When we last left Cancer Girl, she was reveling in the marvels of her port. “Reveling in the marvels” might be too strong of a phrase. Maybe “sneering at the appearance of” would be more appropriate. I’d gone into the surgery looking forward to having a port. I came out with (yet another) scar and the realization that, in spite of the implantation of a bionic device and contrary to my dream the night before, I looked NOTHING like Lindsey Wagner. The port was put in the day before my first infusion and suddenly it felt like things were moving very fast. Too fast. I was diagnosed on June 13 and for a long time it felt like I was the only one who had a sense of urgency about things. It took me more than a week to get an appointment at the oncologist office. I’d even tried dropping a bomb and telling them I HAD CANCER. Turns out every one going to the oncologist’s office has cancer. Gee, who would of thunk it? Then I finally got the appointment and had a battleship full of tests that each took a certain amount of prep time. All of this was leading up to treatment and if you had asked me during that time I would have told you how anxious I was to get treatment started. “I’m anxious to get treatment started!” I would say. And I thought it couldn’t come quickly enough.
And then, suddenly, it was here. Boy I do NOT know when to keep my big yap shut.
I didn’t sleep the night before my first infusion. To say I was a little apprehensive would be like saying <insert something here other than the Pope being a little Catholic. Cause I’ve seen the pope and he’s not really that small>. During all that testing, I’d had an appointment with the nurse practitioner so she could give me low down on what chemo would be like. As a general rule, I think it is a good idea to give people lots and lots of information about things that will be happening to them. It puts people at ease, knowing what to expect. Can you imagine, for example, going to your first wedding and NOT knowing how to do the hokey pokey? What if you’d heard about it and you knew you’d be required to participate but you didn’t know the details? Can you even wrap your mind around it? Especially if you’d heard that the hokey pokey is WHAT IT IS ALL ABOUT. I mean criminy, the pressure! So walking into the appointment I was eager to get as much information as possible. But somehow, in this situation, more information made me feel worse. I had a lot of questions about what to expect and before I could utter one of them the Nurse Practitioner did her best to confuse me and stun me into silence with pamphlets and Xeroxed copies of explanations of drugs. My sister had created a binder for me as this all began so I was able take the handouts and place them neatly in pockets to be accessed later. I was grateful to have something to do; I hadn’t felt so awkward since my first beer party in 9th grade when Shiloh put a porno on the beta (see mom? Told you you shouldn’t read this). It was too much. Too soon. I couldn’t take it all in. So I sat. Listened. Asked a few questions. Filed away information. Later, I thought, I could read it all. Later I could digest it. And later, I did. I read all the information that had been piled in my arms and scoured the internet for tips and insight. I read through each of the multi-page handouts for each of the four drugs I would be taking. I even read through horribly illustrated booklets like “Cancer and You” and “Chemotherapy – What to Expect on Your Journey” which has a darling drawing of a woman serving a man his own testicles for dinner. As far as I could tell. It was overwhelming, but I did it. I read it all. Because of this, I thought I would be fully prepared for the first treatment. Besides, even if I didn’t know everything, I’m usually fine with the unknown. (I heard that). And even armed with all that information, going into treatment that first day was a death march. My own Trail of Tears. Cancer Woman Walking. I thought it would never again be as difficult to walk into treatment as it was the first time.
I was wrong.
Years ago I had a job I despised. I hated it enough that when I was driving home from it on Friday nights I would often laugh out loud with glee that I wouldn’t be going back for TWO WHOLE DAYS. Oh the joy of it! The inverse of this Friday night joy was Sunday night sobbing. Sunday night was awful. In fact, most of my Sunday was ruined because of what waited for me on Monday. I called it The Sunday Night Blues. And no matter how I tried to avoid it, I always felt it. It’s ironic that what waits for you one day is powerful enough to ruin the perfectly good day before it. Later I quit that job and ever since I always judged my job contentment level by how much or how little I had The Sunday Night Blues.
I’d take Sunday Night Blues any day over what I experience now in the days just prior to chemo. Dread. That’s the best and only word I can come up with. Sheer black ugly dread. Pre-chemo Dread makes The Sunday Night Blues seem as precious and harmless as a weak little kitten. Awww, sweet kitty, mew! Early on, The Pre-Chemo Dread started the day before treatment. Then it was two days before. Then three. You see what I’m getting at here. It now starts way prior. Even before I’ve fully recovered from a treatment, the dread about the next begins. At first it is just a little itch in my brain. A realization. An awareness. I’m coming … I haven’t forgotten you … I’m coming, it whispers. Each day the whispers get louder, more insistent, more frequent. The only thing more disturbing would be if it changed it up to, “I’m your boyfriend now, Nancy” in its best Freddy Krueger voice. Then I might actually go full on ga-ga and not just the half ga-ga variety I’ve been sporting for 6 months.
Around treatment six – the treatment I cried all the way through and used 2 boxes of Kleenex, my nurses suggested I start taking Ativan a couple days prior to treatment. “Studies show it helps with the anxiety. Are you having anxiety?” Am I having anxiety. The question still befuddles me. Is that what they call it? Anxiety? Is that the In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida drum solo in my chest when I walk in here? Is that what’s making me dry heave in the waiting room? Is that what’s keeping me awake for 3 days prior to treatment and consuming my every thought and clawing at my sanity? Anxiety? Then yes. I’m having anxiety. I’d like some Ativan please. Buckets of it. A dumptruck full. Does it come in a body cream that I can lather on in the morning and a bodysuit I can wear to bed at night?
The Ativan helps. It does. Really. I’m convincing myself more than you but it surely does help. It must, I only average one box of Kleenex per treatment since I started taking it. But even with the Ativan, the dread is still there. The whispers don’t stop.
Remember in Terminator II how Sarah Conner was trying to tell everyone the end of the world was coming? That she knew what was waiting for all of them? She’s trying to convince a psychiatrist of the enormity of it all. “The children look like burnt paper... black, not moving. Then the blast wave hits them and they fly apart like leaves..." But she can’t convince anyone. No one gets it. Not really. And because she’s seen it, because she knows, BECAUSE SHE’S TALKING ABOUT IT, she’s considered insane. That part of the movie speaks to me now (I mean really, what part of that movie doesn’t??!). The weight of it all is too much when you know what’s coming.
“It's not just a dream. It's real, you moron! I know the date it happens!”
I know the date it happens. Indeed.
And December 13. Today. It happens today.