October 14, 2010

One day of chemo down; 116 to go....

Chemotherapy - more frightening to me than the surgeries, the loss of hair, the skin-throat-mouth pain moments and most of other unknowns that have to be walked before I can prove to myself that I am mentally capable of NOT letting this cancer kill me.
Chemo scares the crud out of me maybe even more than the cancer itself!  I have had one or two conversations with a close friend where I choked up with more water flowing from my eyes than I am comfortable having others see as I described my fears.  Chemo has the power to hit me with sickness that potentially could take me completely outside my control-issues comfort zone.  Anyone that knows me knows I do not like being held hostage to anything regardless if it is two-legged, four-legged, comes in a bottle, writes my paychecks, or in any other way might dominate me sufficiently enough to be cabable of making me compromise my principles or give up my fight instincts.

After a long unsettling night, apprehension had me pretty seized up wondering which of the many chemotherapy horror stories I had read or heard would become MY story today. I knew I had to get this treatment started but, God how I wished I could just take a knife in the heart instead of doing chemo!

The friendly smiling Receptionist clearly knew, probably from a daily morning group meeting, that I was a nervous wreck wondering how this day would unfold.  I could see the compassion in her eyes and feel it as she reached out for me to guide me down the hall to 5-6 hours in the much dreaded “Treatment”–read Torture– room seen in last night’s nightmares.  

I felt a tiny bit better when I was led through the door into the room and happily discovered Doc Q had done a good job endowing it with her confident professionalism yet sensitive personality.  I arrived a bit early so I was given carte blanche to choose any one of the eight Lazy Boy-like recliner chairs (make no mistake; they were dulled down to meet medical specifications which means not pretty) spread throughout this peacefully subdued yet cheerful room.  I, of course, selected the chair with the best view of the room’s single large wall-mounted TV figuring it would provide diversion during today’s 5-6 hours of scary discovery of what might well define the quality of my life for the next sixteen (16) or more weeks.

Try as the Doctor had, there was no hiding the fact that the recliners sat amongst a forest of metal poles. Those stark cold poles most definitely did NOT project the calming warmth a forest of trees might have.  Anyone having moved from doctor to doctor and, as was my case, surgery to surgery knew their metal boughs would soon hold scary clear plastic bags of a myriad of life saving yet nasty body slamming chemicals (poisons?) for the patients; each fighting his or her own cancer battle with unique chemical mixes and regiments.

It was at this point that Nurse Mary walked over to me to tell me she was going to take me through what she knew would be difficult day for me.  Nurse Mary, somewhere in her 40’s, small and nurse-attractive immediately began a well practiced routine delivery designed to calm my rattled nerves just like she has for the others who came down this path with her before me.  She introduced me to Nurse Dawn who would partner with her to take care of the medical and emotional needs of me and the warriors seated around me.  I was the only newbie but did not feel singled out, thankfully, as these two angels floated amongst us continuously to make sure we were doing okay. A few of the others in for chemo did offer some genuine experienced- based advice for me. That advice could not have been contained more solid thoughts for me to pay close attention to because of the source…

Meeting Nurse May and Nurse Dawn was almost like dating as we quickly maneuvered through an awkward period of getting to know each other.  I could sense they were moving slowly until they could size up this new character sitting in front of them. Good thinking – I have told more than one friend not to be sad for me; instead feel sad for the poor doctors, nurses and technicians that have to deal with me!

I could feel the dating dance going on inside their minds.  Okay!  Yes, mine, too.

Nurse Her: Is he a disrespectful jerk man pig, high maintenance cry baby or one of the more rare of the breed who is respectful of my skills, honest, and will make me feel wanted and appreciated.

Patient Dennis:  Behind that kind pretty face is there a sadist who will get great joy bringing me to painful tears in front of her and the others, pretend not to see me suffering my own little hell and needing of a kind word or touch of encouragement, give me the wrong chemicals and care less about the ramifications? Or will I be relieved to discover a compassion and skilled nurse who is everything I need to make it through this first chemo no matter what the embarrassing and painful side effects might be.

Just like a perfect first date, I got the compassionate and skilled nurse person.  Mary was awesome and made me feel protected, per se, as the hours went by with me on total alert for any of the many nasty side effects she warned me could show up today.  We got through the day with me finally easing up enough to playfully drive her nuts.  I knew I won when I didn’t end up being punished and having to wear pink Adult Diapers. Completing the glow of the win was Mary, hands on hips, pointing her finger at me promising she was going to force Nurse Dawn to draw straws to see who would lose and have to take care of me during my next visit. 

My “date” today ended up with a Nurse Mary handing me one of those silly tourist butt-bags with a chemo pump in it that would be my constant companion for the next 5 days.  Inside it was another chemical that would be pumped into me via the chest catheter tube at the rate of 2cc’s per hour until this coming Tuesday. Swell…more sleepless nights coming when no comfortable position would reveal itself due to this thing hanging off of me. Hey, that sentence almost sounded like a high maintenance cry baby!

Interesting observations today:
  • FINALLY someone, Nurse Mary, would tell me when the hair was going to fall out. No one before seemed to want to hit this subject head-on (no pun intended).  I guess a lot if not most patients see the hair fall deal as a big thing.  I think Nurse Mary might have been the first one to believe me when told her I see this hair thing as sort of a Badge of Honor in my own little perverse way. As I said before, after the hair disappears, I can become the perfect little Yaesu Poster Boy when I wear my Yaesu hat!
  • Nurse Mary promised me that things are going to get worse over the next several weeks.  She also promised she and others on the staff would be right there with me through this first post-surgery stage of saving my life.
  • Taking a liquid breakfast through the stomach feed tube instead of solids might well have been what saved me from having serious nausea or vomiting.
  • My chemo dosages today were scaled back a bit from what they’ll hit me with the next two cycles.  I was pretty angry to learn that because I thought I had made it clear I wanted them to hit me as hard as they could from the very first.  Nurse Mary was able to calm me down with some good solid reasons for their decision.  Of course, I respect their judgment over mine and shut my big mouth in a hurry….albeit somewhat reluctantly J
  • The cost of saving my sorry butt was soaring upwards daily and was already staggering to say the least.  Thank you Yaesu for a very good Anthem Blue Cross PPO insurance plan.  Without it, the retirement place in NC would be put up For Sales right away – seriously.
  • My experience with all my professional medical caregivers continues to be 100% great!