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.