Unpleasant but manageable.
I’ll have 8 rounds of chemo every two weeks for the next four months, and I just had one this weekend. When I got my diagnosis, I was DREADING chemo. I remember my mom’s chemo from 18 years ago and it was AWFUL. She hated every second of it. She couldn’t taste food, she was weak and miserable, and I didn’t want to go through any of that. Luckily, my cancer isn’t as bad as mom’s and it’s two decades later.
Alek and Gab came to my first chemo with me. They are a great combination, both super friendly and talkative and pleasant. We walked to chemo with a 7:30am start. I check in at the front desk of the building where they tag me (so they can track me in the building). I get an IV put in. I didn’t realize that they DON”T use the big veins in your elbow crook; they use the littler veins in your arms. I guess the chemo is supposed to go in slower. So, I get my IV put in, then we go upstairs to talk to my nurse practitioner. Allie is DELIGHTFUL. Some of the parts of medical care, I find very affected and it bugs me. Like… for all my appointments I have to take off my shirt so they can examine my breasts. The doctor will go out to allow me privacy to change and then politely knock before re-entering. I get it. HIPPA and privacy and politeness and all that jazz, but you are LITERALLY going to see everything that you just politely avoided. So I tell Allie that’s dumb and I’m just taking off my shirt. It’s quicker and if I’m not uncomfortable, it doesn’t matter. Allie is very thorough, making sure we have all the information we need, answering all our questions (including that sex shops are the best places for quality fun colored wigs).
After our meeting with Allie, we meet Erin, one of my two chemo nurses. Honestly, I don’t know all who does what. All I know is that there are several people I can call for anything I need. There is a LOT of waiting around. By 9 or 10 we are called back to the actual room where we have chemo. It’s a semi-private room, curtained in, and you get a window if you are lucky. There is a TV and a dvd player and a food/snack cart comes around regularly. First you get saline, then anti-nausea, then two different types of chemo: one that makes you pee red, and one that knocks your energy DOWN.
Most of the time through the ~3 hours of being in the chemo room, I was chatting and smiling and energetic. But that last 30 minutes, I was just surviving. Not sad or anything, just wiped out. I wasn’t even able to order my minions to entertain me. I walked home without a problem, but pretty slow, and I’m glad I had help. I could NOT have been without help through this process. It just feels …. weird. Like my body couldn’t decide how to feel. Hot/cold, nauseous, headachy, bone pain, sore throat, thirsty, hungry? I feel very disconnected from my body in some ways, like we forgot how to talk to each other. I mean, my boob IS trying to kill me, so that will strain any relationship. I used to know what I needed to do to take care of myself: exercise, eat veggies, play. I used to know how my body would react to things and how to predict my limits. I don’t really feel like that anymore. I feel like I just got this body and I have to figure out how to proceed with this new experience.
The medications are very good that I’m on. I haven’t thrown up at all, I’ve been eating GREAT, I have a glass of wine at night, I’m enjoying netflix. I’m pretty headachy and lethargic. I got my sister up at 3am that first night to get me anti-nausea medication. I nearly pushed her out of the bed because I needed it NOW and I could not get up. That’s a new experience for me too: the helplessness. I find myself not liking it.
I did find a neighbor with an ADORABLE dwarf cat that she will lend out. That was very helpful, having a warm soft snuggler with me. All in all, there are worse things than chemo. I’ve had HANGOVERS worse than chemo. It’s like a bad flu or food poisoning. It’s unpleasant, but after a day, I can get up and move around. So, day of chemo is a loss from doctors appointments and lethargy, day after is staying pretty horizontal, but the next day is up and walking around. Me and Gab went to the MFA and walked two miles. I fell asleep pretty early, but I felt like a normal person. I am going to try to go for a bike ride today. I’ll keep it short, but I think I need to get up and out and doing something I love. I’ll bring some anti-nausea just in case, and I’ll take it easy.