welcome to the danger zone

Poison, Pain and Panic Part 1

Wondering where I’ve been? Sorry about the huge gap in posting, but this whole cancer thing is being a bit problematic with the  “getting things done that I want to do” part of my life. I had two weeks off from treatment – almost three, and you would think that I would have had time to keep you all abreast of my thrilling no-trips-to-Hershey life in the treatment free zone. Alas, no. I actually spent some time cooking (a lot of curry) attempting to eliminate piles of laundry in all stages of progress – from dirty to washed, dried but not folded and attempting to make my bedroom livable again. But I’m back now. And oh the tales I will tell…

First, being treatment free is not exactly like being free of thinking about this cancer nonsense. Blood tests still need to be done. You have to go down and fill out quality of life surveys. You still get bills that you will need to ignore in the mail. And you begin a mental countdown to being poisoned again in your head, so even if you are outwardly okay with this, inside you’re still in turmoil, because you still have to coordinate all trips, and rides, and blah blah blah nonsense. Then toss in the little fender bender, or shall we say, front end and frame bender I had on my last day of radiation. Well I was without a car for more than two weeks, and that really puts a damper on doing anything productive when you have to solicit rides and stress over getting the car back. But back it is, and not really worse for the experience.

But the woeful tale of my car problems isn’t what you are here for. I know you are chomping at the bit to learn more about my catchy title. Let me just preface all that is to come with this. Right now, I am tired of dealing with cancer. Completely. My body is exhausted and sick. I am having the worst time trying to be positive. I hurt all over. I feel like crying because I just want it all to be over, and I want my life back, and the whole thing is pretty damn sucky. The only sunny spot in gloomtown, is that my last visit with Dr. Kesterson came with the positive news that there is no new tumor growth. YAY! But most of you already know this.

After the happy news, I had time to stock up on post-chemo provisions. I had a couple hours to kill till poison time. My shark sister, and NBFF (not to be confused with Kelly, my BFFAF) was going to be my personal RN during this experience, and she met me at the Cancer Institute. But of course, this adventure could not be simple and easy. Noooo. That would be too pleasant. First, I walk in to the Cancer Institute. There in what is supposed to be my safe space, is a small pack of people that I am sure are familiar with our agency, and based on their clothing selection, live within a mile or two of my abode. They are naturally being themselves in an environment which is not familiar with the cackle and poor comportment by many of the natives in this county. There are NOT to be clients in my safe space. There are other hospitals for them to receive treatment at that are just as good. Why are they in my space?  Not fair. Not fair. Not fair. And of course, because I went to work that morning to get a few hours in, I am sporting my work badge. I quickly tuck it into shirt until I can safely squirrel it away.

Fortunately, Ashley arrives soon after and she and I head into the infusion area, toting my backpack and bag full of snacks, because I want to share my supersecretspecialproject with her, and we need snacks. We will be there for at least five hours. We will be hungry. I showed the nice lady at the desk my sheet and she directs me to the treatment area. Then I stop dead in my tracks. Wait. What’s this? No special room with comfy bed? I mean, I was troubled by the lack of a personal bathroom at the last chemo but now it’s not even a room with a bed. It’s a chair? What have I done to be downgraded to a chair? There must be some mistake. I have reservations, I brought things I need for lying in a bed. Not sitting in a chair. Seriously, what is going on here? The kind nurse informs me that nope, no mistake, this is your spot. At least there’s a flat screen.

So I amuse the nurses with my wry wit and bitter humor and they start the usual IV and fluids. Then they come back and say…Oh, it’s your first time with Taxol too, well you just better behave. I immediately get nervous. I’ve read the info on Taxol, I know what to expect after this treat is over, but what do you mean, kind nurse? What is going to happen to me? The nice nurses tell me that nothing will happen, nothing to worry about, but then later they clue me in. I should let them know if I feel like I can’t breathe. This is a side effect, and not a positive one. It probably won’t happen, but if it should, I should press my buzzer, so they can stop the chemo and deal with the side effects. Well, of course, I’m now feeling very comfortable with this Taxol business. At least Ashley is with me, and as she is an RN, she will be able to recognize my lack of breathing immediately.

So Sharky and I chatter away for a few hours. Then I notice there seems to be members of a marching band wandering the halls; as they come closer, I realize that there is not a marching band here after all, but that they are student nurses, and they have to wear those funny uniforms. I ask Sharkster if she had to wear a funny costume when she did her externship at HMC. Apparently not, the band uniform is only for HACC students. Such a shame, I was so hopeful that I could be snarky about Ashley having to wear a funny outfit. It was very comforting to have my shark sister with me – we hadn’t seen each other since I was gutted, and we laughed and laughed – mostly because we were making fun of people, but still, it was fun to laugh during poison time. That’s right, I wasn’t being all sweetness and light, as most of you think I am. I think I talked for the first two and a half hours straight. And ate snacks.

