The Day After Chemo

by cyndisision profile

Slice of life
2014

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A generous account of an author’s chemo experience, September 2, 2022

This is an autobiographical game about undergoing chemo for breast cancer. The game does not go into detail about the chemo treatment itself but instead the aftermath and effects on the author’s daily life when they come home.

Gameplay
The gameplay is in second person. My impression is that you do not play specifically as the author in the but instead as a relatively neutral protagonist who portrays the author’s real-life experiences. I could be wrong about that. Either way the emotions and struggles experienced during chemo shine through and paint a picture of what it is like to manage basic routines in life when you feel sick or have physical and mental fatigue.

The player has tasks that they need to complete such as showering, washing the dishes, meeting with friends, and devoting time to personal projects. As chemo continues, they have less energy to work on these tasks which requires that the player prioritize even though it means leaving other things unfinished. They can also ask their partner for help which demonstrates how a person can be a support system in your life but also conveys how asking for help can make one feel like a burden.

The game rates the protagonist’s state of mind with the phrase “You don't feel much shame about the chaos in your life," which changes as life grows more hectic. Next would be “You feel a little shame about the chaos in your life,” and so forth. I thought that this was effective in demonstrating how the effects of chemo accumulate both in mundane things such as maintaining an apartment but also how it shapes more complex areas in your life, especially self-confidence and anxiety. As chemo advances so does the protagonist.

Story
The writing was heartfelt and descriptive. One that stood out to me was “all of a sudden the big wave of energy you've been riding crests, and washes you up on your sofa like a dead jellyfish.” This illustrated how a moment where you feel uplifted and capable can fall flat because of a new development, such as needing to return to the hospital for another round of chemo despite wanting to spend your day on other things. The writing lets the player glance into this daily experience.

Then there is the (Spoiler - click to show) overwhelming sense of triumph of having gone through chemo and emerging knowing that A, it has helped in assuring that you are cancer-free, and B, that you can now regain your life with renewed enthusiasm. The best part is at the end of the game when the protagonist comes home “The Day After Chemo” (this milestone also shares the title of the game) after the whole chemo ordeal is over. There are no dishes or laundry or chores that need to be done. Just an open block of time. The protagonist decides to use that time to make a Twine game about what it took to reach that point.

Visuals
There are three cycles of chemo that each consist of a few days. The game alternates with different colour backgrounds as each day passes and incorporates colour-coded text with links. Occasionally a few are difficult to read but most were a fun splash of colour. There are occasional text effects which added some movement to the gameplay.

Final thoughts
The Day After Chemo is a candid game about cancer and recovery, and I am glad that the author chose to share this story through a Twine format. Its short gameplay balances the daily struggles of chemo with the rewards of having a good day. It is basic, straightforward, and well worth playing.