Over the past few weeks I've had the opportunity to talk to various people, and I've discovered my conversational skills are quite limited. My brain often doesn't work properly and my words come out mixed up because of the meds I'm on. Also I find my end of the conversation is limited by my lack of life experience right now. It feels like my life is all about resting, going to the hospital, and treatments. So I often end up talking about my treatments. What is interesting to me is that people want to know what's it really like. I've come to realize the "cancer care world" exists, but many of us are unaware of what happens there. So here is what my treatments are really like:
Radiation: I go to floor 0 (the basement). My radiation takes place off the South Waiting Room. I arrive every morning with a FULL bladder. My team (consisting of 4 members) is usually running on time. They greet me by my first name. Check with how I'm feeling as we walk down the hall. I stop at the monitor room to verify it's my picture, give my birthdate and go into my room. I lay on a narrow bed that is raised about 4.5 feet up. My radiation techs line up my tattoos with laser beams coming out of the walls. They use a thin sheet that is under me to pull and adjust my body to be perfectly lined up. Then they leave me alone in the room and go to the monitoring room. They continue to adjust the bed from the monitoring room. Then the radiation machine starts. It's like a huge camera that travels 360 degrees around me. It shoots radiation into me from underneath, on top and both sides. I know it's shooting radiation based on the sound it makes. I don't see or feel anything. This whole process takes about 7 minutes. Then my team comes in and helps me off the table and I'm done. Sometimes I see a nurse after if I'm having any side effects. My team is really great about staying on top of my side effects and guiding me through them.
Chemotherarpy: takes place of floor 3. It's actually a fairly pleasant experience receiving it. It's in a beautiful room with an atrium in the middle, so there's lots of sunlight and lots of plants all over. There are little "rooms" or nooks with 4-6 reclining chairs in them. Each chair has a number. I'm always in 12 or 13. I am always greeted with a smile and welcomed to my "throne". The staff is amazing. They make their patients feel like first class guests. Upon arrival I'm usually asked if I want anything to eat or drink by one of the volunteers walking around greeting people. Then my nurses wrap my arm in a hot wet towel for about 20 minutes. Then my IV is put in (last week my veins did not cooperate and it took over an hour to get this done - hopefully this week is better). They always start my IV with saline to make sure everything is working, and I'm comfortable. I'm given my cocktail which consists of a cup full of pills. I take 1 big pill at home an hour before and 5 in my cocktail. Then my Chemo bag is brought out to me. I read the label to make sure it's mine. Then in it goes. So far I have not needed a blood transfusion, so it takes about and hour and a half for me to complete my chemo. This is quick. Most people are in the chemo room for 3-5 hours. The chemo does not hurt going in. When I stand up I feel like my whole body is floating. It is a very distinct sensation. I also change appearance....I look sick. On the ride home, I become really pale and my eyes look sunk in. But thanks to the drugs I feel a lot better then I look.
Then I take large doses of anti-nausea drugs for 2 days. My head feels like it's full of cotton during these days. My Dr told me not to even try reading anything during these days because my attention span cannot handle it.
On days when I have just radiation, I have a loving group of friends who take turns driving me. They wait outside for me in the loading zone and drive me home. I'm usually in the hospital for 20 minutes. I'm so thankful for these friends. I get driven in a warm vehicle and can sleep on the way home.
Tomorrow I start round 3. I have chemo and radiation. So tonight I am praying for a good night sleep, so my body is ready for tomorrow. I also am hopeful that I won't be too sick to celebrate Christmas. I hope that God will bless our family with a good Christmas despite low energy and drugs. I hope I will have the strength to enjoy my family and be a part of the celebrations. I am learning to enjoy the present and not wish it away. I