This post continues my journey towards 30 years in remission of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
The time had come. After eleven months, several diagnostic procedures, and failed radiation treatments meant to avoid this day, it was finally here, my first day of chemotherapy.
I have always been a planner. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. I had read up on all the drugs that I would be injected with, and the potential for side effects. I knew the two side effects that I had seen so many times in movies and on television, nausea and hair loss. All I had to do was get this thing started.
One of my biggest faults, is that I am always considerate of others before my own needs. And this day was no different. And I did my best to make sure of it for the next eight months. My attendance at work was rarely impacted during my radiation treatments, to the first hour of each morning, allowing me to work the rest of the day. For my chemo, I had to plan differently.
I would receive seven different drugs, four during one injection, then a week later, a second injection would be given with the other three drugs. My appointment was the last one available on a Friday, meaning I would only miss an hour of work, twice a month. Expecting to be violently ill following the treatment, I would have the weekend to recover, as the time period between the injections was meant to do just that. And that would be the plan for eight months.
I woke up that Friday, made my breakfast and lunch. And in spite of me not having any appetite for obvious reasons, I knew the poisons that my body would be taking in, and I needed to take in as much nourishment as I could to give me my best chance of getting through these treatments. It was not until past noon, that I was no longer able to distract myself from my appointment in less than three hours. At 2:30pm, I punched out of work, got into my car, and drove to my oncology office.
My routine at the oncology office was pretty much the same. Go into the lab to have blood work drawn, then go into the exam room. Today would be different. From the lab, I would go into the chemotherapy room, where there were two chairs for patients. I would never see anyone else in the other chair my entire time though I knew I was not the only patient being treated. It was a very plain room. You could see outside the windows to the hospital across the street. Other than the supplies in the room, it was going to be just myself, and my oncology nurse, Brenda.
For those that have never seen what a typical chemotherapy suite looks like today, these pictures show that. The room is bright and large, filled with other chairs for several patients, all being treated. There is entertainment by visiting troubadors and televisions, and visits of the non-human variety meant to bring a little cheer into such a dismal environment. There is even an aroma of food as patients actually eat while receiving their chemotherapy.
But I did not have that relaxing environment to get through my treatments. Instead, I had been reading a book called “Positive Imaging” by Norman Vincent Peale.
The book emphasized that getting through difficult situations, we possess a power to help get us through our difficult times, by imagining not only the success, but how we get to that point. And I was going to use that same thinking to get me through my treatments. My goal was to not only imagine myself finished with treatments and in remission, but to even picture the chemotherapy drugs fighting each and every cancer cell.
To help with that process, I went to this appointment, and all the others after it, with my Walkman. For all of you too young to know what this doohicky is, back before you had the Ipod and MP3 player, you had this box that played cassette tapes, and later CD’s, again, I know you may not know what I am talking about. So let me make it simple. It played music. But not just any particular music. I supposed I could have put soft and mellow meditating type music into it. But after reading the book, I wanted fighting music playing. If you could work out to it, fight to it, it was on there including “Eye Of The Tiger” and other Rocky soundtrack music. And for good measure, I even put this song on there…
Why “Pacman Fever?” Because every time the song came on, I imagined the chemotherapy eating up the cancer cells just Pacman gobbled up dots.
Yes, I would have had a much easier time getting through my treatments with chemo suites of today, but I did what I could, with what I had.
My oncology nurse, Brenda, came into the room, with her prepared syringes, saline bags, and IV line. Her face was sullen which I was not used to seeing that way. She was in her mid-40’s, I believe, short and frosted hair, glasses, and always had a pleasantness supported by her smile. She put her tray down on the table top next to me, and pulled up her stool. At this point is where she told me that she had a son my age. And now I could understand her sullenness. And just like I thought of my co-workers, my fiance, my family, I had another person that I could not let down.
The IV line had been inserted into my left arm. It was time to begin.