Tuesday, October 30, 2012

What is chemo??

Before all this I didn’t really know what the difference between chemo and radiation was, it all just seemed like some nondescript, horrible stuff that I hoped I never had to go through. But the world keeps spinning, and it turns out chemo and radiation are two different things. I’m still not entirely clear on what radiation is, and I’m not sure I’ll even have to go through it, so I’m happy to just discuss chemo.

I actually took most of this from someone else. It is a great description; I have updated it to apply to me... but the template is pretty much someone else's. I guess on a blog it is not plagerism, right?

Chemotherapy is a treatment for cancer that involves an IV, a lazy boy recliner, and cookies. The lazy boys at the place I go are all brown and covered in fake leather. They are lined up against a wall with dividers between them, giving the same sort of fragile privacy that similar dividers provide in the ER or other really private places - like maybe the men's bathroom.

Each lazy boy has a phone next to it. This is in case you are super busy and need to make important phone calls whilst they are pumping you full of the drugs that will damn-near kill you. I don’t know anyone this busy.  Each chair is also equipped with it’s own television that gets poor reception of local stations. This is convenient if you are really nuts about daytime television and you wouldn’t miss your soaps for anything.

There are cookies. I don’t know where they get them, but they are awesome. Clearly the bakery keeps the best cookies for us cancer patients. They probably use a pound of butter in each cookie, but I mean, what do we care, right? What, is it going to give us cancer? Gimme one of those damn cookies, and put more butter in it next time.

The place that I receive these great cookies is a sub-section of a regular clinic. It is like the secret room that you never really want to enter. It is like that red button that the astronauts are told not to push, but you really wonder what is behind the door that holds those great cookies.

The rest of the cancer room is pretty sterile looking. The walls are painted with the soothing, tan color that they always use on those HGTV shows. The nurses sit at a big desk and talk to the patients. They smile a lot. They talk in quiet sweet voices - they must eat a lot of cookies.

When you come for your chemotherapy session, they first take your blood and send it off to “the lab,” which must be a place very, very far away, judging on the amount of time it takes for things to go and come back from it. You then have to wait for the far-away people at “the lab” to test your blood.

Then one of the nice looking nurses puts on what looks like a bomb-defusing suit to mix the chemicals. She wouldn't, for some odd reason, be in contact with any of the chemicals they are about to put into my body. The drugs are made and mixed exactly based on my height and weight that day. But based on how many cookies I eat or how much time it takes - this could really vary.

Meanwhile, you are still sitting in the lazy boy, watching your soaps and eating your butter cookies. The nurses hook up an IV to the port that was surgically implanted in your chest and give you huge amounts of “saline.” “Saline” is something that looks like water but is not but that makes you have to go to the bathroom a lot. Which then puts me to pass tby the tray with he cookies - again.

Before the drugs are fully mixed, another the nurse, puts several drugs through your IV. First, she puts in a steroid. This is to bolster your system before the other drugs destroy your system. Having the steroid is a lot like having a direct IV drip of pure, liquid caffeine. It is what I really wished for when I was in college... but now just gives me a really bad jittery feeling.

Then the chemo drugs come. Their are four different drugs that need to go into you before you can leave. The first one is colored like red Kool-Aid. It’s a little frightening to see the red liquid floating down the IV tube towards your body. You think, “OH GOD, here it comes!” And the nurse is looking at you, and you are looking at the nurse, and suddenly it seems like all the other patients are looking at you, and you are looking at them, and the red stuff is coming down the pipe, and the nurse is looking at you, and you can’t stop fidgeting, and the room is getting smaller, and it’s coming and it’s coming and it’s coming!!!!

But then it’s not so bad. It doesn’t feel like anything. One by one they put all the drugs into you and it doesn’t feel like anything. You might as well just watch your soap operas, because it’s not exciting. I bring my laptop or my iPad and watch movies and listen to music.
Then they give you a few shots that will, again, help fix the system that the drugs just screwed up. By this point you are pretty sick of being stuck with needles and you have had your fill of butter cookies. They take out the IV and they tell you to go home, that’s it.


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