Monday, July 30, 2007

Chemo 2/8

I'm in no rush

My husband took this picture, but only under duress. I wanted to demystify the process and show me, happy chemo patient, during infusion. However, it's difficult to crack a real smile when something called Cytoxan is being dripped into your veins. Cell poison, that's essentially what the name means. Nice if it's just the cancer cells it's going after, not so nice if the poisoning is more indiscriminate. The drug stops or slows cancer cell growth, but also interferes with bone marrow, hair and nail growth.

Speaking of hair growth: I better get some flattering pics of myself in short hair while I still have some. Last night, as I tried to pluck a few wayward eyebrow hairs, I realized that I didn't really need tweezers. I could pull them out with my fingernails. I tested a leg hair. Yep, came out with hardly any resistance. It seems that every time I get used to something, a new freak-out is waiting just around the corner.

My chemo wasn't scheduled until later in the morning, so the earlier appointments were for blood work and a meeting with the oncologist, Dr. G. He once again left us alone in a room, but this time we sat there until someone collected us. When the pager for my chemo therapy vibrated, we then trooped up to the treatment door to wait for a technician. A distressed-looking woman and her husband blocked our path. "Do you need water?" The technician asked. The woman nodded mutely, her face desperate. The nurse led us into a treatment room, which this time was a shared space, with threadbare recliners and a curtain separating the two room halves. The water woman and her husband came in behind us and sat on the other side. She peeked around the curtain, putting a hand on one of the large medical wastecans on our side of the barrier. "Sorry folks, I need to borrow this. It isn't gonna be pretty." She barely got back to the other side of the curtain before vomiting.

While waiting, I had been reading one of the cancer-oriented magazines strewn around the oncology center. I think it was called CancerWoman. In it, an article described the importance of dignity for patients, especially those with terminal diagnoses. Dignity was in short supply in our shared chemo room that day, as the poor woman retched uncontrollably next to two complete strangers. The nurse came in, and said "all the private rooms are full right now." The oncologist then arrived and asked about antinausea drugs. No, she hadn't been given any yet. I heard him say "Ativan drip." There where whispers assuring the couple that it was inexpensive. Oh God, to be uninsured or underinsured with this illness. Forget me, pray for them. In half an hour, she was snoring peacefully.

Loaded full of my own dose of Ativan, I had no objections to a stop at our local diner, Clara & James (although some say James got the heave-ho), for a post-chemo omelette. I have a lot of affection for this little place, especially after a recent make-over involving kelly-green vinyl and a mural with dozens of unrelated cartoon characters. That's Yosemite Sam peeking out from behind the tree. And, that's my husband on the right. Two vegi omelettes with toast, a coffee, tomato juice and Sprite, under $20. Two thumbs up!

Although I ate with gusto, I will probably feel pretty lousy later on, especially later tonight. Already, the Cytoxan has my head pounding, and nausea is creeping its way back into my consciousness. Chemo is like that, and you take your pleasures when your stomach will have them. Although he was not exactly referring to omelettes, I think these lines from Andrew Marvell's To His Coy Mistress are still appropriate:

Let us roll all our strength and all
Our sweetness up into one ball,
And tear our pleasures with rough strife
Thorough the iron gates of life:
Thus, though we cannot make our sun
Stand still, yet we will make him run.


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The Fifty Foot Blogger said...

OK, I got my first spamalot, so I've turned on word verification for posts. We'll see how that goes for now.