It’s the last night before chemo.
The last chemo eve. The last evening when I plan what to wear (a feminine button-down shirt so my plug is within stabbing range). The last routine of packing up my N.A.P. blanket, my three-ring Viking Chronicles binder, my questions and fears and expectations. The last chance for the beneficent poison to search out the most remote surviving cancer cell and wipe it out.
All considered, the chemo leg of this journey hasn’t been too bad, thank you, Lord. Here are the nasties I’ve experienced so far–
- Chemo Friday. It’s like the flu, minus the fever, cough, and sore throat. It begins about 48 hours after Wednesday’s treatments, and lasts no more than 24 hours–hence, “chemo Friday.” One day of bone-wrenching aches, leaden fatigue, and a dopey, fuzzy, cognitive fog. Like I’ve had a brain-ectomy and filled the empty space with wet cotton. It’s draggy and no fun, but as a good friend says, “temporary is tolerable.” My day to loll in the recliner and watch DVDs.
- Bone pain from the Neulasta, a (no kidding) $10,000 shot that keeps my blood count from bottoming out. It’s given 24 hours after every chemo round, and prevents the infections that walloped so many chemo patients in the past, but the blood-making bone marrow really complains about all the extra work. The “toothache” pain in my hips, spine, and sternum is nasty, but a small price to pay for a healthy white blood cell count. Besides, it gives me a guilt-free opportunity to whinge, an indulgence I don’t frequently enjoy. “Jerry, honey…bring me the Tiger Balm…rub my back…bring me an Advil…buy me some shoes (not really)…
- A few days of my mouth tasting like chimpanzee sweat with salty metal shavings added. There’s just no better way to describe it. Oddly enough, I’ve lost my sweet tooth almost entirely. My new favorite guzzle is a big glass of club soda with the juice of a lime added. Weird.
- A canker sore. One. There are chemo patients who suffer intensely with drug-induced mouth sores, but (thanks, Lord, again) I had just the one after round #5. Most annoying, but it didn’t last long.
- OK, here’s the unladylike part. Completely undignified. The drugs they give to prevent nausea work very well, but they also could be called “never poop again” medicine. They shut off the digestive system down there. After round #1, when I concluded that constipation would have been a great Egyptian plague, I developed a battle plan that worked. It included dynamite. Thankfully, the algorithm hasn’t yet extended that far, but dang, I’m ready.
- Tingly and mildly burning feet. This is called chemo-induced neuropathy, and it’s a result of the chemo zapping the nerves. It goes away.
- The obvious hair thing. It comes back. But the courageous weeds that sprout on my shiny scalp between chemo treatments are all white. Yet another indignity of cancer–I must discover my natural hair color, which I haven’t seen in fifteen years. It’ll probably be dead rat gray.
Next up…the blessings that I’ve encountered along this chemo journey, which far outnumber the nasties.
“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” Romans 12:12