Walking into the waiting room I announce “Jenne's here!” and the girls behind the desk laugh. They then mug me for my 20 dollar co-pay. I feel better going into this treatment than I have for as many treatments as I can remember. Some of that is the breathing, some is the length of time (FOUR WEEKS!) since last treatment and part of it is the Ativan. I woke up in the middle of the night to pop another ativan or two and they really do take the edge off. I think ativan should be given in all school lunches and prior to any political debate. “Go ahead,” “No, you go ahead” “ No, you!” I think it would give us all something to be grateful for. And I’m referring specifically to the political debate application here.
The waiting room is covered with those clear plastic racks that hold information. The information in these racks is, of course, about cancer. Different types of cancer, prostate cancer, bladder cancer, breast cancer (guess what color that brochure is?), brain, lung, pancreatic … there are a lot of cancers. 2 brochures are dedicated to lymphomas. One for Hodgkin’s’ one for non-Hodgkin’s. Which, when you think about it, what a shaft the guy who discovered non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma got. I mean what happened to calling it Bob’s lymphoma? Or Smitty’s Lymphoma? Talk about living in a shadow. I can just picture him trying for the first few months or so to brand it,
“I discovered a new lymphoma”
“Oh you mean Hodgkin’s?”
“No, another one, not Hodgkin’s, Smitty’s”
“So it’s not Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.”
“Well, yeah, but it’s called Smitty’s Lymphoma … after me. Smitty.”
“But it isn’t Hodgkin’s, right? It’s like not-Hodgkin’s”
“Yeah.” <sigh> “Not Hodgkin’s.”
Which eventually was made into “non-Hodgkin’s” and that’s why Smitty is known for drinking too many boilermakers and pinching barkeeps on the bum and not for discovering a certain type of cancer.
At least that’s the way I tell it.
There are other pamphlets as well crowding the racks. I’ve looked at most of them. Most of them suck. But they try. And, according to my mother, it’s better than it was 30 years ago. Then again, I don’t know if sheer amount of information should qualify as “better” information. More is not always better. Do I need to remind you of the buffalo hump?
As I noted, I’m doing this as I go along but there will be times when I cannot continuously type. A few moments ago, for example, when after waiting for a handful of minutes, I was called back, weighed and sent into a private room where my vitals were taken (actually my vital STATISTICS were taken. My vitals were left where they belong) and notes were made in my chart the size of a family bible. A really big family with a really big bible. The kind you could press entire wedding bouquets between the pages and still have room for early notes to the tooth fairy and multiple family snapshots waiting to be glued to the appropriate places. I’m now waiting for Dr. Belt who will, as he always does, burst into the room like a bull at Pamplona entering the ring. The room is not large and he will take up most of it. I will take up the rest with my questions.
He bursted. Just as I predicted. Pretty quickly after that felt me up, declared me lump free and got to answering my questions.
I have a lot of them. I always write them down and he always answers each one. Well, if you can include shrugging as an answer. There is a shocking amount of shrugging that is done in that room. Why is my hair coming back? <shrug> When will I get my port out? <shrug> why don’t you like San Francisco? <shrug>. But it communicates and that’s okay with me.
After visiting with the doctor, we head back to the chemo room. We pass by the nurses’ station and the appointment scheduling station which means, for me, I am stopped multiple times to say hi and answer the question “How are you feeling? Better?” because apparently last time I was in there I looked as badly as a felt. I know each of the nurses and schedulers and I love talking to them. I love connecting with them even for just a little moment of time. I like it that they know me. I like it that they brighten when we talk, I like it that Dana, one of my nurses, checks with me to see how many treatments I have left when Dr. Belt is counting to make sure. “I knew it was either 1 or 2 after this” she says “ONE!” I darn near yell and she laughs “I told him you’d know for sure.”
Oh yes. THAT I know for sure.
I’m waiting now to have my port accessed and blood drawn. I haven’t cried yet.
Spook too soon. As I was typing Mandy (new nurse) came by to get blood. I was hoping that perhaps this stick wouldn't hurt. Maybe this time, it wouldn't hurt. I was wrong. The thing about the stick in the port is it keeps hurting after the stick. It hurts for a good 2 minutes which I know, doesn’t seem like a long time, but just for some empathy, reach down, grab YOUR vitals and squeeze really hard – for 2 minutes. See what I’m saying?
I have to wait now. Have to wait for the blood to be sent upstairs and counted. They take a large amount of my blood out when they first access my port and throw it away. I’m not sure why. I’ve asked. “We have to” is the response. Not good enough. Throwing away my blood is always upsetting to me. I work hard to make that blood and they just toss it.
