By Paula Bianchi –
My husband comes in that morning expecting to find me as he left me the night before, but I was sitting on the edge of the bed with an empty bowl on my tray. I told him I felt so much better. I showed him my tray and reassured him that I was going home today. He just gives me a look like he’ll believe it when he sees it.
That was it. I pushed my bed table away and walked, like a woman on a mission, to the nurse’s station. There were three nurses behind the desk, and they were watching me approach them. When I reached the desk, I slapped my hand down on it and said, “I think I’ve been here long enough. Call the doctor and tell him I want to go home now.” I spun around and went back to my room.
By now I had figured out, I was the talk of the floor. The nurses were always so kind while the doctor practiced medicine on me. They knew the doctor screwed up with my case. If only he would’ve took the time to look up my medication, he would’ve seen the terrible side effect of abruptly stopping this drug, and that’s besides the fact I waited eight days to finally find out I had cancer. The doctor kept me in the dark for far too long because even the nurse thought it had been long enough for me to have gotten the news before she asked me.
I stepped into my room and quickly changed into my clothes. It was 9:30am, when I glanced at the clock. My husband looked at me like I was crazy for thinking they were going to let me go home after puking my guts up all week. At 9:50am, a nurse comes in with my release papers ready to sign. Another nurse is standing with a wheel chair ready to take me down to our car. By 10:00am, we’re in the car heading for home.
My husband was unsure about how to care for me when we got home. I just knew I wanted spaghetti for dinner. Turned out to be a big mistake because I over ate and ended up throwing up again which freaked my husband out. He called the doctor because he didn’t know if it was starting all over again, but the doctor thought it was just from me over eating, and I would be fine. From then on, I just picked on fruits, mostly grapes, and ate light foods like soups, but my spaghetti dinner was so good.
Bright and early on Monday morning, my husband took me to see my therapist. I was in a lot of pain, but I didn’t care because I knew I really needed to see her after experiencing the worst week of my life. It had been a while since I’d seen her after she helped me get my molester out of my head.
We went over everything that happened to me because one of the hardest things, about making yourself better mentally, is to accept what’s out of your control. You can’t find a solution if you’re living in denial. She shared the biopsy report with me and explained everything, so I understood what I would experience while going through chemotherapy. It was a good visit leaving me feeling like I was more informed about what I was going to have to go through. She was very happy where the report stated, the doctor removed enough tissue and muscle from my abdomen with the mass giving it a clean, cancer free, margin. She felt confident that the doctor removed all the cancer with the mass.
When I left there, I still felt a little over whelmed. My logical side understood what was happening to me and why, but my inner child was freakin’ the hell out. It took a lot of effort to comfort the part of me that was so scared. I had to take care of ‘me’.
November was spent getting ready for chemo. I met with the Oncologist who was going to treat my cancer, and he sent me off with a to do list before my first treatment in December. First on the list, I had to see a surgeon to get a port put in. They’ll administer my chemo through the port instead of a vein on my arm. This turned out to be an ordeal too.
It was a simple surgery, but when I was finally allowed to remove the large bandage, they had covering my port, I broke down in tears. The port was in my left boob. The ones I had seen on my father and my friend were up higher. Even when I showed up for my first appointment for chemo, the nurse stated she’d never seen one put there before. I asked the surgeon why he put it there. He said it didn’t look like it was in my boob when I was on his table.
Two weeks before Christmas, I started my Chemotherapy treatment. This day would set the tone of my life for the next 6 months. It was my new, temporary, normal. The energy in the office was subdued. The women who worked there were nice, friendly, and full of empathy for the patients coming through there every day.
First, they did a blood work up to see where my numbers were before they started. Next they hooked me up to an IV, in my port, that was connected to a bag of chemo. When she turned it on, she injected some anti-nausea medicine into the line, so I wouldn’t get sick. I also had more at home just in case. She said it would take about an hour for the bag to drain and told me to call her if I needed anything.
