Chemotherapy – Waiting for The Bomb To Go Off

At Cancer Center Thursday, started to sit down and noticed this. Guess my mind was on other things.

At Cancer Center Thursday, started to sit down and noticed this. Guess my mind was on other things.

So far, okay.

Probably the most feared word after hearing ‘cancer’ is the word ‘chemotherapy.’ That certainly had me more anxious (see photo above) than when I heard I had lymphoma.

I’m just 24 hours removed from my six-hour treatment Thursday. And, the oncology nurse said the second or third day would be the real test. Some of the reaction is easy to describe and some is not. I certainly left the place feeling a bit ‘toxic,’ for a lack of better words.

A small piece of the Manuscript.

A small piece of the Manuscript.

This list of reactions, side effects, cautions, and ‘scare the crap out of you’ is longer than Jack Kerouac’s famous manuscript.

Suffice it to say that nausea, all the fun that comes with that, is the most common reaction. So far, being Friday, I’ve had mild nausea but nothing violent or debilitating. I awoke at 2:30 a.m. and felt an official “aah-oo,” got up and took my first anti-nausea medication. It seemed to work. I have had a very mild headache, and my mouth has been a tad clammy since completing the day-one treatment.

My oncology nurse, Lori, is a rock star. Before the first treatment started she talked me through everything using printed materials as her guide. When she got to the “hair loss” section she stopped and asked, “Do you just want me to be straight with you?” I assured her that was the way I like things. (Duh, for those of you who know me.)

“Well, you’ll go bald. You start losing hair in 2-3 weeks and by six weeks you’ll be bald.” – isn’t honesty grand?

Hmm …. there’s a visual. I took my oncologists advice last week and got my hair cut short. It’s hair .. once gone, it probably won’t be back until late fall and after chemo has run it’s course, I’m in full remission, and all is well in the world. It’s just hair besides I rock a baseball cap.

Okay, in first post I said I wouldn’t get into technical stuff – and won’t – but will add some things I find rather interesting along the way. My treatment is four chemo drugs – Ritoxan, Cytoxan, Adriamycin, and Vincristine – there for those of you who care, want to compare, or like tongue twisters.

The interesting thing was learning I had to return today (Friday) for an immunity shot. The nurse again, “Oh yea, chemo pretty much crashes your immunity system in 24 hours.” That got my attention – as well as her comment that it’s about a $9,000 shot. You read that right. Fortunately, a combination of health insurance and a pharmaceutical reimbursement program – I pay $25.

As I write this, about 24 hours after completion of first treatment, I feel pretty good. I have had the two primary oncology nurses suggest two forecasts. My regular nurse said look out for Saturday. The $9,000 injection nurse today said, “You may be one of those who get through the first treatment easily – but then as you wear down you could have more trouble.

Therefore kids, “waiting for the bomb to go off!”

I may never find the right words for all the kindness that has been shared in these few hours. I am the college newspaper advisor for the small college where I work in communications and marketing. It’s one of my biggest joys. I did spend 22 years in the newspaper business as are reporter, editor, publisher, then 4 years at the state’s largest newspaper, The Indianapolis Star.

Flag of today's student newspaper.

Flag of today’s student newspaper.

It’s so rewarding to see these young men come in as freshman and volunteer to be a part of our award-winning weekly newspaper. Then to watch them grow into young men who understand leadership and ‘doing things the right way.’

A couple of the guys knew what I was undertaking but most did not. The paper editor wanted to do something in today’s final school year edition. That’s the photo here. It was one of the most touching things anyone has ever done for me.

Not a lot of appetite today, going to eat baked pork and mashed potatoes – very digestible foods and see what the next 24 hours brings.

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About Howard

After most of my career in the newspaper business I joined higher education, working in Public Affairs. I write mostly about value wine. I have now taken early retirement and work part-time in a small boutique, retail wine shop in Indianapolis
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