I just noticed I’m shaking. “Nerves?” asks the hub. <shrug>
The saline they push into my port before, during and after each blood draw or medicine infusion tastes horrible. It is odd to be able to taste something that doesn’t go into your mouth but I can. As soon as they connect the syringe to my port line and begin pushing I can taste the vile stuff. In high school we dissected cats for Advanced Biology – the cats were preserved, obviously, although I would not have been against finding some and doing what needed to be done. The smell of the preservative is exactly what the saline tastes like.
Like rusty tin
Like rotten soap
Or like a cocktail made from all of the above. Served warm. In a dirty sweat sock.
It’s nasty and I hate it and I’ve had enough of it to drown a fish. Recently, we’ve discovered a partial solution for the taste of saline. We suck on tootsie pops during treatment. I say we because the hub sucks on one too. Sympathy pop. Nothing wrong with that.
Still waiting for the blood test to come back to see if my counts are high enough for treatment. This is one of the maddening parts of chemo. The waiting. There is nothing to do but wait. My appointment was scheduled for 9:00. We arrived early – 8:50. Even with the reduction of one of my drugs today, we’ll be here awhile.
Blood tests back. WBC are good. Treatment will begin …. uh … you know, when it begins ….
Every chair is full in here today. We seem to be short of nurses.
I’m going to be getting ativan with my treatment today. So I don’t know how much I’ll be able to document. There will come a point when I will want to sleep. When it will feel like little squirrels will be sitting on my eyelids and sewing them shut and lullabies will be drifting in and out of my ears. It is very hard to resist sleeping when they push the ativan. It works quickly and although I really want to document everything, the siren song may be too much. We’ll see.
Anti-nausea meds started
Solumedrol – a steroid is given. No chemo meds yet. Isn’t that amazing?
“What time is my appointment?”
“What time do you want me there?”
“What time am I scheduled to start chemo?”
Well I’m going to nap a while. Looks like I’m not going to make it or be able to keep track. I’ll have Steve keep track for a while.
Adrymycin (big red awful drug) is complete. It is pushed in, not hung. This means the nurse sits beside me and slowly forces the drug into my body. She got some on my pink jacket.
I can already feel the effects of it.
That feeling when you are taking off in a plane and your whole body feels like it is going to sink through the bottom of the seat, the luggage compartment and the skin of the plane. That heaviness … that’s what it feels like.
Nausea. A clutching in my gut.
I have to also note that I am at this moment so much less interested in writing things down. A weariness has taken over. Things that were funny 10 minutes ago, aren’t funny now… and laughing is just too much effort.
It is amazing how quickly it happens.
I put on my ipod. Nothing sounds good.
Every so often I have to stop typing so I can raise my arm above my head like I’m asking a question. I do this because Mandy, my nurse, is slowly pushing Vinblastin and it has to go in over a 5 to 10 minute period of time. Can’t go too fast, it can make you sick. Can’t go too slow, there are people waiting. I have to raise my right arm because every minute or so we need to check for “blood return” meaning the line into my heart is flowing both ways … in and out. This can be an issue.
When this push is done, she’ll wash it with saline again. Flush it. I find it interesting this is the same terminology we use to empty a toilet. I have a pop handy. Raspberry this time.
Still takes like crap.
Still waiting to start my 3rd and final med today.
There is a discussion going on right now about it. The last drug is my DTIC which takes about an hour to drip. I’m not sure why it is taking so long today but it is. Maybe I’m just more aware of it. Plus I have a toothache that I can’t get fixed until my chemo is done in a few weeks. And that’s making me testy.
Pump is being hooked up. It normally runs somewhat silently. Today, thanks to I don’t know what, it sounds like this:
be beep beebeeebee beeppp beep beep bbepbeepbeepbeep be beep beep beep
I’m totally expecting the aliens from close encounters of the 3rd kind to show up in response.
I’m getting nauseated.
Too many tootsie pops?
Beebeebeeep beebeebeep beep beep beebeebeep.
11:55 – hooked up ready to go.
OP! fooled ya … bebebbeeep …. Air in the line.
Okay we're back in biz. One hour and then I should be done.
I can’t get comfortable. My skin feels like it will tear if I move. I ‘m aware of my shoes. So heavy on my feet. I'm too hot. It’s so bright in here and ugly. I have a horrible taste in my mouth. The tootsie pop only can reasonably be asked to do so much.
My shoulders feel like they are going to pop out. My bones feel like they are being rolled in giant fingers … rolled and squeezed and messed with. I feel messed with.
My emotions are building, rolling, filling … I can feel irritation and anger. I can feel the desperate pull from the poison .. I can FEEL it tugging me away. I'm disappearing.
Put 11 in the books.