Chemotherapy #1. Aftermath!

Chemo number one was in the books and Saturday morning began without incident. Today, though, was a new treat. Not only was I going to have my second visitor, Brudder #3 (my cousin Ray and another friend, Diane were my first earlier in the week), it was also the first of the series of my Neupogen shots.

Let me tell you a little secret about Ariel before I begin. Much like I used to be when it came to eye related things, ie. when I couldn’t even see drops being put into someone’s eyes or contact lense commercials or eyes being in jeopardy in a horror flick (well, that’s still gross) thanks to a movie they showed in metal shop when I was in Junior High (that’s right, Junior High, not Middle School…what’s that?…sheesh!) where a shard of metal went flying off a lathe into the operator’s eye and the ensuing processes taken to remove it, well... Ariel can’t see a needle penetrating someone’s skin; not on TV and certainly not in real life. Well, real life was about to shake him up just a wee bit more in sort of the same way a mother can roll a Volkswagen off her baby.

Anita had come to give me my shot and was giving Ariel a visual tutorial on how to do it. I was waiting for him to pass out flat across my aching carcass but he held it together. First make sure no air bubbles are in the syringe. Pinch some skin on the back of his arm, insert the needle and push the plunger. Simple. And I didn’t see any sweat break out on his brow.

I remember Niki stopped in to say hello, but she was working in a different area that Saturday and that would be the last time I’d get to see her… for a few months anyway, but that’s still to come.

#3 arrived and we visited for some time and while he was there, Ariel took a quick jaunt home, again to shower and gather the mail and was back lickety split and then the three of us had lunch and I think I had one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten in my entire life that day. It was a chicken salad BLT. What a day to be alive; my cancer was being eradicated and this sandwich was like manna from Heaven.

And then it hit me. Before I could finish one half of that sandwich, a wave of nausea swept over me like the Devil’s broom. The effects of the Chemo had caught up with me and I was armed with my bucket, the little wash tub from the goodie pack filled with personal essentials that greeted me upon my arrival. It would be my constant companion for the months to come. If there’s one thing I hate is being sick and being sick in front of someone else, regardless that in this instance it was out of my control is even worse. I dealt with the pain as best I could, I suffered being poked and prodded and my pelvic bone being drilled into but the mere thought of vomiting was a greater fear. I’d rather humiliate myself in any other way and I wouldn’t be half as self conscious. It’s a phobia, I’m sure.. That, and spiders, and don’t get me started with that topic!

But a little miracle pill called Zofran would prove to be one of my best friends over the next 18 weeks. Within ten minutes of taking it, the feeling of nausea subsided and sometimes I’d get daring and eat. Other times I’d not want to jinx it and just be satisfied with my tummy feeling more at ease. Of course, the more of those I needed to take “wrist band, please” and the more Dilaudid I had to take for the pain “wrist band, please”, the more constipated I got and the nurses were right there with the Miralax “wrist band, please” and the Colace “wrist band, please” to help keep things moving. Wrist band, please!

18 weeks. Written out it doesn’t seem like a long time. But time began to stand still. Each day sometimes felt like 18 weeks.

This cat and mouse game with the onset of nausea continued for the remainder of my stay and beyond and I was scheduled to be released on Monday, if all the stars aligned and my numbers satisfied all the doctors involved, especially Dr. Mambo, the nephrologist. Dr. David sent a prescription to the drug store for a supply of Neupogen so Ariel could finish that dosage once we were home. Someone, the nurse Anita, no doubt, told Ariel the syringes came pre-filled so all he had to do was pinch and poke so that was one facet to pushing over his Volkswagen he didn’t have to worry about.

I was released on Monday, August 12, which, if you recall, was the proposed date, a lifetime ago, when I originally supposed to have my biopsy done and here I was leaving the hospital, biopsied, swollen and nauseous with one round of chemotherapy (of six) under my belt. Before I left the room, the head oncology unit nurse came to visit me to ask how my stay was. I could not find enough adjectives to tell her that everyone made my stay as pleasant as possible, right down to the guy who swept the floors. And really not wanting to discount anyone, I had to tell her the truth that Niki was by far my favorite nurse. It turns out, this head nurse, whose first name was similar to a current singing pop star told me that Niki was named “Nurse of the Year for the entire hospital” and she was glad I felt that way about her.

As they wheeled me out and I passed some of the nurses and aides in the corridor who had been so caring and kind, I wept from the joy of leaving, remembering the lighter moments like when they made me get up and walk around to get my circulation going and me, trying to keep my hospital gown modestly gathered behind me and Niki blurting out “Did you poop or not?” when I was trying to be discreet about it.. Tears fell also in fear of leaving the comforting safety of the hospital, into the unknown neither Ariel nor I wanted to face. But face it we would…together.

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