I was so hopeful that round 5 of chemo would go better than the previous rounds. I thought I was prepared. I had met with my doctor the week before and told him of my concerns about a repeat of my allergic reactions to the Rituxan chemo drug and to the Benadryl. He assured me he would give instructions to the chemo nurse who he would make sure had the Ativan at the ready just in case I needed it. He was doubtful that I would have another reaction to the Rituxan – he claimed most people’s body got used to it after the first chemo. But, not my body, so far at least. I wanted to believe he was right and this time, I would sail through the chemo infusion. Alas, my hopes were dashed.
I settled into the chemo chair, feeling pretty good. They had put me in my favorite chair by the window, where I could look out at the sky or watch the cars go by on the busy street. It was a lovely sun-filled morning and I lifted up a prayer that all would go well. I gathered all my things about me as I waited for the nurse to come connect my port to deliver the chemo. Before leaving the house, I had slathered my port with Lidocaine gel and covered it with saran wrap – this numbs the skin above the port so that it doesn’t hurt as much when they puncture it to connect the tubes. When he arrived the nurse praised my liberal use of the gel saying most patients don’t use enough. “Are you kidding?” I chuckled, “I learned that lesson the first time I came in for infusion and I’ll not make that mistake twice.” He started feeling around my port and looked a little puzzled, I could see that there was something he needed to tell me but didn’t want to because he sort of hemmed and hawed and then he said, “This is really rare, but sometimes, the port can flip over and I’m afraid that is what has happened to your port, it’s flipped.” What!! My heart skipped a beat and my eyes nearly popped out of my head. What!! So much for my hopes of a good day. “Don’t worry,” he said, “I’ll call upstairs and see if one of the doctors can come down and try to flip it back over right side up.”
He left to go call the doctor and questions started running through my mind at lightening speed. Is this going to hurt? Are they going to numb the area? What if he can’t get it flipped? Will I be able to get my chemo and what happens if I can’t? I was frantic on the inside but trying to be calm on the outside. A few minutes later the nurse comes back with good news, my doctor’s partner, whom I have never seen before, will come down and flip the port; he assures me this doctor knows his stuff about flipping ports. This made me feel a little better.
The doctor’s assistant was the first to arrive, reassuring me that he would be along in just a minute. I had to do a double take when I saw the man walking up behind her, he had thick, long, dark hair that seemed to stand out around his head and a long beard that matched it, multi-colored print tennis shoes on his feet and fingernail polish on his nails. He looked like someone out of a movie scene that just might be the life of the party. But, he didn’t look like a doctor, which freaked me out! He WAS the doctor, though, and I remembered I had heard that he dressed in costumes to keep his patients at ease. “Okay then,” I thought to myself, “trust this doctor.” When he started poking around with the port I couldn’t even look, and I was sure that there would be a great deal of pain, but, within a minute or two he had flipped the port and gone on his merry way. Praise God for that!
At first, I was hoping against hope that I wouldn’t have a reaction to the Rituxan, but, I did and then when I was given the Benadryl, I had a reaction to that too. Thankfully, the doctor had instructed the nurse to give me Ativan as soon as it was needed, which he did, and I was able to rest comfortably for the rest of the hours of infusion. Five chemo sessions down and one more to go, whew!
With everything I’ve been obsessing about and everything my body has been going through during these chemo treatments, I haven’t even had time to think about my mortality or what happens next. I suppose that is a good thing. That will come after the treatments, I’m sure, beginning with the Pet Scan to see if the chemo has worked for me. God has given me the grace to learn to deal with one thing at a time, which lessens my worries about all those other things and people in my life that I was obsessing about before the cancer. Believe me, this has been a great blessing!
Speaking of blessings, my husband has stepped up to the plate big time. If you are reading my blog, you know that my garden is at the top of my list of my concerns since I can’t care for it like I normally do. Hubby has been working himself to a frazzle all month keeping up with not only his usual lawn work but with all those things that I used to do in the garden: pruning, weeding, spraying, trimming, etc It is way too much for one person but he is doing a good job. My son has also been helping when he comes on the weekends. They know how important my garden is to me, and their love for me shines through their work on my behalf. Having the love and support of family is so important when you are going through a debilitating illness. Their care and concern for me has bolstered my strength when it is flagging and lifted my spirits when I get depressed. I cannot imagine how difficult it must be for those individuals who do not have a network of supporters to help them. One of the things I will be taking away from my own experience with this journey is that I want to be an advocate and supporter for other cancer patients by volunteering at the cancer center when I am well again.
Even though I have only planted a portion of the flowers I usually plant in the spring, with all my husband has done and the flowers I’ve managed to plant, the gardens are flourishing. Those times I was out planting, even if it were just for an hour or two,were the happiest of times. The entire process of loosening the soil, mixing in the nutrients, tenderly moving the plant from its confinement of the small seed pot and placing it in a larger pot or in a spot in my garden bed is such a nurturing experience. I know I’ve said it before, but it makes me feel as if I’m helping God to make the world a more beautiful place. And, if I can feel such joy in the growing and nurturing of plants, how much more does God’s love for us unfold as He continues to create and uphold all the people and living things in our universe? I ponder these things as I plant and feel God’s presence in those moments; it gives me great comfort.
There is the beginning of anticipation stirring in my heart as the weeks move forward to the time when chemo treatment will be over. Nothing has changed, things haven’t gotten any better, but I’m learning to deal with my issues better. For the most part, at least now I can pretty much anticipate what will happen to my body and when it will happen during the 21 days between each chemo treatment. I know what medicines to take for each ailment and what they will do to me and for me. So, I am not quite as frantic all the time as I used to be. This is another blessing that has come my way. As I write this I realize I’m in a good mood this morning! Woo Hoo! That is amazing!
I woke up at 4:00 a.m. this morning. In the past five nights, I’ve slept a grand total of 18 hours. Thanks for nothing, Prednisone! But, I’m not tired, yet. That will happen today, along with dehydration and exhaustion that will last until just before the next chemo. But, right now, this moment, I’m good. Praise God! When I feel bad in the next coming weeks, I’m going to drag myself up off the sofa, go outside and sit in my beautiful garden, watch my dogs chase squirrels, take it all in, count my blessings – and open my mind and heart to what God has to say to me. Of course, this reminds me of my mom’s favorite song, In The Garden – enjoy!