Chemotherapy No. 1
By 9:30 yesterday morning, Nat and I were on our way to my first chemotherapy treatment. When I crossed the threshold of the treatment center, I moved smoothly to the desk to check in. As I made my way into the waiting room with what to anyone looking at me appeared to be ease and confidence, my insides tugged at me to go in the opposite direction.
It was impossible not to notice the other patients waiting to be called back to the treatment rooms. Blue masks covered some faces, and skin color was either yellow or gray. Eyes were downcast, bodies were motionless and there was an obvious absence of conversation. The only noise in the room was a television broadcast of a Babar cartoon – which given that no children were present, seemed odd. Stranger still – no one made any attempt to change the channel or silence the television. I sat down and couldn’t help but think as I looked around that I was looking at images of my future self.
Within a few minutes, I was called. As I entered room 17, my treatment room, I looked around. There was nothing different from other rooms I’d been in so far – call buttons, recliner, IV cart, television, bed, blanket. I couldn’t help the tears that surfaced when it dawned on me that I was moments away from joining the ranks of chemotherapy patients. I took a couple of deep breaths, unpacked my bag, tucked in under a warm blanket and waited.
My nurse arrived shortly, briefed me on the treatment procedure and informed me that someone from the IV team would come in to insert the IV needle into my port-a-cath. Minutes later, a woman from the IV team came in. She sterilized my port site, unwrapped a bunch of stuff – tubes, syringes, the IV needle (looked like a miniature stapler) and then inserted the IV needle which was much like pushing a thumbtack into a bulletin board. She verified that everything was working the way it should by checking the blood return and flushing the tubes with saline. All was working perfectly, and through it all, I felt no pain or discomfort.
By the time all this was done, I was much more relaxed. The nurses explained everything that was happening, so I knew what to expect. They assured me that they would be monitoring me very carefully so that if anything out of the ordinary occurred, they would step in immediately to remedy.
Treatment began with a steroid. The steroid was administered as a preventative measure in case I had any allergic reactions from the chemo drug – Taxol. It took about a half hour or so for the steroid to drip into my system. Once the bag was empty, I sat for a while longer so that the drug had a chance to circulate throughout my body.
Around 11:30, I was ready for the Taxol drip. My nurse explained that he would begin administering the drug but stay with me for the first ten minutes to be sure I had no adverse reactions.
I didn’t feel anything for at least the first several minutes, but then I noticed a slight taste in the back of my throat. I kept swallowing to see if I could get rid of the taste and was unable. I also noticed that my nose plugged up a bit. I mentioned this to my nurse, and he said that this was a result of the Taxol. Because my blood pressure was normal, and I wasn’t flushing or overheating, my nurse proclaimed that I was doing just fine.
And that was it. No bells; no whistles; no drama.
By 12:30, I was being unhooked and unplugged from the IV apparatus and 15 minutes later, Nat and I were heading for lunch. I assessed how I was feeling at lunch – nothing different. Then window-shopping – still nothing. Once home – nothing. And now this morning – I still feel fine. I know that it’s inevitable that I will eventually feel the side effects of chemotherapy, but I’m more than happy to move into them gradually.
Not sure what's on the agenda for today, but what I do know is that I feel well enough to do what ever is my heart's desire!
Thanks for reading Popcorn and Patchouli! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.
You are amazing Lisa, you write beautifully. It is a gift that knowing you so little I don't know if you have always had. We are all benefiting by your clarity, humor, and courage. Your attitude is so inspiring. Thanks for all - amid your challenge - you are doing for others by sharing so eloquently and incisively your journey to health.
30 years later Lisa, my grandmother went through this 30 years ago and I had so little knowledge of what she was going through. Reading your journal is such an eye opener of when I was so young, that they "protected" me from. I know that times have changed and so have treatments, but thank you for your beautiful words to help me be there with you and her.
The cheering crowd Good morning Lisa! I don't do marathons, but I've had the most wonderful experience of cheering someone on. When T. did his first marathon, his wife, N....my best friend since high school, had a special plan in place for him. She had done some research on which mile markers might be the toughest for him. She called T's friends and loved ones, and asked for our help. She had strategically placed us at those mile markers. To T's surprise, a friend came out of the crowd at a certain mile marker and came along side him to run with him for a couple of miles. Another friend would run into the marathon while one pulled out, etc. Then there would be people like me, the non-marathon runners, standing on the side acting like fools jumping up and down screaming that he could do it. The Hallmark moment would come at the last 1/2 mile of the race when T's oldest children jumped out of the crowd and ran with their dad. They had so much built up energy from watching him run all morning. It was awesome to see how much it encouraged him to have the kids with him.
One thing I've noticed about marathons is how encouraging the crowd can be to the runner. I am a stranger to all but one of these runners. Yet, when I cheer strangers on I notice how it brings them out of that place of exhaustion and discouragement. It's like a sip of water to them. It's almost as if I've made a new friend for a moment in time.
As I read back on your message board today, I felt like I was in the crowd again. You have so many short distance runners ready to go with you to any length to let you know that you are not alone. I sensed that each one, like me, was watching the clock yesterday. We knew that you were at a tough mile marker and our thoughts and prayers were given as a sweet taste to the bitter taste of chemo.
