I’m not sure what I was expecting on Wednesday when I went in for my first chemo infusion. I had so many conflicting images and stories floating around in my head that my handy self-defense compartmentalization kicked in, and I was able to walk into the clinic blissfully ignorant.
My first clue that it was not going to be a cakewalk was when my nurse asked me which side my port was on.
“I don’t have mine installed yet,” I replied. “We’re doing a IV in my arm today.”
“Ooh,” she winced, seemingly involuntarily. “That’s going to hurt.”
The whole shebang lasted about 4 hours, including pre-meds, hydration, flushing, and infusions. I felt pretty ok during the infusion itself and was able to chat with my dad and Mike (it was his birthday, incidentally, which is completely shitty), read, color, and text. When there were about 45 minutes left of the final drug, oxaliplatin, I started to feel a bit woozy and green, and my left arm (my IV arm) began to hurt quite a bit. I yoga-breathed through it, and was disconnected shortly thereafter.
The walk to the car and the drive home were simply wretched. My left arm hurt so much that I could not move or touch it. My limbs and extremities felt heavy and weak to the point that I could not do much with either hand. My eyelids, lips, and tongue were all twitching and pursing and pulling down on their own accord. My toes were on pins and needles and my nausea passed over me in waves. Halfway home, my brave, funny, “she’s such an inspiration and a warrior” face slipped, and I began to cry. But here’s the kicker: it hurt to cry. It felt like a mixture of sand and tiny hot coals were coming out of my eyes. The cruelty and unfairness of it all hit me full force then. I can’t even fucking cry.
The next few days passed in a little bit of a blur. I took my oral chemo, I kept up with my anti-nausea, and went about life as usual. My side effects come and go, and every moment is an adventure. I breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday morning, secure in my knowledge that my support system would be there and I could do the one thing I had been longing to do: sleep. Quelise and Mike were on main duty, Jamie scooped Ramona up a some point, and my dad came by, too, to start on a miles-long (self-inflicted, mind you) honey-do list with Mike.
And I slept. On the couch, in my bed, in the chair, at the kitchen table. It was glorious and heartbreaking.
It is Sunday morning now, and my main goal for the day is to take a shower. If that goes well, a walk, perhaps even an easy hike. I’m really trying not to think of chemotherapy as the enemy–it’s what will kill the cancer, after all–but chemo’s a serious son-of-a-bitch.
Silver lining roll call:
- My dad is staying in the states for a few months instead of a few weeks.
- We (finally) hired a house cleaner.
- Mashed potatoes are an acceptable meal breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
- Mike deals with hardship by doing dishes.
- Middle school students are so well behaved after you tell them you have cancer.
- There is now a GIANT bottle of hand sanitizer at my classroom door, and students are forced to use it (or the sink right next to it) every time they enter my room. I’ve been wanting to do this for ever, but now I don’t look like a crazy person!