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Just the FAC, ma'am.

A co-worker of mine starts chemotherapy for breast cancer today.

So I’m having chemo flashbacks.

She’s 47 with two little girls.

I was 27 with two little years of marriage to my name. I didn’t think I’d live to see many more.

I was alone at the treatment. I don’t remember why. Hubby at work … friend dropped me off … who came to get me later? Do you know what a luxury it is to not remember some of the details? It means so much time has passed that those bright shiny needle-sharp memories have dimmed and dulled.

I’ll tell you what remains in the Cancer Impressions Vault:

My drug regimen was FAC: 5FU (which sounds like a cyber-insult), Adriamycin (the red devil of chemo drugs), and Cytoxan (which sounds like weed killer).

I remember settling into a comfy chair with a small desk attached to it. They have to make the chairs comfy … because it takes so damn long to get chemo. The desk was in case you felt like penning some cheery missives, I suppose. I remember the nurse bustling around. She seemed nervous. Why? Didn’t she hand out chemo every day? Maybe she wasn’t used to seeing 27-year-olds in the comfy chairs. She started my IV.

I plugged in my Walkman … in those days a bulky cassette tape player. I had a happy little relaxation tape to listen to, personally recorded for me by a hypno-therapist I had visited. It was created basically to keep me from freaking completely out during the treatments. I closed my eyes and listened to the suggestions about peace and light and healing medicine.

Next thing I knew, someone was touching my arm to get my attention. It was a very young, very short pharmacist guy. I turned off my Walkman.

“I see you’ve started the hydrating fluids,” he said. “Before the nurse administers the chemo drugs, I’ll need to go over this release form with you.” He looked more nervous about the treatment than I did.

He proceeded to describe every single bad thing that could possibly happen to me, including death, if I allowed them to give me these drugs that were meant to save my life. Then he said, “Sign here.”

I signed.

I turned my Walkman back on.

The soothing voice picked up right where it left off … but in my head all I heard was nausea, vomiting, dehydration, damage to the heart, collapsed veins, anaphylactic shock, tissue damage from missing the vein during injections …

I turned off the now-useless relaxation tape. My heart pounded and my lips quivered for the entire treatment.

A beautiful older woman wearing a turban smiled at me as I was wheeled out of the treatment room. I saw that she had one fairly large breast, and a shocking flatness where the other breast should be. My sister. Radiating life. Yes, the breast is gone. But I. Am. Here.

When I got home, I was okay for a few hours, just tired. Then I started puking. Every half hour all night long.

I’ve often wondered about that relaxation tape. What if the pharmacist had frightened the be-jeezus out of me and collected my shaky signature at my previous doctor’s appointment? Then I could have listened to my happy healing messages in peace during the treatment. Maybe I would have puked less later on. But if you tell someone who is in a suggestible state to expect nausea, vomiting, etc. – then won’t she go ahead and manifest it?

I’m just saying.

Here’s the happy ending!

I’m still here fifteen years later, with the same husband (what a good guy!), and a son I never knew I would get to have.

Even as I post this, my co-worker’s chemo appointment has begun.

I hope one day she’s looking back from a distance, marveling at how the vivid details have faded.

Comments

laurakemp
Oct. 13th, 2005 03:01 pm (UTC)
hugs
My husband was treated (chemo and radiation) for prostate cancer (almost) two years ago. So far so good. I will breathe a sigh of relief at five years. I'm so glad you are a survivor. Hugs to your co-worker.
lkmadigan
Oct. 13th, 2005 04:35 pm (UTC)
Re: hugs
Thank you.

And I'm glad your husband has celebrated TWO YEARS as a survivor!