Thursday, June 17, 2010

Some Observations

I'm thinking it might be useful for me to say a few things about my first chemo session this past Monday.

(Note photo of me in back yard afterwards, with bandaged wrist. And with hair, still. Very messy hair, since the photographer had to leave and didn't have time for me to find my brush.)

  • In the first place, getting chemo was a full day's work! From the time I arrived in the waiting room to the time my friend Frieda* came to pick me up, it was eight hours or more.
  • The treatment pods have four recliners in them with four IV stands and two TVs. I was the second patient in mine Monday morning. The lady who was in before me was on her final round for colon cancer.
  • The nurse who took care of me-- I'll call her Nell*-- was really patient and thorough in telling me exactly what was going to go on in my chemo and what side effects I could expect over the course of it. She answered questions as long as I had them. What I don't get is, why, considering that I heard all that before the drugs began to flow, I seem to have retained so little of it!? I'll be glad for Frieda's notes, when I get them.
  • On the other hand, Nurse Nell wasn't so proficient at getting the IV started in the back of my hand. Blew up the vein-- ow! and had to go for the wrist. It doesn't look so bad today, and I wonder if they'll be able to try again there the next time.
  • I was not at all thrilled to learn that my pre-chemo blood counts fall around the 33 percentile of what's considered adequate and healthy. I kept asking her if I could improve that by eating better. No, she kept insisting, my baseline is perfectly healthy and normal for me. It is what it is. Yeah, maybe, but I dislike having so little leeway. They have drugs they can give you to get your counts up so you can go on with treatment, but still. (I've been eating iron-rich food since Monday, anyway. Makes me feel I'm doing something for the cause.)
  • I got four anti-side effect drugs, fifteen minutes per bag, before the cancer-killing drugs proper begin. I can't quite remember what each of them does, but the most impressive one was the liquid Benadryl. Yikes! They say it puts you to sleep; it made me feel like I'd just come from a residence hall kegger! I brought in a sweater to mend, and was taking the last few stitches when the deck, so to speak, began to roll. "Shall I give into it?" I asked myself. Decided not. So I kept my eyes open and my posture semi-upright and went on to read Sophocles' Oedipus at Colonus, even if I had to use the bookmark under the lines to keep from reading the same sentences over and over!
  • The chemo drugs took longer Monday than they will at subsequent treatments, because Nurse Nell started them slowly to make sure I wouldn't have a bad reaction. Not sure what that would have been. Swelling up? Turning purple? Suddenly sprouting legs on top and walking on my head? Whatever it was, it didn't happen, and things proceeded according to plan.
  • Three hours and ten minutes of the Taxol gave way to about an hour and fifteen minutes of the Carboplatin. Kept reading Sophocles through it (finished Oedipus at Colonus and went on to Antigone), even though the TV had been turned on long since by a lady who was in with her husband. Medical shows and Dr. Phil most of the day. Did you know they have an operation where they can remove half a person's brain and leave them with fairly normal function? Didn't catch what this is supposed to cure, but it's fascinating what you learn.
  • I learned also that with all the liquid being pumped into you, if you feel like you gotta go, you gotta go. With the drug-induced unsteadiness and the shopping-cart perversity of the IV stand wheels, I couldn't help but feel I was about to be pulled over and busted for DUI on the way to the unisex can. But it was nice how nurses and other patients' caregivers would step back and let me use the bathroom ahead of them, even if they were there first.
  • Plowed through my patient's binder, as much as I could. Every damn last possible side effect is in there, it seems, and what to do about them seemed confusing and contradictory. Emphasis on seemed. Clearly (as clear as anything was the other day!) there was no point in memorizing it all. Wait and see what happens, and go from there.
  • Frieda and I prayed in the car before going in; my request was that God would somehow use me in this to minister to other people at the Cancer Center. Didn't think I had, really, but as I was waiting for Frieda to pick me up I got to talking to the lady there with her lung-cancer-fighting husband. Me, I thought I was just passing time and maybe being a little nosy. But when I was bidding her goodbye, she told me what a great comfort and help my words had been to her, and how much better she felt having talked with me. I suppose I shouldn't be surprised at what God can do, but I never cease to be amazed when He does it through me.

I've been doing pretty well since Monday. A little queasiness now and again but nothing alarming or eruptive. Some suppression of my sense of taste and appetite, but nothing that keeps me from eating anything sufficiently savory. I've gone to a continuing education session at the Presbytery office and done a decent amount of gardening; I get tired maybe before I would ordinarily, and have to remind myself that this isn't "ordinarily" and stop and do something sedentary.

I know it'll get more challenging as it goes along, but I'll jump off that bridge when I get to it.


whiskers said...

Oh, hugs. Keep up the great attitude!!

Love you sweetie.


St. Blogwen said...

I'll try! But if they bust another vein next time, my attitude might get very snitty indeed!


whiskers said...

Well, that would be totally justified. *grin*

Sandy said...

I am praying double for you!

Thank you, my friend, for the wonderful words. You have been more of a comfort to me than you will ever know. It is hard, and it is easy. There are tears and there are smiles.

judy draganjac said...

Amen to Sandy...had my Bone marrow bypass(Yikes!) and vitamin K is falling. Scheduled the liver specialist as it all ponts to the liver getting worse.

You are giving us all pause to respond in a more positive way to the ills and ailments we all must forebear. Keep it up...J

St. Blogwen said...

Oh, gosh, Judy, I could never be as patient and gracious in adversity as you! You amaze me with all you soldier through, still smiling.