I could see Ashley was eager to see the superspecialsecretproject but I wanted to wait to build the excitement – when the kind nurse came to ask me if I would talk to a nursing student about my cancer experience. I’m an attention whore, so sure why not? The poor little lamb came into my den, and after we shared tattoo stories, she heard every intimate detail of my story. I am sure that her experience with me will be unlike any other patient she encounters in her career. Cuz you know how I like to make fun of my cancer. And the delightful way I like to describe this whole experience. Well I am who I am, and if you think this poor woman was spared the full-on me, you would be dead wrong. I think she was supposed to be taking notes, but she was so spellbound with my adroit storytelling, that she just sat there, transfixed. Ashley later told me that she wished she had met a patient like me when she had to do that. Or maybe she didn’t tell me that.  Ashley, did you tell me that? You know I have chemo brain, and I cannot be held responsible for remembering or not remembering things. Anyway, the nice nursing student thanked me for sharing, and I think by this point I was tired of talking. or talking as much.

The TV then went on. And me and Sharky were able to watch EWTN (the catholic channel). If you are about to be offended by my joking about Catholicism, you should stop reading here. Pick up the story tomorrow in Part 2. There was special show on about sins, called TRUTH IN THE HEART:  SIN AND IT’S CONSEQUENCES. You can catch it here on EWTN  http://www.ewtn.com/tv/kids/truthInTheHeart.asp. Ashley and I are apparently quite familiar with sin. And moreso now since we know in great detail, about venial and mortal, and sins of omission and commission, and Sister ElizabethMaryFourotherNamesIcan’tremember demonstrated how sin turns us away from our faith by literally spinning around to demonstrate how we turn our backs on God. Apparently Sister ElizabethMaryFourotherNamesIcan’tremember knows a lot about sin, and about how sin affects soccer players by repeatedly telling us that if we were to kick our friend, who is a soccer player, because they are better than we are and score more goals, that would be a sin. Of course, I got confused, because is it a sin of commission or omission if I kick my soccer playing friend in the left leg if she kicks goals with her right? And what type of sin is it if I want to kick her in the leg, but instead just punch her in the arm, so that it hurts but does not impair her goal scoring? We also learned much about Concupiscence. If you want to know about it – Google. Being Buddhist, the whole sin and suffering thing is much simpler for me, and for Ashley, I am not sure what she calls her spiritual beliefs, but one thing is sure, next time we are playing soccer, when I kick her, she’ll know whether it was a sin of omission or commission. That’s how we roll. Of course, we followed this delectable tidbit of  the mind-sucking box with The Colbert Report and a discussion on how Stephen’s guest was definitely a white supremacist. So it wasn’t all fun and games after learning about our sinful natures.

After Taxol, came Carboplatin. It’s special side effect is bright red itchy hands. Oh yay! Of course, by this time I am running to the bathroom every 30 or so minutes, and the anti-bacterial soap has a tendency to turn my hands red, so I’m a bit nervous, but I make it through ok. This one goes fast, and before we knew it, we were being kicked to the curb. Ashley brought me home, AND surprised me with food…baked oatmeal, turkey tettrazini, and ENCHILADAS!!! I freaking love ENCHILADAS! and she gave me ginger candies to. Shark sister knows me. I was so happy to have spent the day with her, so shout out to you NBFF, thank you making my chemo day a fun day. Openings for being my chemo buddy are available for 4.23, 5.14, and 6.4 if anyone wants to join.

I know I omitted some details in there, but holy crackers, this is long!!! I shared the supersecretspecialproject with Ashley and she found it delightful, so be prepared, because as soon as feeling good and free time collide in my universe you will all get a look at it. And you WILL love it.  Also, the kind nurses told me I was lucky the first time I got the bed, that typically the beds are for people who are receiving stem cell treatments, but when I told them I got a bed twice, they seem surprised. I think it really is first come first bedded, and when I get there next time, since my chemo is at 8:30 instead of 2, I’ll get a bed. We’ll see.

Thus ends part one. The actual chemo part. Things get more interesting after that. You’ll see. But for now lovelies, I’m going to try and sleep – although it’s another one of those nights where I am flipping exhausted and can’t find my way to dreamland. So I am gonna make a turkey sandwich, and wash it down with some melatonin. Be well.


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