Poisonous Cures

The song Another Day, by Sting, reminds me of chemotherapy. The refrain says:

But it’s hard to tell the poison from the cure
It’s harder still to know the reason why, why, why
The only thing I really know for sure
Is that another day, another day’s gone by, by, by

Chemotherapy most likely saved my life. My cancer was caught early; it was stage 1. I only needed four sessions of chemo. The first treatment wasn’t bad; the last treatment was the worst. I can understand how having more chemo sessions can make a patient grow so weak. My sessions weren’t very long; I think they took only about an hour and a half, although it was 12 years ago and I don’t remember all the details very clearly! I do remember that I couldn’t read during chemo, because I got nauseous. Watching TV gave me the sensation of motion sickness while sitting firmly in a recliner. One of the drugs I received had to be refrigerated. It was fruit punch red, in a very large syringe. The nurse would inject it into my I.V., and I could feel the coldness traveling up my arm. It felt really strange, having this cold syrup traveling up my blood vessels. Imagine having a brain freeze all the way up one of your arms. After one of my later sessions, my mom gave me a bottle of water. It tasted so metallic that I didn’t believe her when she told me she hadn’t put anything in it! I lost my hair, which everyone associates with chemo, and was nauseous and tired. What else but a poison would cause these side effects?

I have a fear of poisonous creatures. Poisonous snakes terrify me, venomous spiders give me the shivers, and scorpions? EW! The picture above is a black widow, taken by my sister in California. I am grateful that I live in Northern Illinois where the closest I might come to a black widow is in a bunch of imported grapes from the Jewel or on an animal TV show. I watched a rerun of Nature on PBS the other night, and the show was about research using venom as cures for all sorts of diseases. Researchers are finding ways to use “natural poisons” as painkillers. They have found components in a venom that is more effective than insulin for diabetics, and they even have found a way to stop breast cancer from spreading by using the venom from a copperhead snake. A “poison paradox” indeed!

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