Air Cancer Flight 102 embarked on its new schedule during January: three chemo-therapy sessions, one week apart, followed by a week off was the posted schedule. Because there would only be one
poison drug administered, together with the usual boat-load of steroids, I was told that the flights sessions would be much shorter.
So, yours truly fastened her seatbelt on Wednesday, January 25, for session one, and, sure enough, we were out of there after less than two hours. The usual cadre of Infusion Suite Nurse Angels (N.A.’s) was on hand. Those who didn’t know about my
Alien lymph-node and new-tissue growth and who hadn’t heard that I’d be back were surprised to see me, but all greeted me warmly. It was a wonderful reunion!
Having received the usual pre-chemo “education” about the possible side effects of our new drug-of-choice, Gemzar, we went home with our antenna in the “up” position, prepared to deal with whatever aches, pains, nausea, vomiting, fevers, etc. came our way.
On Wednesday evening, post-chemo, sleep escaped us, as usual, due to the euphoric effects of the Dexamethasone racing through our blood stream like a world-class cyclist zooming down the Champs Elysées toward the finish line.
Thursday morning, after a brief cat nap, we did a full-body assessment to check for side effects. Nothing. Friday: nothing. Saturday: nothing. We began to panic, expecting that the side effects would hit us with a triple whammy and lay us low worse than ever before! By Saturday evening, when nothing untoward had happened, confusion had set in.
Now, mind you, when I say “no” side effects, I’m leaving out one: after the
doping steroids wore off, I was sleeping pretty much around the clock. Our daily routine went something like this: 7 AM – wake up, potty, breakfast, computer. 8 AM – nap. 10 AM – wake up, potty, computer, lunch. 12 Noon – nap. 2 PM – wake up, shower, take garbage out, quick trip to grocery store, computer. 4 PM – nap. You get the picture….
In any case, believe me, it’s not that we wanted to have side effects; however, this total lack of side effects aside from sleeping like Methuselah was bizarre, compared with the side effects from our prior chemo
pois er, drugs of choice, Taxol and Carboplatin. Long-story short, during that entire week, there were no painful or unsettling side effects, whatsoever! Our growing lymph node and Alien new umbilical tissue continued to be aggravating, but that was about it.
At our pre-chemo visit with Wonder Doc, we recounted this tale. “It was a piece of cake, Doc!” He smiled a knowing smile and showed us the results of our complete blood count (CBC), which is one of the post-chemo blood tests done each time. Among other things, our white blood cell (WBC) a.k.a. leukocyte and neutrophil counts had dropped.
<<– Pic of one of our little neutrophils. Isn’t it cute?!?
“What these lowered counts mean,” W.D. explained, “is that you’re at greater risk for infection. So, no hugging, no kissing, no intimate contact with anyone that has an infectious disease, no group meetings, no church, no contact with snakes/lizards/turtles, no pitching hay, no rolling in leaves, and no spelunking. Also, you can’t drink unpasteurized milk and you can’t eat raw seafood. Other than that, you can carry on your usual routine, and we’ll check your WBC again next week! Any questions?”
I, of course, reacted with my usual calm, cool demeanor and headed off toward chemo-land for Week Two of Gemzar. After insertion of the usual ginormous needle in my itsy-bitsy, delicate vein by one of the Nurses Carrie/Carei (remember, among the Nurse Angels there are two hot blondes who share the same name), I contemplated my life with no hugs from my grandchildren and no spelunking. I was prepared to sacrifice unpasteurized milk and raw seafood with only a few pangs of regret, but … no spelunking?!? Nothing had prepared me for this! I felt myself slipping into a deep, blue funk….
After the Gemzar had drip-drip-dripped its evil self into my veins, my N.A. instructed me to call in the morning to see if I would be receiving Week Three of Gemzar. When I made the call, Carrie answered. I identified myself and asked her if I should come in, with which she exploded into raucous laughter.
“Do you know what your WBC is?!?!”
“Um, no. That’s why I’m calling….”
Hah! We’ve got it down to 1.5! That’ll teach you! Well, it’s down to 1.5. No chemo for you this week. Just come in for labs again next Tuesday. Ok?”
So, with a heavy heart, I was relegated to No-Chemo-Land for the following week, and I went about my usual routine, taking extra care to avoid hugging my grandchildren, spelunking, and drinking unpasteurized milk. By lab time the next week, my spunky WBC’s had regenerated to a whopping 3.8 and I was deemed prepared for take-off again the next day.
Gemzar infusion took place again last week and again, no side effects except for sleeping 16 hours out of 24 some days. We actually felt better this week than we have in a long time! There were 5 days out of 7 when we could say that we felt … good! (We’d almost forgotten what that feels like!)
Yesterday, we presented ourselves for pre-chemo blood work and we were greeted by N.A. Ann. Have I mentioned Ann before? Perhaps not. Ann’s a cute, l’il transplant from Texas who joined the Infusion Suite Gang about mid-way through the Taxol-Carboplatin regime. In addition to sharing the one-stick-wonder skills of the Carrie/Careis, Ann spends enormous amounts of money on earrings, and she loves to laugh. She has a
evil and demonic wonderful sense of humor!
Yesterday, Ann was elected to draw my pre-chemo blood and greeted me warmly at the door: “Come on in! I have a needle with your name on it!”
Ah, yes. The true spirit of Martin Memorial Health Systems shines through at the Robert and Carol Weissman Cancer Center. There truly is Hope
and a giant needle at Every Turn!