Less Terrible

We’re three days out from my first round of chemo and I am upright, eating real food. I’ve been craving Chipotle and pizza and french fries and making it as far as a saltine cracker.

Tuesday was a big day. First port use, full diagnosis, and first round of chemo. It was all fairly painless but exhausting, and I don’t think I’ve been awake past 7:30pm since.

It’s worth stating here that I love my oncologist. She walked us through every one of my last tests, showed me the PET scan, drew out diagrams and wrote down definitions. I was most nervous about this part because if I was stage 4 I was going to have a much rougher road ahead (and more bone marrow biopsies and burning buildings). Staging for lymphoma means the following:

Stage 1: The cancer is on one side of your body, above your diaphragm.
Stage 2: The cancer is on both sides of your body, above your diaphragm.
Stage 3: The cancer is on both sides of your body, above and below your diaphragm.
Stage 4: The cancer has spread throughout your body and/or is in your bone marrow.

I was diagnosed as stage 2B (B = has side effects like fevers and night sweats). This means fewer treatments and a prognosis of being completely curable. This also means I might miss out on some of the more horrible long-term chemo side effects. In short, the best news we could have asked for.

For my first round of chemo I got a private room, which was appreciated. The actual chemo infusion was completely painless. You get 30 minutes of anti-nausea medicines, then the chemo meds. We started with a syringe of a bright red liquid that looked ominous and has the nickname “The Red Devil”. I have a lot of respect for this because it actually sounds better than “Syringe of Bright Red Toxic Poison”. Later, I gave my husband the side eye and whispered “I have the devil in me” to really intensify our experience.

The full infusion (4 different drugs) takes about two hours. During this time you are aware of every sensation in your body because you are trying to figure out, for instance, if that tingling in your leg is a bad reaction to the chemo or your skinny jeans (stretch jeans, but still a bad choice).

After the infusion, we went home and waited. They have you read about every side effect possible before you start chemo and so while you might feel fine, it feels eerily like the calm before the storm (because it is). After about two hours the nausea set in.

The past two days have been spent mostly in bed, thinking about food while trying to not think about food. My poor husband, trying to keep up with what I can and cannot stand the thought of. The anti-nausea meds I have help, but they also cause dizziness and blurry vision.

My mom came and spent the day helping get the house “chemo friendly”. Even common germs can be life threatening for me now, so we’re all adjusting to more hand washing, anti-bac scattered around, no shoes in the house, face masks if the boys have a cough. I’m not supposed to come into contact with cleaning supplies, making the upkeep even tougher on my family. Cancer really, really does suck.

People don’t suck, though. The bright spot in all of this has been the deliveries, phone calls, messages, and meals coming our way. Each night we’ve gathered around that day’s mail and been overwhelmed with the things people have taken the time to send our way. My first two real meals since chemo have been meal train deliveries that were nothing short of miraculous. Thank you all for making this impressively less terrible.

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