Thoughts From Chair 15

Mar 30

Maren and I have a little ritual: whenever we see an ambulance or hear a siren, we say a little prayer for whomever is in that particular ambulance at that particular time.  “Dear God, please help the people in the ambulance to be strong and healthy.”  To be honest, I totally stole the practice from a friend of mine; it was not my idea, but I thought it was a sweet principle to teach my children.  Always wish others well and be kind.  I expanded upon it for myself: I try to pray for road rage drivers on the highway, I pray when I see toddlers drinking a bottle of juice at Target at 10pm, and I pray in front ominous doctor’s office signage (oncology has always felt ominous to me).  So, apparently, I pray when I feel frustrated or stressed, and yet have no control to do anything about the situation.

Today, I like to think that some stranger on the busy street below was praying my doctor’s office, in my once ominous, now comfortable, oncologist’s office.  No two chemo rooms are the same (I assume).  My Chemo Room has 18 very comfy faux leather reclining chairs.  Each has a green and white number plate hanging overhead, an IV pole to the left, and small tables to the right.  The chairs are far enough apart that they neither encourage nor dissuade conversation.  There were 6 other chemo patients during my 3 hour stay (Friday is a slow day).  One snored in his recliner.  An 85?ish woman sat by the window in a turban and read magazines.  A forty-something woman in a wig-so-real-looking-I-first-thought-this-might-be-her-first-treatment-too sat and read a novel.  Another complained about the dosage and the side effects of her cocktail to the nurses constantly.  People came and went with the same pace and purpose I had two weeks ago as I went to the grocery story, the pharmacy, the dry cleaner, the bank.

The Chemo Room is a quiet place.  The whole time I was there no one talked on their phone, and I didn’t even hear anyone’s phone ring. Visitors are simply not welcome.   Brad came with me initially, and sat with me as we got started, but then left until I was ready to be picked up.  The nurses are compassionate and thorough.  These nurses work in this Chemo Room full-time.  They give me pamphlets and booklets.  I am handed a prescription for a cranial prosthesis, and get an enthusiastic recommendation for “the best wig guy.”  Insurance will pay for a wig?  My face must have given away my hesitation, because I was also told that some prefer to “rock the bandana.”  I put all of these thoughts into a box which I will unpack with my girlfriends soon enough.

I sit, plugged in, port accessed, drugs running, and don’t know what to do with myself.  I’m a busy mom.  I never sit down at two o’clock in the afternoon and just sit.  Luckily I have this bag ‘o stuff that was lovingly put together to entertain me.  I have some hard candies, I fill out paperwork, I people watch, I read, I try to use my iPad (gifted to me last week) but the wi-fi isn’t working.  I read emails and blog comments on my phone.  Covertly, I text (again, what is the etiquette?) my family when the first chemo drug hits my veins.  Woo hoo–game on!

Next week I will meet with Dr. Wonderful and find out the results of the liver biopsy (it will take several business days).  We will finalize Phase One of my chemotherapy treatments into the calendar.  They will draw blood and assess how my body is responding.  I will be both cancer patient and soccer mom.  I will juggle and plan.  My kids will adapt and grow.  My husband will love me and provide for me.  I.  Will.  Be.  Joyful.

The nurses work together, calm and confident.  There is no real clock, no deadline and no hurry in the Chemo Room.  They tell me, repeatedly, to call them with any concerns.  Given that I am being injected with poison (strategic poison, but poison nonetheless) it is hard to know what will qualify as concerning.  I expect to feel, well, crappy.  Days 3 and 4 are the worst for most people and the spectrum of side effects seems pretty wide.  For now I feel content that the cancer cells are no longer finding my body comfortable.  They are dying, and I am living.

So far the best perk of being a cancer patient?  The warm blankets.  At all of these medical appointments, nurses are giving me warm blankets.  They come right out of the oven and I just feel decadent when someone drapes it over me.  It is on par with facials and pedicures, my two most frivolous enjoyments.

Tonight a storm rages outside: rain is pelting my window, lighting flashes, and yet I feel safe.  My mighty storm, my fight is happening simultaneously.  It feels good to have my chemo drugs joining the ranks of the good guys.

