It’s my first day of chemo. I had slept fairly well and am waiting for Fleurette Grenier, one of my trusted Claremont friends, to collect me. She arrives with a couple of tater tots for breakfast as requested. I think I can get used to the ‘Princess’ status I’ve been asked to adopt.
After an uneventful drive, we arrive at the hospital in a timely manner, I pass through the Covid screening blockade, and head for registration. My first stop is to the access room to have an IV placed and labs drawn. They place an IV in my left arm and draw labs for my baseline levels. The labs that have been ordered include a CBC, a CMP, a hemogram, and a differential. All these tests decipher how my liver and kidneys are functioning, as well as determine my immunity levels and red blood cell production. Results govern whether or not I will be able to have a chemo infusion. I am scheduled for a port insertion in two days. Once the port is in place, this site will be used for subsequent blood work and chemo infusions. I am preparing myself for discomfort with this first round of chemo. Chemo medications are considered caustic and will burn when being infused directly into a smaller vein.
My next appointment will be an first in-person visit with Dr. Chamberlin. My appointment of the day is in the infusion suite for my first round of chemo cocktails. These same events will occur every two weeks for a total of 8 cycles. “Aggressive’ is the term being thrown around by medical personnel, when it comes to the combination of chemotherapeutic medications I will be receiving. There is something oddly reassuring about that statement. Maybe it’s because the carpet bombing is on the way and I continue to feel as if I have just dodged an incredible bullet.
I arrive to my consultation and meet Dr. Chamberlin. She has a short bob with curly grey hair. Awesome! I trust her immediately. I imagine this is what my hair will look like as it grays. Looks good. We will get along great! We discuss the upcoming chemo, the side effects, the port insertion procedure, and the results of the pathology. Dr. Chamberlin states my tumor has been there for at least six months with a greater likelihood of twelve months. Again, I have a hard time believing this is even possible. I felt nothing... at all. No aches, no pains, no lump. I have been potentially living with this insidious disease for possible a full year and I had no warning signs.
After this meeting I’m still feeling invincible. I walk into the infusion suite and settle in. I realize my chair reclines and there are the flourishing of spring outside my window. I meet my nurse. She is spunky and fun loving. She explains the routine. First I will receive pre-medications including anti-nausea’s, a steroid and Ativan, to help reduce any anxiety. That’s new for me. Then she will administer the Adriamycin, my first cocktail. This chemo drug requires I eat something icy during the three minute infusion to help minimize sores that may potentially form in my mouth. Sherbet ice cream it is! My second chemo cocktail called, Cytoxan, is a 30 minute infusion. The medication course will be concluded with a Neulasta patch. This medication is not a chemotherapy drug, but rather it is used to boost production of white blood cells, the cells which fight off infection.
As my medication begin to take effect, I pause for a moment of reflection. I thank my right breast for keeping things contained. Twelve months! How? OMG. Who cares? These are the best words EVER! “Your scans are negative”. “No Metastasis”. Thank you Mom! I fight to contain a new wave of tears that come more from relief than sadness. Fortunately I have this mask to hide behind, medications, and a beautiful view to settle my emotions. It’s May 19th. The birds are singing, the trees are in bloom, and nature is welcoming. I still can’t believe how much has happened in the past two weeks and the intensity of the emotions I’ve just experienced. It is at this moment the notion occurs to me. I want to share my story.