Chemo musings

Jul 19

I am very much in the rhythm of my new cancer normal, and a big part of my routine is chemo.

Maren and Greta go to Phenom’s house.  I think they think it is summer camp.  They love it.

I’ve had to take a running hiatus for the last two week: I have an infection in my toe that is exacerbated when I run.  Darn toe.  After two courses of antibiotics, I think it is finally is cleared up, so I’m planning a stroller-free run on Saturday morning.

I make a smoothie and/or sludge to drink while I clean up, deal with my piles, and make lists.

I have learned that trees on the southwest side of the parking lot at my chemo office will shade my car in the afternoon.  Since my A/C is on the fritz (it only quits completely if it is parked in the sun and/or if the temp is over ninety-five degrees), I always park in the shady spots.

Several weeks ago, I asked if I really needed the Benadryl as part of my pre-med regimen.  The Benadryl was prescribed in case of a potential allergic reaction to my current chemo drug, which happens a lot.  However, when I hadn’t had any allergic reaction and I’d had the drug four or five times, they were willing to take it out of the pre-meds.  So, I no longer suffer the Benadryl zonk, and I am usually too busy talking during chemo to take a nap.

Now, after more than a dozen port access’, I barely feel the needle stick going into my port.  I love my port.  The nurses use it to both draw blood and administer drugs; it makes the whole process simple.  Incidentally, Maren also loves my port.  She is fascinated, as only a five-year-old can be.

I am proficient at traversing the Chemo Room and the office while pushing my IV pole.  Trust me, it is an acquired skill.

I have new friends: the staff, the nurses, the techs, the doctors, and the patients form an odd, but tight, community.  I know the cheerful receptionist by name, I know the co-pay collector by name, I know most of the BP/pulse/temperature reading nurses by name, I know the office manager, I (think) I know all of the many nurses.  They know me.  Conversation is consistent and interesting: we compare headwear, we strategize on how to alleviate side effects, we talk (a lot) about our non-cancer lives, we hope, we pray, we laugh; we are a community of thankful-for-today people.  Very, very few of the people there have any idea what I look like with hair.  They can’t picture me as a curly straw-berry blonde with hair halfway down my back.  And I’m still me.

Most of us look for ways to be kind.  Today I brought in homemade cake pops for the nurses, and another person brought in homemade cookies for everyone.  (I only had enough “good” pops for the nurses.  All of the cake pops we made were yummy, but not all of them were cute…  Oh well!  It was more about the project with Maren than the product anyway.)  There are volunteers that offer snacks, warm blankets, and conversation.  There is a bookshelf with free materials: books, hats, wigs, accessories, education materials, magazines, etc.

Many of my regular-life-friends text me, comment on the blog, or email me on chemo days (they know I don’t have much time to talk on the phone.)  Stranger friends I “met” via the blog comment too.  I am peppered with love all day: I often read the comments out loud to other patients and friends.  We are all woven into the conversation and the love in the chemo room.

Chemo schedules vary a lot.  Some patients come once every three weeks, some every two weeks, some once a week, and some come three days in a row, and then have three weeks off.  I’m never quite sure who I will see when I walk in the door.  Now that I have completed thirteen of my sixteen treatments (!), I always meet someone I’ve talked to before.  I also see many people I have never seen before.  We are a motley crew: pale, often bald, beaten-up-by-poisonous-drugs people.  Every single person in the room however, is stronger than they knew, myself included.  We are l.i.v.i.n.g. with cancer.  No one really plans for cancer.  It happens and you live with it.  Here’s what I know for sure: chemo is a blessing.  Being in that room, the Chemo Room, is a blessing every single week.  I am strengthened emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, even as I am being physically weakened.  The juxtaposition of this reality makes it all the more jarring to experience it.  Chemo is killing my cancer, and God giving me hope for a full and long and healthy life.  It. Is. Such. A. Gift.

This is as close as I have ever been (or, knock on wood, will ever be) to being a drug addict.  I want chemo.  As long as I have chemo drugs in my system, I know that any rogue cancer cells in my bloodstream are dying instantly, and I know that my primary tumor(s) are under attack.  I can’t adequately express the relief, the bubble of safety, that I feel when I’m all chemo’ed up.  Every Wednesday, Brad tells me, “Happy Chemo Day!” as if it is my birthday, and he is right on with that sentiment.  I am absolutely not exaggerating when I say that I do not really want chemo to end.  I have to trade in that medical security blanket for other steps: my upcoming surgery, continuing my Herceptin, radiation after surgery, and hormone therapy/blockers.   I’m so glad I have my faith: thinking about the medical side of things gives me a headache.  Thinking about the power of God gives me peace.  I have stuck to my “no Google” policy when it comes to my treatment, and I pray a lot.  It’s definitely the right balance for me.

