One Session Down, Five More To Go
It’s midnight and I’m scratching my head. I must have missed something right? I know that movies and the WE Channel often exaggerate but after three hours of chemo at Hunstman today the only thing I feel is relieved and suspicious; also a bit anxious because I know CMF can’t be this innocuous.
That’s what Dr. Ward prescribed. A cocktail of cyclophosphamide, methotrexate and fluorouracil, which is also known as 5FU (my dad said that one used to be used to grow hair!). Ward choose this path because of the less severe side effects- a strong chance of hair thinning but not falling out, no neuropathy (loss of feeling in toes and fingers which can be permanent in some people), less nausea, no bone pain. Like a walk in the park, right? Both Ward and his assistant Rosie reassured me that given my age, physical conditioning and vitals, I was going to be one of the lucky ones who sailed through this pricky business.
I can’t be easily convinced, however, especially not after meeting with 12 women at the Image Reborn cancer retreat who hosted a little show and tell of chemo horror. You would have had to physically walk over and lift my jaw off the floor to get me to shut my mouth. But what can you do? You go in with all of the ‘what ifs’, hope they won’t come true and you jump in. I wanted to get in the race. For three weeks now I’ve had thoughts of ‘treatment’ keeping me up at night. I thought after last week, my labs, my appointment for today, that I was all set…..until I wound up with bronchitis. Sage is sick too and Ryan’s coming down with it.
Of course they would postpone my treatment. No such (bad?) luck! We were still a go. They made the call because I didn’t have a fever or chills and was seemingly on the mend. We’ll see what happens now.
Nausea and anti-nausea prescriptions in one hand, turkey sandwich and fries in the other, I marched down to the infusion room. I couldn’t have asked for a better seat than the forest green leather Lazy Boy, Chair 10. Tucked back in the corner, I was away from the other chemo patients and their small talk, close to the toilet and the snacks with a closeup view of the construction going on outside the hospital (better than having to face the nurses station for three hours).
Nurse KOD (seriously, because there are three Karen’s on deck) gently stroked my right hand and told me how much she was going to like my vein. Interview With a Vampire briefly skipping through my brain. She told it was perfect for the IVs, should go the six session distance (every three weeks) without imploding and safe bet I wouldn’t need a chest port for the infusion. A port is a thin plastic tube which is inserted under the skin into a vein near the collarbone (central line) to feed the drugs straight to your heart. Cancer patients love their ports because there’s less vein poking and pain at each session. But with three weeks in between each dosing I’d rather take the needle than have a baby carrot sized scar on my chest.
At this point, I insisted on an Antivan- anti-anxiety chewable to relieve dizziness a strong possibility for me when I’m jammed with a needle for an extended period of time. After the initial ah ah ah crescendo that turned a few heads, the needle was in and I felt nothing more. First drip the anti-illness drugs; then the 5FU which can cause cotton mouth and cold sores. (I’m directed to suck on ice chips to hibernate my mouth and make it less susceptible.) Next, methotrexate which will turn my pee yellow (how about purple? I ask, that would be more interesting.) I’m told to flush twice after every potty break to keep any of these toxic secretions from jumping onto skin. Even Ryan must wear a condom or wash immediately after sex. He asked me if I minded him visiting a hooker. I also have to be super duper careful about catching even a tiny cold so I told him hookers will have to wait until after chemo.
My white cells will go down and down and down the further into treatment. Not a good time to get sick. I worry about this the most because I get colds easier than catching infield flies.
Cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) came last. Ths one seems to be the biggest Pac Man of blood cells- good and bad- and the one that leaves you most at risk for leukemia, bladder cancer and menopause. Oh joy. I’m supposed to feel the effects in 7-10 days. This is worse than waiting for BAR results!
The whole process today wasn’t the least bit scary. There were so many nurses and aides talking at me, I never had a moment to fear. Then Ryan popped in after work to sit with me. He also got the crash course on chemo. My mom Skyped in and I showed her around the room, my IV and Ryan waved hello. Two hours later I was done. I walked out, perfectly capable of driving home (but I didn’t have to).
We picked up Sage, went out to dinner then hung out and watched TV- nothing special really. After we got the girl in bed, we talked for a bit about other people, the stock market, needing to clean the house but nothing about today and what we went through. I guess it’s best to internalize for a while. Just take it all in and let it settle. Today was a big deal. On the outside, it didn’t seem anything more than routine and on the inside I don’t feel these drugs killing my little guys yet. But it was a big deal. I’m “in treatment”, I’m “undergoing chemo”, I’m “surviving”. That’s all heavy shit. That’s not what my life is set up to process. Drama yes, heavy shit no. I’m heading off to dream land now before I get weepy but not without nausea meds by the bedside just in case.
At the same time, hurling that 10-pound burrito from Loco Lizard tonight might not be such a bad idea…..
Some of my friends are figuring out ways to handle this too. The one in the earlier blog who ate my food instead of bringing me some decided to distance herself rather than step up. A friend in need is a friend to weed I guess. Ryan’s folks sent a daisy bouquet mixed in with lemons (ie referencing lemonade when life hands you lemons very cute.) Another friend has offered to stuff my freezer with homemade ziti. I’m thinking right around that Day 7 is perfect.
And many many thanks to my ski buddy Louie who rearranged his schedule this morning to drive me to Huntsman. I’m not usually in the habit of asking for big favors that require more than a phone call so I honestly appreciate the effort everyone makes in whatever way they can. Now if I only knew someone who loved to do laundry…..:)