Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Chemo 11 of 12: Mixed feelings and a chemo spill

Wow -- almost to the end of chemo! It feels like such a long road, and probably feels even longer to you. Kind of like "Are were there YET?" I do appreciate your being here with me, in any capacity that you are able. Though journey does feel long, I can't imagine how long it would feel if I also felt alone.

Of course, realizing that I am reaching the end of treatment has both physical and emotional components. I'm so eager to be done; I feel like just skipping the last treatment and saying, "okay, I've done enough." Except that if this ever returned, I would feel like I didn't do all that I could have to keep it away.

At the same time, it is hard to believe that regular visits to the hospital will not be part of my life. I can't even think that far ahead.

On the physical front, this week's chemo session went much more like my earlier ones, and I'm feeling okay....just the usual mild nausea, fatigue and neuropathy. Yay! Being an "eat dessert first" kind of person (even if my taste buds currently distort the taste of dessert these days), I booked a short vacation for my husband, the kids and me for my "off weekend", just before my last chemo. I couldn't wait to start celebrating. Well, actually, the driving factor was more about taking a vacation while I could, before any other "bad" news comes along.

The doctors appear to be optimistic, though. Dr. N is the Fellow on my team, and he is great, cheerily asking me about my plans for after I chemo. We have plans for celebrating the boys' birthday, visiting friends, heading to Maine, but mostly, frankly, my plan was to hunker down and continuously whisper something like, "I hope it's really gone. I hope it's really gone." Maybe toss in a talisman or two.

He kept repeating that they feel like this will be cured, and, while I am scared to be that optimistic, it was good to hear.

My red and white cell counts were good (yay) and he shared my liver numbers, which seem to be a marker of how my body is handling the chemo. Over the past two treatments, my liver numbers have moved into the range of normal. They found that to be interesting and good news. I mentally noted that that was since the "healing session." I'm not claiming cause and effect: Though I believe in the power of prayer, I also believe that cause and effect can be a complicated equation. But it is an interesting observation. And hey, if the healing session could do that, maybe chemo can work as well?

Anyway, I originally met Dr. N when he was a Resident at Dana Farber and I was looking into getting my treatment there. He moved to MGH as a Fellow and joined my team in January, so he's been with me from the start. It turns out that the end of his Fellowship coincides with the end of my treatment. I love it when life is poetic like that.

On the scary radiation and chemo front:

I went to the dentist this week. They wanted to do an x-ray, and I asked a million questions before I let them take it. Given the amount of radiation I've had so far (and will get in the future, with my ongoing CT scans), it seems funny to focus on one dental x-ray.

On the chemo front:

Then, during chemo, I got to experience a CHEMO SPILL! Okay, that kind of freaked me out. You may have noticed another post where I recently, jokingly, took a picture of the Chemo Spill Kit. Sometimes, I think that one of God's favorite tools is foreshadowing. At the time, I thought that the chemo spill package was funny. Now, joke is on me. ha ha

Before I get chemo, they insert a small needle into the port in my chest, much like they would insert a needle into your arm to draw blood. This particular needle has a tube dangling from it. First, the nurse draws blood through the tube. A few hours later, she attaches an IV to it to administer all the drugs.

The first set of drugs are "pre-meds", which include steriods, anti-nausea drugs, and Benadryl. I used to get these in pill form, but since my big "bad" session, I get them in IV. So, they hook these up to the tube, one after the other, and I am tethered to an IV pole. After they disconnect these, I usually take the opportunity to go to the bathroom, get a cookie, and any other wandering I might like to do without my IV pole. When I return, the tubes are then attached to the chemo drugs (which then hang on an IV pole).

This time, I had a different nurse, and when wandered off, she laid the chemo IV tube down on the armrest of my chair. When I returned, I sat in my chair and waited for her. I was eating my cookie, watching my little movie, and I felt something wet on my arm. The saline and chemo were pouring out of the tube. Well, now I know the rate at which it goes into my veins. It was all over the armrest, pillow, chair, basically, everywhere.

Yes, I did freak out. It was surreal to look at the nurses, in their protective gear, as they were telling me it is no big deal.

After I washed up, I was ushered to another room and they basically closed off that room as if it were a nuclear waste zone. Lovely.

Thankfully, the rest of the session was uneventful, and I was able to WALK out this time. Yay!

So, life goes on. I got to celebrate my birthday, and I cannot believe how grateful I am to be able to do that. My four-year-old graduated from Beginners (think, pre-Kindergarten) this week. I was thrilled to be there, chemo pump, gloves and all. Of course, I was all weepy but I have to say it was a really sweet ceremony and he had a great time.

When I went to get my pump removed later that day, my four-year-old came along and wore a Buzz Lightyear costume. He was in character during all our time in the Infusion unit (where lots of nice people gave him lollipops and ice cream and paper airplanes) and as soon as we left the hospital, he removed the costume and became himself again. I guess he is my superhero!

Thanks to you all, too, for being my heroes, carrying me along and sharing your magic. Just a bit longer (knock wood, fingers crossed).....I am eager to be done but I think the thing I will miss most is the opportunity to connect with you.

Love, Marie

Current song that I can't get out of my head is Thunder Road by Bruce Springsteen, which I find full of hope and optimism

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