One, Two… Jab?

It was mid-afternoon on Monday, August 12 when I got home. I felt unstable, uncertain about everything and happy and scared to be at home. My mother met us here; we’d arranged that she would stay with me during the coming week so Ariel could go back to work.

He dropped me home and on unsteady feet, I slowly walked through the rooms of my house, seeing all my stuff, grateful I was seeing it all again and yet it was like I was seeing them for the first time. He helped me down the few steps to the patio and set mom and me up in front of the garden, which looked thriving and neglected at the same time. I was armed with my little wash basin “sick” pail, a glass of water and my crossword puzzle book. I sat taking it all in when suddenly I felt sick and began retching. No, not in front of my mother! Pop a Zofran and wait it out. That wave dissipated and when it seemed safe, Ariel left for the drugstore to pick up my Neupogen shots, which I would get for the next 7 days.

We tried to find some glimmer of humor through the many weeks of my treatment/recovery and this story is one of Ariel’s favorites. The pharmacist asked him if he’d ever given shots before and/or if he had other supplies. He doesn’t quite recall how that conversation went because he was in a daze and just wanted to get what he went for and get back home.

After he arrived home, back on the patio, he found he’d brought home a box of single use vials of Neupogen, not the pre-filled syringes he’d expected he’d be getting. He called the pharmacist only to find out that was the only form available and was told our doctor needed to call in a prescription for the syringes. Already shaken, he called Dr. David who himself was surprised about the syringes but assured Ariel he’d called in the order. He sensed Ariel’s nervousness about the whole thing and said he had confidence he’d be able to administer the shots and to further ease Ariel’s apprehension, he told him if we ran into trouble with the shots, we could go over there (on a daily basis if need be) and a nurse would come down to the parking lot to inject me.

With his confidence renewed. Ariel drove back to the drugstore and the pharmacist took his time, carefully explaining exactly how to load the syringe and remove the air bubbles.

For Cubans, Tuesday the 13 th is like our Friday the 13 th and he kept telling himself not to be “Cuban” about what was to come over the next several days.

Tuesday morning came and I awoke after a reasonable night’s sleep, still propped up with my pillows and it was Ariel’s maiden voyage as shot giver. He said it really wasn’t the loading but actually giving me the shot that had him all jumbled with nerves. I heard him fidgeting in the bathroom and tried to imagine the steps he was performing, equating different sounds like the crinkling of cellophane and that soft flick of a flap of cardboard with where he was in his preparation. What I was listening for really was a thud on the floor, which would have been him collapsing from nerves and then where would we be?

He was taking quite a while and I found out later why. It was just the comical story we both needed to break the tension of that first morning. He took the safety off the syringe and plunged it into the little bottle, ready to syphon up the Neupogen but the needled wouldn’t penetrate and he tried twice, three times to jam that needle through the stopper and the needle was bending under the pressure and he was breaking out into a panicky sweat.

He suddenly remembered seeing little dime size discs dotting the otherwise immaculate floors of the hospital and realized those were caps. He had to remove the harder outer cap first to expose the softer rubbery stopper and loaded up a brand new unbent syringe, tapped the bubbles out and came into the room to give me my shot with renewed determination and without a second thought and quite frankly, it went smoothly. I remember I hardly felt it. The remaining shots were given with the same confident authority and all we had to do was let the Neupogen do its work; rejuvenate my white blood cells too boost my immune system.

I also had to endure a 5 day course of Prednisone. I needed 100mg of it to counteract the fatiguing aspect of the chemotherapy and it was broken up into 5-20mg doses. I hated those pills because they dissolved very fast and tasted like gasoline or acid… well, something that has no business being in your mouth. I think it was during the second course of chemo that I thought of taking each pill in a spoonful of yogurt so it could easily glide down my throat and unless I had the pill positioned wrong it usually worked like a charm.

The cure was underway and I was at its mercy.

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