FIRST CHEMO TREATMENT

Wow, what a day! I got up bright and early, looking forward to the day and getting the lay of the infusion clinic where they would administer the Chemo for the next few months. I’ve been waiting for this day since I learned about the “mass” in my pelvic area. In my mind, the sooner the treatment begins, the sooner the cancer cells are destroyed, and my body will begin to heal.

So, my husband and I left early and arrived at the Cancer Center about 15 minutes ahead of time. We were taken to the infusion center where there are 34 comfortable recliners for cancer patients to get their infusions. I was put in recliner 18. It was a comfortable recliner. First, I got myself situated with all my stuff (Iphone, Ipad, & prayer material) set out around me within easy reach. Then, I covered myself with my mom’s favorite animal print throw she has used to cover herself for the last year of her life while I was caring for her. It brought back happy memories of our times together and gave me great comfort to know that something of my mom was here with me.

I had brought the Lidocaine cream that the doctor ordered for me, it is used to numb the area around the port so the needle stick for the Chemo doesn’t hurt. When I handed it to the nurse she said, “Oh, you were supposed to put that on 35-45 minutes before you got here, so that it has time to work.” She went on, “I don’t have time to wait that long, I have to access the port soon.” Looking at her with eyes as big as saucers, I said, “What, no one told me anything about putting it on early.” I guess she could tell I was freaked out because she graciously took the cream from me, put an ice pack on top of it and assured me it might just work and the “stick” wouldn’t be so bad. And, to my own amazement, I was feeling okay about it. My mother’s favorite prayer, the Serenity Prayer, runs through my mind at times like this, when there is nothing I can do to change a situation, “God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change…”. And the nurse was correct, it was not so bad.

Nurse Katie explained to me that they start by giving Benadryl because it lessens any allergic reactions from the Immunotherapy drug. She told me it would probably make me sleep. No WAY, I was not going to sleep through THIS day. I wanted to be aware of everything they were doing to me. Crazy as it seems, I wanted to remember this memorable day. So, I told her there was no way I was going to go to sleep. She smiled at me as if to say, “You poor silly woman, you don’t have a chance of staying awake” But, stay awake I did. Though it was not easy. When she pushed that Benadryl into the port I could feel it numbing my body and fogging my brain; even my lips didn’t move the way I wanted them to when I spoke. But, I didn’t go to sleep. I fought it and I won! So there you have it, nurse Katie, I WON.

Next came a combination of Prednisone and other stuff that would help to lessen the side effects of the Chemo drugs. I welcomed that drug with open arms, no problem.

Just then my best friend, Althea, and her husband walked in. Oh my gosh, I was so surprised and happy to see her. Her support through this health crisis has been indispensable to me. We walk the same spiritual journey, sharing our beliefs, our faith in Jesus and His promises. To have a faith companion is priceless.

She walked in and gave me a hug and said, “We came to pray with you before your Chemo starts.” I was thrilled! Her husband had even brought a relic of St. Margaret Mary that was handed down to him from his great grandmother to pray with over me. He said the most beautiful prayer asking Jesus for my healing, while he placed the relic on my forehead. It was a blessed moment and it gave me great peace. I knew in my heart that God had sent my friends to me, with words of comfort and hearts full of compassion and love for me. I said a quick prayer in my heart, “Thank you, God, for this wonderful surprise on this special day.”

When I had my chemo class, I had been warned that some people have a reaction to Rituximab. One of those “some” people was me! When the nurse pushed the Rituximab through the port it didn’t take long for me to feel the “burn.” The soft tissue of my mouth, and throat began to feel tender, then sore, and then it began to burn. I called the nurse over and she immediately stopped the Rituximab and gave me more Benadryl. Almost instantly as the Benadryl went into the port my symptoms got better. The nurse assured me that this would probably only happen this once. Next time, I should not have a reaction; “the body adapts.,” she said. Well, I sure hope that is true in my case. The other two chemos in the R-CHOP regimen, when pushed through the port, felt cool as they entered my blood, and I had no reactions to those. Praise God for that! We were there at the center from 9:30 a.m.until 5:30 p.m.

My husband, as usual, would not leave my side, even though he had to sit on a hard chair for 8 hours. His presence is always a comfort to me because I know he will always see to my needs. It was a very long day, but it sure felt like a blessed day to me. One treatment down and 5 more to go. WooHoo!

Tomorrow I have to go back to the infusion center to get a shot of Neulasta, a drug given the day after Chemo treatment to help reduce the risk of infection by raising the white blood cell count. Since I’m going to be in town anyway, I am going to continue my ministry as a Spiritual Director and have two spiritual direction sessions in the afternoon. I am not going to let cancer interfere with my life any more than it has to. When I can do, I will do.

As I think about this cancer journey there is only one word that comes to mind – blessed. I feel blessed! I am getting so many emails, cards, books, statues, and prayers sent to me from friends, people at church, schoolmates, and nuns who are friends. I feel love and compassion through all these people God sends to comfort me with words of concern, hope, with prayers and with unselfish offers to drive me, or even clean my house and cook if I need it. I am enveloped in LOVE! How can I be fearful when I am lifted up so high in prayer that I feel as if I’m grasping Jesus’ hands. I know, were it possible and Jesus was still alive, any one of them would be willing to climb up on a roof, make a hole in it, and drop me down to Jesus for healing. (Mark 2:4 The Healing of the Paralytic).

How blessed am I, and humbled in the face of such compassion and love.

The Lord has secured me in His love and I know that as long as “I keep the LORD always before me; with him at my right hand, I shall never be shaken.”(Psalm 16:8)

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