Your biggest runner is Nat. I know that he has his own group of short distance runners in this race also. You both are going to be champions on the other side of this. A million hugs, M.
1st chemo It's as though I had been there. Bravo, Lisa! As they say (but now it means so much more) "Have a great day!" Much love, J.
Howdy I hope today is treating you well. I am finally realizing that it is summer and getting in the summer mode. Just having a relaxing afternoon with the family watching the Aggies beat Baylor in the baseball championship. Whoop! I have been thinking of you all weekend. I love M's story about the marathon. I will definitely jump out there and run with you. I wouldn't make it very far but I will be cheering you from the side. I wish we could run in your place for a while and let you take a break. Hang in there. See ya soon.
Hello Hi Lisa, I am glad to hear that your appointment went smoothly. I hope they will continue in that direction for you. Take Care, L.
Rain most of today - ahhhh that wonderful sound and smell that reminds us of newness and life-giving water. I see blue in the sky now, but the darkness in the distance reminds me that more rain is soon to follow. I think that is life. We are rained upon, we see blue sky and know our troubles are ending, yet, we always know there could be more dark clouds following. We just have to believe that our perfect blue sky is out there, waiting and calling to us. You might have experienced a bit of those dark clouds yesterday morning, but I am praying that you enjoy your blue sky this afternoon. All my love, prayers and ((((HUGS)))) M. :)
mental toughness Hi Lisa- There is a certain mental toughness required by the marathon. You hit the wall and sometimes it just seems impossible and the worst idea you ever had. But you pulled through and you finished. I know when I ran, I just thought, tomorrow I won't be running. The GRABAWR bike ride was particularly tough. That leg to Port Edwards comes to mind. I know I remember being completely stumped by things like by the odometer and those numbers on people's houses, like 1950, you know their ADDRESS. :) It seemed impossible, and we did it. We even finished out the week. Whereas during the marathon, you can say tomorrow will be different, we couldn't do that with the GRABAWR. It's hard to get your mind around, but it seems that this is similar. You will get through it. You will be healthy again. And like the marathon and the GRABAWR, you will be stronger afterwards and you will be inspirational, you are inspirational to other people. Your posts have been amazing to read. Know that I am sending you warm thoughts and prayers from California. K.
Thinking of You! I am glad your first treatment went well. I went to the Cy Fair graduation yesterday to see B's girlfriend M. walk across the stage. It makes me proud watching many of the student's that I have taught walk across the stage, knowing that I have influence their lives in some way. D., R. and I will be heading up to A & M (whoop) today for a two-day inservice. Our summer will start soon. Enjoy the sunshine and the rain, J. T.
Your strength is amazing! Lisa - I'm so glad to hear that things went well for your first session. I wish I had some of the beautiful words that so many of your friends have offered. Just know that you are in my heart and I am thinking of you and sending my prayers your way! Love, M.
You've got the Power! Dear Lisa, You are a truly amazing young woman with the strength and endurance to fight this fight! I can only learn from you and draw upon your strength through this entire process. You continue to be in my thoughts and prayers...I have another close friend who was diagnosed last November. Thank you for your willingness to share your story with us. Take care, rest...I look forward to seeing your beautiful smile soon. Love, N.
Hi :-) Hi Lisa! Just wanted to say hello and check in with you. Last week at this time, we were rounding up the students for their last day of school...now we're living through this heat and hoping for the swimming pool to stay open late!! :)
I hope you have a FABULOUS weekend and continue breezing through your treatments. Hope to hear from you soon. XOXO, M.
Our hearts are open We in Seattle remember your wedding and your smile; that wonderful smile that is, for those who love you, both strength and joy. You write as someone who is inevitably intimate and personal as you participate in this most private experience as well as an observer and historian who is capable of sharing the exploration of an event that the rest of us may have had or might eventually experience ourselves. What is simply wonderful Lisa is that you have turned what might well have been reason to withdraw and hide deep inside yourself but instead you took the blow, mourned and then shared and expressed the steps of this experience as an adventure, granted one that you might have been happy to have skipped, but a significant part now of who your are. It is this strength and ability to communicate that will be the defining milestone of you success.
Sending our love and prayers We have been meaning to respond, but have so enjoyed reading about your thoughts, fears and successes. Your reporting has been so genuine and thoughtful that it really personalizes what you are going through.
Personally, it’s one of my biggest fears since it seems so much more common to hear about breast cancer as it has affected so many people we know. As you have said in the past, you always think it’s something that happens to someone else, but here it is.
I am sitting at my desk at work, trying to be productive, but crying for you. It doesn't seem fair as you are just starting your journey with Nat. You two deserve better, but here you are making it better! I take heart in your attitude that its just going to be another story that you learn to tell about yourself. It’s going to be something in your past, something crappy that you had to deal with, but something you conquered. Like the painful marathon that you endured, but just did.
As Prue said, she wonders what you and Nat say to one another as you drive over to your first chemo treatment. I'm sure its full of silent dread, painful mourning, but open optimism that this is the start of the end of your cure. Your example keeps us out here strong knowing that you are resilient. We are incredibly proud of you and your fight. God bless.
Thanks for reading Popcorn and Patchouli! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.