29 comments

  1. Meggie /

    Battle on! and warm blankets! xo

  2. hrose /

    You. Are. Amazing!!!! Simply Amazing!! When I got to the Meijer gardens on Sunday to see the butterflies it will be a walking pray for you. I will pray that experience with cancer is nothing more than your cocoon helping you awaken into an even more amazing mom and wife and child of God. With love

  3. Sending warmth and loving thoughts your way! You are a brave warrior! K

  4. What a simply awesome way to look at it. The next time I pull a warm blanket out of the dryer I will think of you :)

  5. As we went throughout our day today we thought of you frequently and sent prayers up for you! Stand strong & know there are many holding you and your family up in thoughts & prayers

  6. I don’t know you, but I love you. Thinking of you and cheering you on!

  7. Thinking of you all day today!!! You are so amazing- keep it up!!! Love you!!!

  8. Kasey /

    I am a stranger to you but a sister in Christ. I am praying for you and your precious family at this time. Your blog inspires me to face life and believe that our God holds tomorrow. Be strong and courageous. Believe..

  9. maggieeileen /

    Jen, I have been following your journey since last Monday & feel like I am getting to know an awesome new friend. I am sending cancer butt-kicking thoughts & prayers from Georgia.

  10. Lindsay /

    My kids and I pray when we hear sirens, too. And when we hear a helicopter, my work friends and I pray for a healthy organ delivery (we work at a children’s hospital foundation). I will be praying for you when I walk past our cancer center tomorrow. BTW, those cancer cells seem to be messing with the wrong gal!

  11. Kim Andress /

    Just coming on board and praying and smiling you along through this battle. Praying especially for your girls and the new normal each of you are finding yourselves living. May it get better and better each day. Praising God for His abundant LOVE He is showering down on you and yours. Ha! And a rain storm just started outside my window, what a wonderful reminder to keep you in my thots and prayers, Isn’t God good? And not to be forgotten, praise for an awesome man to stand by your side. I have one too so I know the value of one in your life thru thick, thin, rain and sunshine. May God receive all the Glory and Honor thru this storm in your life! A new praying Mama and friend in your troubled times.

  12. leslie /

    I am praying for you!!

  13. Aussie Sarah /

    Just wanted to let you know that we are in your “kick cancers butt” corner over in my neck of the woods! I’ve got Australia covered, although from the sounds of it, your mum may have it covered for too! Let’s get that sneaky bitch! Sarah xx

  14. “They are dying, and I am living.” I loved this! It made me cry! You are amazing and so inspirational. Thank you for allowing me in to follow this journey. It is eye opening and such a great learning experience. Praying for you!

  15. I know we don’t know each other, but I have to tell you – I’m so glad Momastery posted your info. I have been following your story fervently, and I’m so thankful for your words, your realness, your openness, and your faith. You have most definitely caught the attention of a busy, sometimes blogging, first-time mom in Alabama, and she is praying for you.

  16. Jen, your courage to share your fight has changed my life. I imagine that sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Since finding you (or being led to you) from Momastery, I think about you and pray for you all the time. Sometimes you just pop into my head and I stop and say a quick prayer, and sometimes when I’m lost in my own daily madness I just STOP. See, I tend to be impatient, impulsive, an extremist in most ways…but this past week–with you in my heart–I’m slowing down, finding patience, acting with more clarity and appreciating much more than usual. Your story is always with me and I know our God is using that for so much good. You have blessed my life–thank you.

  17. I too was led here from Momastery and have been following you since last week. I keep you in my prayers and think about you a lot. Even though we’ve never met, it feels like we are friends and I have this need to check in with you to see how you are doing each day. Your strength and positive attitude are inspirational. What struck me as most amazing is your view of chemo. When i hear about someone having chemotherapy, my immediate reaction is to think “oh how awful that they need that poison put inside them.” I truly would’ve never though to consider it as a powerful weapon in your fight against the disease. It’s really changed my way of thinking. I absolutely LOVED to your “Game On!” comment as the drugs entered your veins. I am sitting here thinking, “YES GAME ON!!” and cheering you on from a far.

    I also love the idea of praying when you hear a siren or see an ambulance. I usually tell my kids “oh i really hope nobody is hurt” when we see an accident or emergency vehicles but never thought to take the next step and include a prayer. What a wonderful thing to teach our kids! Thank you for this beautiful idea.