I looked around the room at the other patients all hooked up to their bags of chemo waiting for it to slowly drip into them. I was full of empathy for them, and their energy started to suck me down into a negative place. I had to shake these thoughts. I opened my word search magazine and focused on that instead of the bad place my thoughts were taking me. If I got tired of that, I would read. Most of the time, I would talk with my husband or my friend, who brought me there.
At the end of the hour, the nurse came and removed the empty bag and took it away. When she came back, she had a little box shaped device that was a little bigger than a deck of cards. She told me it was full of medicine, chemo, and I had to wear it for three days. A tube attached to my port then into the device. She put a bandage on top of my port, so I couldn’t accidentally pull the tube out. The device was programed to administer the medicine throughout the day and night. She tied a small pouch around my waist and slipped the box in.
I have to say the little box was the worst part of my treatment. I couldn’t shower with it, and I could hear it every time it squeezed its medicine into me. It was such a head trip dealing with that three-day part of every treatment. It was hard to sleep because it became louder with the quiet of night. I went every 2 weeks for the drip and came home with my chemo device for three days, then go back to have it removed. Wait, then start all over again, for six months.
My hair loss was minimal because I was on low dose chemo, but I had deep empathy for the other patients around me as I watched them lose their hair. Over the six months of my treatment, I figured out which patients I could joke with and which ones wanted to be left alone. I tried to go in with a sunny disposition hoping it would rub off on others. Sometimes, I was met with glares of disapproval that I had the nerve to be so sunny when something so terrible was happening to me.
I counted down the days and couldn’t wait for it to be over. I had noticed, one day, some patients wearing gloves when they came in. I asked the nurse why they were wearing them. She said it was because their treatment gave them Neuropathy in their hands and feet which is nerve damage that may never go away. Your hands are always cold and tingly and it hurts to pick up anything cold or frozen. In May, on my second to the last visit, I got it in my hands, then, I got it in my feet after my last visit. I still have it to this day. Well, my hands got better because I can only feel it in the very tips of my fingers now, but my feet feel numb and tingly all the time. It feels like I’m wearing knee high socks from the numbness. I’ll have to take medication for it for the rest of my life, but I’ve been cancer free for 14yrs and counting. I think that makes it worth living with it.
I continued seeing my therapist the whole time I was receiving treatment, and I was grateful for her. Not only did she help me with my own inner dialog, but she helped me cope with my husband’s depression as well. We often forget the people around us who are also dealing with our sickness and how much it hurts them to see what we have to go through while dealing with our illness. Our caregivers are unsung heroes. Not only do they have to deal with what you’re going through, they also have to deal with us lashing out at them with negativity because of our frustration. I tried my best not to do that. I used my time in the shower to release any frustrations I had.
It wasn’t anybody’s fault I had cancer. If I didn’t plant those flowers for the reception, I would’ve never known I was sick. My cancer could’ve kept growing until it was stage 4 before I found it. The doctor thinks it had been growing in me for ten years already because of its size.
Now, a couple of years ago, my doctor ran a blood test looking for cancer markers and guess what she found. I have Lynch Syndrome. It’s a marker for colon cancer, uterine cancer and ovarian cancer, plus the biliary tract (the liver, gall bladder and bile ducts). I have to keep going to my check ups and let them run whatever tests they need to. If I stay on top of it, I’ll catch any new cancers in the beginning stages. I had to have a complete hysterectomy, so I eliminated the possibility of 2 so far. The last thing I’m left with is the fear of every time the doctors find something suspicious; I have to play the mind game of, “Do I have cancer again.”
Cancer was tough I’m not going to lie, and I had it mild compared to some of the other kinds of cancers out there. For those of you who are fighting cancer right now, I’m sending healing energy your way and praying you win your fight. Attitude is everything, and talking about what you’re going through with someone close or a therapist will help you get through it.
Take care and bye for now. Thanks for the visit. 😊