The first chemo treatment took place on New Year's Eve, 2008. It lasted 13 hours because the drip was deliberately slow to see how I would handle it. I did fine until my dear husband insisted I come home later that day because he was afraid of me being in the hospital where there were so many diseases running around. Not his words, mine. I think he just wanted me around because I'd been in hospital for 9 days already.
I sincerely doubt you can catch cancer in a hospital, but I went home.
Next morning saw me puking into the toilet.
Next day, I got some sort of meds that prevented that from happening again. As I recall, they were extremely expensive, as were all the meds I had to take. God granted us good insurance through my husband's job.
What followed were many, many trips to doctors. Even dentists. The pharmacists were so lovely and always had my meds ready for whoever picked them up. The doctors never made me wait. The nurses who installed the chemo drugs into the port on my chest were so kind and considerate, always. My doctors were wonderful.
But I wanted to write this about what and who really saw me through this ordeal. Six months of intensive poisons pumped through my body.
I smelled bad. I tasted nothing. (Chocolate was dirt to my tastebuds.) Prednisone made me catch on fire. My hair, my long hair, came out in clumps and I cried more over that than how sick I felt. Husband eventually shaved my head and I cried some more. How could he sleep in the same bed with this wretched woman?
He did. He was still working, yet he came home to feed me and sort of keep things tidy. My younger daughter cooked and waited on me. They brought me cold watermelon chunks and tried different things I might be able to eat.
I lost 70 pounds.
I was on my way to wraithdom.
Older daughter was still in college. I think she was so afraid of me that she didn't come home much, but that was okay. I understood her personality isn't the same as her sister's.
My mother and brother came to see me, but frankly, I didn't want their germs. Brother brought his dog to see me since I wanted to see another living thing. Brother #1 called frequently, as I remember. They were supposed to. They were family!
But you know what I think helped me most?
I had visitors, plenty of them.
They brought food. They offered to help. They tolerated my condition and they prayed for me.
That may have been what helped most.
I could never thank them enough. I never will be able to.
After my last chemo, when the cancer was not showing, they threw me a party.
You reading this cannot possibly know how very much all their good wishes meant to me. Who was I? I wasn't anyone special. I was their friend and, thank God, they were mine.
As the anniversary rolled around this year, 10 years have passed from all that horror. Let me tell you, readers, it was horror! When I dwell on what happened, when I think of the body parts that changed because of the life-saving poisons, I get melancholy. I try to put it out of my mind, but can't. Not really.
Look. If you know someone who is sick, do something. Send notes if they won't see you. Call. Ask if there is anything you can do to help out. Make food for the family. (Pauline, you are the best!) Walk their dog, take them to treatments, listen to the doctors for them if you can because someone on chemo or any heavy meds often gets blurry in the mind.
Don't expect anything from the sick person, but don't stop praying.
Your kindness may just save a life.
Top: Halloween 2009. Hair coming in.
Right: Good buddy Sally who wrote a song for me and Nurse Practitioner Jennifer who found the cancer, both times.
Left: At the remission party. The lady in red has since died of some horrid cancer. The woman in pink brought me liquid protein to boost my depleted stores. Woman in black came all the way from PA to celebrate. Man in back is currently in nursing home.
Me, Halloween, year after it was all over. Note return of the hair.