I accept that there will be bad rush hour traffic on the way home from chemo.  Rather than getting frustrated, I listen to books-on-tape, I make phone calls, or I sing (out loud!  Yikes!)  Phenom has been exceptionally flexible and gracious with my wide variance in (late) pick up times, so she spares me feeling guilty about the late-ness.  I can drive and I get there as soon as I can.  I do my best, and I accept it’s not perfect.  And yes, Phenom and her family are, well, phenomenal, obviously.

Two dear friends, one of whom I only met after I was diagnosed, get together every Wednesday while I am at chemo, and they pray for me while I am there.   The didn’t make a point to tell me, I sort of found out inadvertently.  These friends just wanted to do something, and they heard me when I asked, I begged, to “just pray.”  I have to be honest that I am dumbfounded by this gesture.  Pure love.

The love, people.  I tell you, it is crushing.

My six college roommates got together and were each assigned a day-of-the-week to pray for me.  And they all pray on Sunday.  The best part is that they each got “days of the week” underwear for their assigned day emblazoned with a choice phrase referencing obliteration.  Tell me that’s not the funniest thing you’ve heard today.

I’ve learned that I don’t sleep well after chemo.  I get steroids as part of my pre-meds, and I think they are the culprit.  I’ve learned to roll with this also: I read, or blog, and I enjoy the quiet of the night.  I don’t stress about my Wednesday-night-sleep-routine.  I require so much sleep that I have lost nearly all of my evening alone time during the rest of the week, so I sort of enjoy it.  I went off coffee cold turkey the week I was diagnosed (it just didn’t sound appealing), but I usually have coffee on Thursdays to keep me in Energetic Mom Mode.  It works.  Everyone needs quiet time and this is how God is providing mine during this strange season of life.

Please pray for my Mom’s recovery and continued healing.  She is doing as well as we can expect, and she’s tough, but it’s a lot to deal with.

Please pray for my family.  Each of them are processing this cancer thing in their own way, and I know it is hard.  And crappy.  But they are all working hard to not let the crappy win, and to do good things.  I love that about my family.  They are good people.

Please keep praying for the chemo drugs to o.b.l.i.t.e.r.a.t.e my cancer.  I want it gone.  After today, I have three chemo treatments left before surgery: c’mon tumor(s), melt away.

Thank you for reading, for praying, for thinking of me.  The love, people.  It is crushing.  Crushing love is a feeling I haven’t known understood until cancer.

18 comments

  1. suenitz /

    Hi Jen, below is my most favorite verse in the bible. You are fearfully and wonderfully made!! I know God is smiling down on you right now because you are allowing Him to use you as a light to others. How blessed we all are! Much love to you.

    Psalm 139:1-18

    O Lord, you have searched me and known me.
    You know when I sit down and when I rise up; you discern my thoughts from far away.
    You search out my path and my lying down, and are acquainted with all my ways.
    Even before a word is on my tongue,
    O Lord, you know it completely.
    You hem me in, behind and before,
    and lay your hand upon me.
    Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is so high that I cannot attain it.
    Where can I go from your spirit?
    Or where can I flee from your presence?
    If I ascend to heaven, you are there;
    if I make my bed in Sheol, you are there.
    If I take the wings of the morning
    and settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall lead me,
    and your right hand shall hold me fast.
    If I say, “Surely the darkness shall cover me, and the light around me become night,” even the darkness is not dark to you; the night is as bright as the day, for darkness is as light to you.
    For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
    I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
    Wonderful are your works; that I know very well.
    My frame was not hidden from you,
    when I was being made in secret,
    intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
    Your eyes beheld my unformed substance.
    In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.
    How weighty to me are your thoughts, O God!
    How vast is the sum of them!
    I try to count them—they are more than the sand;
    I come to the end—I am still with you.

  2. Angela Johnson /

    Praying, as always, for o.b.l.i.t.e.r.a.t.i.o.n., and now for the Rozzinator, and you are right – the days of the week underwear bit is hilarious, genius, and completely inspired!! God sure knew what he was doing when he surrounded you with your friends and family – then and now! He knows what he is doing now, too!! Praying with you that it’s obliteration!! Melt, cancer, melt! Prayers and ‘blog stranger love’ coming to you from Michigan. :)

  3. Continuing to pray hard for your family! I really appreciated your post today because you do such an awesome job of describing the world of someone with cancer. I worked for a cancer support program in my pre-mom life and that experience forever changed me. I hope you realize that all of the medical/support staff are so incredibly impacted by the patients and families they work with.

