Wednesday, 19 October 2011

COOKIES AND FEAR

I feel like an ass. Okay, the chemo clinic isn't Club Med. It isn't a day in the south of France...
but they do serve sandwiches, cookies and juice at noon. And they are good sandwiches...egg salad  or tuna with a little mayo and a little salt - on whole wheat bread. At 1:30, a volunteer wheels a cart through the clinic and offers tea, coffee, juice and cookies. The chair is comfy. There are heated flannel sheets if you feel chilled. It is not the Little Shop of Horrors. At all.

I am sitting in the waiting room, nervously waiting for "my" nurse to fetch me. When she comes in, she sits down in the chair next to me, looks into my eyes, smiles and says, "You are going to be just fine. You aren't going to feel anything when the chemo drugs are going through your system. You aren't going to be sick. You don't have to be scared - cancer treatment has come a long way..."

And with that, she leads me to the clinic, to my chair. She manages to hit my "thready" vein in one nearly painless try and settles in to tell me how good my blood work looks. My blood pressure, as usual is low. She laughs at my heartbeat because it takes her a minute to find a pulse. "It's a shy little heartbeat, but it's steady," she says. And then, after suiting up in gloves and a gown, she covers me with a warm blanket and starts the drip.

I look around. Everyone looks cheery. The patients, I mean, the others hooked up to IVs filled with toxins. People, catching my eye, smile and give a little wave. We are sailors together on the poisoned sea...all of us rowing towards the shore of wellness. No one looks bloated from steroids or emaciated or nauseated. One woman is working on embroidery. Some visit with a friend or family member. Some, like me, read. 

After a while, I doze. The only problem with dozing is that I'm more or less upright, so gravity grabs my jaw - I wake up every few minutes to the embarrassing realization that I am snoozing slack-jawed and mouth gaping. Fortunately, I wake up before I start to drool in public.

The whole time, I keep wishing I could turn my cell phone on and call Wendy, who, this morning felt at least as apprehensive as I did. I wish I could call all of you and say - I'm going to get the hell through this. I have ginger and crackers and meds when I need them. I have friends. Nurse Ratchet is definitely nowhere in sight.

And apparently western medicine is not the boogie man after all.


11 comments:

Carol Dean said...

*hugs* I had two infusions of chemotherapy (not for cancer) earlier in the year and the experience was much the same. The most unpleasant part was my uncooperating veins (but that's an ongoing saga..hehe).

I did feel a little worse for wear the day after, however. These things do take strain on our bodies, which are busy fighting their battles.

At least now you will be able to sleep well the night before your next treatment.

Howpublic said...

Thanks Carol Dean...my friend Liz, who had chemo and radiation at age 17 tells me that I will feel things more in a few days...but I'm so relieved at the care at the Cancer Center and the fact that it didn't flatten me immediately, that I'm okay with knowing that a little worse is coming. Whew! No longer the new kid.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

YAY!

Pat Barber said...

Big smiles and relief here, Linda. But then again, I knew you'd make it through just fine. Now just relax through the slightly rough seas that are the next few days and you'll be a salty sailor in no time at all! I am so happy and relieved, truly I am. Hey, here's something we can all laugh at: the oddity that is Word Verification. Guess what mine is? "ookedife"!! Yup, as in "All is oo-kee-diffey now that our Linda's come thru 1st day chemo just fine!!" :)

Roberta said...

"sailors on the poisoned sea....." I like that analogy, disturbing as it is.

Howpublic said...

I second the YAY!

Brian said...

I'm so glad that your treatment went so well in the clinic. Definitely be prepared for the coming fatigue, but things aren't what they used to be, with regard to chemo.

I'm proud to have had a small role in the development of next generation cancer drugs that target tumors with a laser-like focus and have very few side-effects. Hearing stories like yours only encourages me to do more.

Keep up the optimism and the fight. Maintaining hope is the greatest part of the battle. I'm glad to hear that you got a healthy dose of it from your docs and the clinic. As ever, I will continue to pray for more "good days" ahead and eventually, full remission.

-Brian (bmhoman1)

Jack said...

Heh - it really has come a long way.

I remember back in the days when I was getting chemo, there were no snacks at all. The clinics were bare and smelled of disinfectant.

But some things were the same. The people were nice back then too, and there was that feeling of camaraderie with the others going through what you were. And the sadness when those who were getting worse each time you saw them just stopped coming...

I was very fortunate - and I wish you the same good fortune Linda.

x

Howpublic said...

Brian...I have a whole new world of respect & gratitude for researchers like you, believe me. Reading about the treatment even a few years back would give anyone a case of the horrors. So thank you.

Jack, may you always be fortunate. I haven't been to clinic enough to know the people doing very badly...but I know it will be sad as hell when I do. And I'm sorry you didn't get sandwiches. It's such a stupid little thing - and half the time you aren't even hungry, but there's just something so nice and bright about those trolleys showing up, pushed by smiling volunteers.

Pat said...

I have to smile when I see the discussions about food (or lack thereof) during sessions. When I had chemo there weren't any then either. I was a huge hit when I marched in with 5 dozen donuts, for patients and staff alike, on my last day of chemo! Staff was totally blown away, said nothing like that had ever happened before. I can't tell you how awesome it felt to be able to do such a tiny kindness for so many I had become so close to!

Howpublic said...

What a great thing to do, Pat! I'll bet it just lit the room up. The sight of those volunteers is SO heartening in the clinic I go to...