the best xoxo

  3. Excellent post, as were several others I read. I wish I would have documented my journey as you have done. I try to write from just the feelings and memories now. I am 5 years past the red devil, taxol, surgery, radiation, and the walking death of it all. I wish the best for you at laying to rest the chemozombie and getting back to the living. I was moved by your words, thanks for sharing.

  4. I just found your blog via gawker. THANK YOU. I have been trying so hard to describe to others what it feels like. chemozombie is PERFECT. I just finished chemo, herceptin for 9 more months, starting rads in 2 weeks.

  5. I'm stoked to have found your blog. I wish I had found it earlier in the day because I'm slightly sure it will be a late night of reading. Zombie is exactly what I called my 5 days post chemo. I started radiation 2 days ago and find it oddly harder than chemo. It's rather hard to put it into words how it makes me feel, but this week has been a cluster f of emotions so perhaps I can blame it on that. - Tia