    Praying for you today and every day. I don’t know you personally but know that I am in your corner.

  18. A warm blanket is a wonderful thing! I am praying and praying and praying for you and your family.

  19. Philippa /

    You deserve all the warm blankets in the world. What a wonderful attitude you have to your life and your loved ones and, even more inspiring, your illness. I love reading your words. Thinking of you and yours every day, P.

  20. I ran the Monument Avenue 10K this morning in Richmond, VA with your name on my bib – “I Honor ________”. I hope you feel the love and prayers that are being sent to you from those you know and those who you don’t know but are touching each day. Prayers – prayers – prayers – Kent

  21. Denise Eck /

    Jennifer – your writing just leaves us more and more amazed with the incredible woman you are. Your words are touching so many lives – even people you don’t know. That, darling girl, is a gift. As much as we have the Anderson family in our thoughts and prayers, so, too, are your mom and dad and Megan and Kate. god Bless You, Jennifer Mathie Anderson.
    Love, Denise and Mike

  22. Dave Schreier /

    Praying, praying, praying!!!!

  23. Jen,
    Hope you can feel the warmth of all the prayers being sent your way like the warmth of the blankets being placed over you (they have always been my favorite part of being in the hospital…isn’t that an oxymoron?). Take care, and please know I am praying for you and your family daily (we don’t know each other but I too was lead here from Momastery).

  24. Cathy Milligan /

    Much love and comfort for you and your beautiful family! What a sweet spirit you have!

  25. I am inspired and wrecked all at the same time. I will keep praying for you friend. Thank you for your transparency so we can know how to pray for you. Love you Jen.

  26. Sue Nitz /

    Dear heavenly Father, I lift up to you your beautiful, courageous daughter Jen. If it be your Will heal her and make her well again.  Take this disease from her body, so that she may give You glory and so she might share her story of Your love and mercy.  Continue to give her strength and help her to feel blessed by knowing Your Son Jesus suffers with her, especially during this most holy week. May she feel double blessed by Christ resurrection as she feels her own little resurrections after the side effects subside with each treatment. Send your angels down upon her family and be with them.  Bless them and keep them safe. 

    Thank you for the gift she has been to so many through her journal.  Thank you that you have given her the opportunity to touch so many lives, including my own. I love You my Father and I ask you to hear and answer my prayer through Jesus Christ Your Son. Amen

  27. When my kids were little, the litany was “Somebody needs help” whenever we heard any sort of siren. I still think that and say a little prayer whenever I hear a siren.

    I finished my prayer beads. There is a ribbon labeled “Jen-Brad-Maren-Greta” and yours was the first request I prayed for today.

  28. When I read that you and your daughter pray for the people in an ambulance it made me smile. I do the same thing. As well as praying whenever I see someone having a difficult time as we drive down the road. When I first read your blog several days ago I posted a link to it on my facebook and I said, “You do not know me, but I will pray for you.” So many people are praying for you that you will never meet, never know. God listens to our prayers. Keep praying for others, pray for yourself and your family, and we will do the same for you.When my mother was very ill we prayed for miracles – any miracle that God wanted to send our way. There were so many. I will pray for miracles in your life – watch for them.

  29. Teresa /

    You don’t know me, but I found out about your journey from Momastery, but regardless, I just want to say that you are an incredible woman, and an incredible mom that is on a very difficult journey. Keep smiling and trusting and loving every minute of life. That’s what it’s all about, and we can learn so much from you.
    I also want to thank you for your perspective on the health system – as a nurse myself, sometimes it’s hard to keep a positive, silly attitude when you’re afraid people won’t appreciate it. Thank you for trusting the system, trusting your team, and encouraging me that being real and fun with my patients is so important. You bring as much to the medical system as it does you!
    Also, was thinking about your hat/wig dilemma. When my aunt had breast cancer a few years ago, she put out a contest to all of us close to her – a hat contest! Our challenge was to make or find the best hat, get them to her, and she’d sport them, then when she finished her treatments, she gave out “prizes” for the best hats. It was so much fun for all of us and thought perhaps it could be for you as well. Just an idea!