When you are about to undergo chemotherapy, you will hear horror stories about the side effects. The worst, for me, was about a man who, when the chemo took his hair, it included his nose hair, and so when his nose ran there was nothing to stem the tide.
That hasn’t happened. Nor has nausea, which is apparently the biggest side effect, because my doctor prescribed three nausea pills. I haven’t even opened the bottles, though, for my first three-day session has left me feeling fine. The nausea could come next time, but I remain optimistic.
Other effects? I lost a little sleep, but then regained it. My digestive system went awry, but medicine fixed that. My mouth sores were only minor, erased by baking soda. A few leg cramps were probably the result of dehydration, which was easy to reverse.
You can’t listen to all those stories, anyway, because each case is different. Cancer is scary; the treatment doesn’t have to be. Listen to my story instead.
I was lucky in that I didn’t have time to ponder the upcoming chemo.
At my quarterly exam on a Wednesday, we found out that, after four years of watchful waiting, my leukemia suddenly needed treatment.
Two days later, a CT scan checked my lymph nodes, and three days after that, I was sedated and fitted with a port in my chest so they wouldn’t have to stab my arms each time. (I had never heard of such a port, and now I had one.)
By Tuesday – only six days after the exam – I was taking chemo.
It was a long, brutal day, friends: I was forced to sit or lie back in a soft recliner with my feet up, a cushy pillow behind my head, a blanket across my body after the chemicals cooled me down while flowing from the IV bag through the port to my bloodstream.
I read on my Kindle. Family and friends visited. Staffers answered my endless questions, sometimes more than once.
A kitchenette held water, coffee, nutritional drinks and snacks. (Peanut butter is very popular with chemo patients.) Knitted hats had been donated for anyone who lost hair and felt chilly.
All around the big treatment room, other patients were being similarly tortured. Some picnicked with friends. Others listened to music or read magazines. There were first-timers like me and old pros. All looked calm, confident that treatment would trump disease.
And then there was the real down side. A chemical that flowed into me to prevent nausea made me groggy and kept me from reading. I repeat: I was unable to read! I had to nap instead. That, my friends, was the worst of my chemo.
Those three days were all geared toward my comfort. Nurses and the other staffers coddled me while I read in comfort. The IV bags hung on a stand next to me that I could unplug and roll to the bathroom, which came in handy. That was the first side effect I noticed, so maybe it’s a good place to end until next week.