  4. Jen, I read your posts daily (or whenever you write)…they inspire me every time. You are something special and pretty stinkin super-human! Love that you spend your time celebrating chemo days…and I imagine your fairy tale dreams at night include visions of tumors breaking up into millions of little pieces. When you were first diagnosed, I couldn’t help but think, “this damn cancer has no idea what it’s up against”…you seem to be proving my theory correct. Just know I love you, think of you often and pray for you daily. I think of your motto ‘Do Today Well’…and I can’t help but smile when I think how well you are truly “living” this motto (or maybe I should say your new life mission) every.single.day! In all the time I have known you…I have to say “Jen with cancer” is seriously in one of the best seasons of her life (and pretty stinkin fantastic too)! Thank you for your daily inspiration and a heart that is clearly overflowing with gratitude. Obliteration is around the bend! Cancer be gone! Love you, Jen!

  5. Marsha Vonderwish /

    Oh Jen, I so understand your feelings about the chemo. That is why I hated to have my port removed, it was security for me. But after 10 yrs. I thought it was time! (It was my second one.) Praying for you and your Mom. And thank yo so much for the updates on her. Yes, she is tough and your family are ‘good, amazing people’!
    Keeping you all in my prayers.
    Happy Chemo Day!

  6. I’m glad you enjoy hearing from us strangers as much as we enjoy hearing from you. Even though I don’t know you and you don’t know me, I am compelled to help you with your obliteration. I’m not usually big on prayer, but you have inspired me to pray more, and your name is always one of the first ones on my list despite the fact that I couldn’t pick your face out of a crowd. Keep up the fight, Jen.
    -Jen with two boys

  7. Bonniebj /

    Totally agreeing with Sue and Tiffany…. Crushing love- isn’t that what the Lord wants us to experience from Him. His love is crushing for us, we just learn it on our very different journeys through this life on earth. You are forever changed Jen through this journey and so so many people out there have been forever changed as well. Maybe that’s why I always tear up when I read your blog as well as your moms. I always picture the two of you In the
    Lord’s arms snuggling like little childrenwith
    your legs wrapped tightly around His waist.

    • Bonniebj /

      May we always fully KNOW His crushing love for us. We all desperately need to know that. Praying daily for a good day…

  8. I am strengthened emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, even as I am being physically weakened.

    2 Corinthians 12:9 (NIV)
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. ” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.

  9. Wow! What amazing friends to get together and pray for you on your chemo day. That brought tears to my eyes–esp the fact they didn’t tell you they do that. Still praying for you and your mom!! Go get ’em! Jen

  10. Melissa /

    Praying. Its a beautiful story and I have prayed and will continue to pray that you tell it for years and years to come! I had a dear friend that I met when she was without hair and she stayed without for some time after I met her and she just never looked “right” after it grew back!

  11. Between the crushing love of your friends and family, your faith in God, and the chemo, that cancer doesn’t stand a chance! :) Prayers flying your way from the Pacific NW…..and a virtual hug too.

  12. Sister from another Mister /

    Jen,

    I was referred to your blog after my own diagnosis at 31, Stage IIIA. The similarities between us, other than just our cancer, almost scare me sometimes. I almost feel like you are my sister from another mister:) Your thoughts help me keep my positive outlook on my diagnosis and treatment for S.u.r.v.i.v.a.l. Our stories remind me of the commonality of human beings. We don’t know each other but the love in our lives and things we consider important when faced with this disease are no different. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, they help those of us who tuck them in a journal and lock them away know they are not alone in those tough moments. Know your words reach further and touch more people than you could imagine. Keep up the good fight.

  13. Tami /

    Thank you. Again. For posting, for choosing to share this part of your life, for showing the dismal world another way to look at things, another way to live.
    May your cancer = stick of butter in a frying pan. Quickly melted.

  14. I crush you. xo

  15. Jen ~ I love the panty story ~ You have such wonderful friends :-) I think & pray everyday for you & your Mom ~ along with others I know & don’t know who have cancer ~ Thank You for sharing your journey with so many ~ it is helpful for us who don’t have cancer to understand a little more about this nasty thing & I’m sure you are very helpful to thers that do have the Bad ” C ” Prayers & Peace :-)

  16. Jenn t /

    Hi there. I read daily, pray daily for you but never comment because, honestly, my iPad is annoying when I try! 😉 Ah ha: cut and paste!! Driving today I passed this quote: “joy is not the absence of suffering, but the presence of God” You came to my mind, and I prayed again for obliteration.

  17. Shelley Carter /

    What an awesome post. I am continuing to pray for you and your mom — for obliteration, peace, and His continuing grace. Love from Tulsa, OK being sent your way.