Saturday, January 08, 2011

One Down, Fifteen to Go

Chemo day was wonderful and horrible. I got a swim in first, and then drove to the hospital with J~ and my brother D~. I sang to myself in the car, just a quiet, made-up melody, under the engine roar, that helped me relax my shoulders and fill my lungs, and communicate my heart's sentiments to the rest of my body: I'm sorry I have to do this. I'm so sorry I have to do this to you, to me, to us. 

The festivities took place in a private room with B~, a nurse I've already come to like and trust, and I was supported by a posse of men. "I like this," said B~, "most women have women come along with them. It's nice to see a group of men." I agree.

With me from beginning to end, I had J~, who held my hand, and my brother, D~, who took pictures and cracked jokes. My brother A~, who works down the street from the hospital, dropped by on a lunch break. I read them tweets from "Shit My Dad Says," which is like quoting our own Dad, only twenty times more vulgar and blatantly self-centered. So of course we laughed a lot. M~ (I talked about him here) stopped by to say hi and hug me between duties around the hospital, which made me feel like a superstar. And one of my regular RC co-counselors, C~, spent the first couple hours with us too.

In normal circumstances, C~ and I trade equal time as counselor and client, listening and caring about each other confidentially, and encouraging each other's emotional release. We don't have a typical social relationship - we don't go to the movies together and we won't start a business together either. But the connection is important and intimate. It's a sanctuary and a valuable tool for improving and expanding the limits of our lives. On this day, C~ did a lot of smiling at me and joking with B~ and held my legs in his lap. At one point, when the saline was in and chemo was yet to come, I kicked J~ and D~ out of the room so I could cry uninhibitedly, express my fears and grief and the feeling like submitting to chemotherapy is a big mistake. But how can I deny the statistics? Sixty-five out of 100 women with my profile who don't do chemo or hormone therapy have relapses within 10 years. Though there are avenues that show promise, I can find no solid statistics on what factors impact the other, lucky thirty-five. With so little information to go on, I must concede that not doing chemo would be a bigger mistake.

The choices suck.

So I did it. And felt basically fine, though perhaps a little woozy-headed toward the end, throughout the hours of infusions.

But shortly thereafter, the nausea started to creep in. The long car ride home required careful concentration on the road, controlled breathing, and as little talking as possible. I never did throw up, but I was pretty miserable for the entire evening. "How do you feel?" someone inquired as I lay on the couch with a puke bucket securely by my side, washcloth on my forehead. I had to think about it for a second. It's not like any illness I've ever experienced in the past. And then it hit me.

"I feel like I've been poisoned."

I took extra meds, put myself to bed early, and managed to sleep, for the most part – thanks to the drugs, certainly – through the night.

Today, I still feel kind of poisoned. The symptoms remind me of the flu - nausea and a low-grade fever, though there is no fever. It just feels like it. I did manage to get to the gym again this morning. I was nauseous getting into the pool, and nauseous coming out. But while I was in the water, it was the best I've felt all day.

Pictures by D~, see below

Bonus post today – see even further below...

Adriomycin begins...

Passing time with my bro while J and C go off to counsel.

On to the next drug, Cytoxan. Still feeling okay.

Me and the fabulous nurse B~ (with her permission, of course).

The miracle anti-nausea drug. Three pills, I'm told, cost over $300. I'm so glad I have good insurance, I got six of them, plus all the rest, for $25.

Home again, and feeling like crap.


Lori said...

Hey you, good to see you home again, but sorry about the nausea. Let me know if you need anything tomorrow, whether it be some housework, some company, or something else. I'm not free then until Friday, so I'll give you guys a call then and see if you need anything. Hugs. L

Sam said...

I hope you're feeling decent, or as decent as can be expected. I wish I was close enough (geographically) to help.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing your journey. I do not think that many people really have an understanding of what people with cancer, specifically breast cancer, go through. Me included. I thought I knew--but I don't. There are many stories told but it's rare to be "with" someone, real-time, as they go through the process.

I re-read your protocol and you have two weeks "off" now so I am very glad to hear that the pills helped you and hoping that today is better. It's wonderful that you have swimming--helps the body and mind.

Your perspective is admirable too: you are level headed about why you chose this route and I love the "one down, fifteen more to go." Your half marathon pacing skills are being put to the test.

Thank you again for choosing to share your journey with your readers. I am lucky to have found your blog.