Friday, January 27, 2012

Laughter, Music, Popsicle Sticks, & Walking With Dad

I don’t think that anyone can ever go into her/his first round of chemotherapy prepared. I tried, Lord knows, I always try to be prepared for everything. On Tuesday, I could hardly eat anything. I ate a super early breakfast/lunch around 9 a.m. This lunch consisted of nothing more than a small piece of chicken and very little pasta from the night before. Needless to say, by the time 1p.m. came around, I was incredibly nervous and still not really hungry. I was immediately taken back to be weighed, talked to by the doctor, and given a brief examination. Much to my surprise I had already lost two pounds since Friday. Not so bad, I thought to myself, it could have been worse. The nurse took me to the blandest office I have ever been inside in my life! Everything was tan and there was this lovely “different kinds of cancer” flip chart sitting on the counter. Possibly five minutes later a nurse practitioner came in. She went over my chemotherapy regime with me one more time as well as the premeds and the medications I would be taking for the next few days to combat the chemotherapy. She then gave me a brief examination to check the status of Sven and handed me a very nice canvas bag with a warm fuzzy polka dot blanket, some gum, lotion, and a word find book inside. I thanked her and was led to the chemotherapy room.

The chemo room was packed with patients when I got inside. Apparently they were short-handed on nurses that day so everyone needed to be patient (literally, the patients needed patience lol). Nevertheless, this place has some of the sweetest and most considerate nurses I have ever met and they are sure to put a smile on your face. I looked around the room, which had many windows and was painted in nice light colors. There was a TV on the wall as well as one or two paintings. Every chemo patient had a lazy-boy-esc chair to sit in next to a rod often with bags hanging from it. The chairs were all a shade of green and had a vinyl-like finish to them. I was by far the youngest patient in the room and waiting awkwardly to be told what to do. A smiling and familiar face instantly greeted me. This woman had been in the waiting room with me the last time I had come to the oncologist. Apparently she was my pre-school teacher when I was just a little girl. She also has cancer now, but you would not know it if you saw her face. She is filled with sunshine and laughter. You could hear her laugh throughout the entire building. She instantly switched to a seat near mine and made sure that I was comfortable and had everything I needed. She truly made that day far less scary than it could be. Needless to say sitting in chemotherapy isn’t so bad. Thanks to my mediport it doesn’t really hurt at all and it is kind of fun to watch the nurses do their thing. There is a lot of joking between patients and nurses and everyone tries to make everyone else feel better. Also, there’s a candy basket! Any place with free candy can’t be all that bad. Slowly, but surely all of the patients filed out. I had gotten in later that day so in the end it was just the woman with all of the laughter and me. It really wasn’t so bad at all. I am so grateful for the upbeat attitudes of everyone in that room. I promised to bring them all cookies next time, two out of three nurses said that oatmeal raisin was their favorite, so I believe I will be fine tuning this recipe before my next chemo appointment.

For the first couple of hours after chemotherapy I was tired. I mean tired. I felt like someone had laid one of those lead vests that they use in x-ray over my entire body. I should have gone to sleep, but I was told by everyone that I should try to eat something first. Having eaten basically nothing all day but a little bit of pasta, a cookie (worst mistake ever), and some fun sized crunch bars, I thought it would be a good idea to eat something real. Ah, the best laid plans of mice and men… I will never, ever fast all day before chemotherapy again. EVER. Next time, I will be sure to eat well in the morning so that after chemo I can go home and sleep before the nausea hits. Dear Lord in Heaven, what in the world was I thinking? I really could not eat much of dinner. About an hour and a half after dinner the nausea hit. The worst thing about this is that I really didn’t have anything in my stomach to be sick with. (I’m really not going to sugar coat this so you might want to skip to the next paragraph if you’re not good with this stuff.) I was in bed when everything started to feel wrong. I immediately recognized my mistake in leaving my nausea pills downstairs in the living room. So began the slowest and hardest walk downstairs of my life. I could hardly see straight. I just kept focusing on my breathing and taking one step at a time. After my first few steps down the stairs, holding onto the sides of the walls, I took my first break. I just sat there, on the steps, for about five minutes breathing and trying to tell myself that it would be okay. I managed to make it into the living room and sit on the chair in front of my medication. My dad asked me if I was okay and I indicated that I wasn’t. It was very hard to figure out what medication I was looking for because I could not read the labels very well. I could not ask dad for help because he did not know which medications were for what (In the future I’m going to type up a list of labels and what they are for, for just such emergencies). At this point the pain came. By pain I mean extreme burning in my upper stomach, lower abdomen, and head. It was intensive heat at these core places in my body and it spread straight through my veins. It was awful. I made it to the bathroom only to dry heave nothingness. I curled up in a little ball on the bathroom floor and just tried to breathe slowly. I took my nausea medicine, but it didn’t seem to be working. I just wanted it to be over. Even though I was hot all over on the inside, I was freezing on the outside. Any attempt at a blanket just made the nausea worse so I just sucked it up and kept shivering. Mom and dad came in to check on me intermittently. Dad at some point brought me some cold apple juice drink for my stomach and an ice pack for my face, which was burning hot. At some point I made the mistake of looking into a mirror and realized that I looked like an albino smurf. I never knew that a person could be so pasty and so blue at the same time. Ugh, this was awful. However, about three or four hours later, this passed and I was able to go upstairs and get some much-needed sleep.

I don’t remember much of Wednesday except that I pretty much lived on Popsicle sticks, a brilliant idea told to me by a friend. They seem to be so perfect for my no longer happy stomach. At around 1 p.m. Dad came home to take me on a walk. The doctors suggested a fifteen-minute walk everyday to combat the chemo. The walk helped some. It was nice to spend some time with my dad. Wednesday continued in a fog of sleep, nausea, and double vision. I played music very quietly in the background because harsh sounds and lights only made things worse. I lived on my anti-nausea medication. However, the music was helpful because it created a great distraction and kept me calm. I think I may need to talk to my doctors because my nausea medication doesn’t appear to be working. Sigh, I’m sure we’ll find something that works out. This was only the first try after all.

Thursday was so much better! My stomach was still a little bit queasy, but I was up and around. I was able to accomplish some tasks I had been meaning to get to and my aunt came to watch over me in the morning and take me to the doctor in the afternoon. Somehow, between surgery on Friday and Chemo on Tuesday I have lost about five pounds. However, I don’t doubt that I will get these pounds back! I managed some toast and a bit of egg for breakfast, a bit of soup and fruit for lunch and almost and entire bowl of macaroni and cheese for dinner. I got to have my Nuelasta shot which essentially helps shoot up my white blood cells and boost my immune system. My dad took me for another walk. This walk was much better and I didn’t need to lean on him the entire time. It really was a pretty good day! I feel better and better as the days go on and I have an entire two weeks to recover in-between rounds of chemotherapy. I think that next time will be better as I have learned the does and don’ts of eating as well as know what to expect. I will also talk to my doctor about some better anti-nausea medication. I have no doubts that the next round will not be as bad as the first. So overall, not so bad. J

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