Chemo

Chemotherapy. That’s poison. You have to pump poison into my body? That is the best drug you have now to make sure all the cancer is gone? Poison … can heal me? I have to have more surgery to have a port, a permanent IV port, inserted into my body. Why does the surgery for the port hurt worse than the lumpectomy did? When do I start chemo? Can I wait until after Christmas?
I don’t want to ruin Christmas for my kids.
January 4th.
Why is this the only treatment? Why isn’t there a cure for cancer? Are the pharmaceutical companies hiding the cure so they can continue to make money on chemo drugs? I walk slowly down the hall towards the larger chemo room, A room with recliners and TV’s attached to each recliner. I don’t want to be in the big room. In the big room, there is group fear I guess that is like group therapy only more desperate. In the big room there is commiseration, people shooting up chemo drugs, talking about dry mouth, where to find the best knit caps, what their last chemo was like, how long they were sick after it. “Cathleen, you could help comfort them,” the nurses tell me. I don’t want to. I want to be alone… alone with my fear…alone with my anxiety.
As I walk down the hall, I notice the meditation room on the right, an oasis on the way to the chemo room. I never go into the meditation room for fear it would mean all of my hope was gone but I am glad the room is there, I get peace and calm just by passing it on the way to the poison. The door to the chemo room is ahead of me. I have to be buzzed in. Why? Are they trying to keep people in or out? Out I guess. I don’t have to be buzzed out. I slowly reach my hand out towards the door. I hear the buzz. I don’t want to walk in. Do I have to? Why did today have to get here so fast? Will it hurt? Why is my husband so indifferent? Why isn’t he holding my hand? Is he scared or does he just not care?
It is 7:30 in the morning. I asked to be first. There are private rooms around the sides of the chemo room. Private rooms are on a first-come basis. I want to be alone. I don’t know what to expect. I didn’t ask. They would have told me if it was painful, right? A nurse greets me. Her name is Maria. She starts walking me towards the recliners. “Can I please have a private room?” I ask. She holds my hand and says I can be wherever I feel the most comfortable. The room is nice, recliner for me, a recliner for my caregiver, and a TV on the wall. Maria asks me to sit down. I have to have two different kinds of chemo. She begins the Cytoxan first. I watch as it moves down the clear IV tube into my port. I can’t take my eyes off of it. Maria tells me they are giving me some steroids to help with the nausea and I would be getting a prescription for Zofran to help with nausea at home. I am not really listening to her. I am watching as the clear poison makes its way towards me.
I glance out the window. There is a parking lot full of cars. Where are the people going. Are they going on with their lives while I am having chemo? My husband is reading a book and watching Fox News. Why isn’t he holding my hand? The poison is now in my body. I don’t feel different yet. I’m not nauseous yet. Why is this happening to me? What if I die? Who will love my kids if I die? Will there be anyone to remind them how much I loved them? I sit there in silence. On the outside I’m still. On the inside I’m screaming, I’m scared and I’m defeated. I am holding a book. I can’t read. I can’t pretend this is a normal day. I don’t remember how long it took for the chemo bag to empty. I thought both drugs would be in the same bag. Maria came back in to remove the IV bag. She said she would be back with the Adriamycin. I didn’t understand that there was a difference. She came back with a huge syringe. It was bright red. It looked like death, bright red, poison that could eat away my skin if it got on me. I asked her why she wasn’t going to hook it up like the Cytoxan. She had to manually, slowly administer the Adriamycin. I watched her for a few minutes. She sat beside me, with the poison. I had to look away. I looked at my husband, across the room. He looked up and said, “What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing,” I choked out. I laid my head back and looked out the window. Why am I crying? It doesn’t hurt. Why are the tears rolling down my face? Normally, I would have been chastising myself for crying. Today…in the cancer center…in the chemo room…in the recliner…I let the tears flow. They flowed with fear. Fear for my own life. Fear for my children.
I silently let the tears flow. I didn’t want to be noticed. I cried. After a few minutes I noticed Maria. She had stopped administering the chemo. I looked up at her face. She was crying with me. She held my hand and told me to let her know when I wanted her to begin again. I waited. There were no more tears – for now. Maria smiled at me and finished her work. The cancer center was such a scary place but people like Maria eased the fear. As she finished
Samantha came running into the room. She took off from school to come check on me. She took one look at my face and hugged me. She squeezed herself into the recliner with me.
Another thing they don’t tell you – when you go to the bathroom after having Adriamycin – you pee red.

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