Chemotherapy is awful. Don’t get me wrong, I am cancer free today because of chemotherapy. I wouldn’t wish chemotherapy on anyone. I pray that chemotherapy becomes something less awful in my daughter’s lifetime and that they never ever need it because it is awful.
Today I was reminded of the terrible time between the third and fourth infusion and it still chokes me up, almost a year later to the day. It took a little bit of personal prodding and one of my favorite tricks, the ten minute trick, to actually write about it. The trick where you do something you don’t want to for ten minutes and if you still don’t want to after time is up just stop. I have yet to stop, it’s a good trick to get yourself to do something you are procrastinating about. I did it for this, remembering that time is difficult almost like reliving it because it is so clear and it was terrible.
The infusions were worse each time. If they all stayed like the first one it would not have been pleasant, but it would have been totally manageable. Not fun, but manageable. The second was worse than the first, the third was worse than the second. That made me dread the fourth at an epic level.
For nineteen days I would wake up dreading the fourth treatment. I would force myself to repeat a mantra “the next infusion is the last one” every single time I would start to feel the dread coming on. It worked well enough. I can honestly tell you the last few days the mantra was close to being every other thought. Even on Christmas.
We were wrapping our youngest daughter’s bicycle on Christmas Eve, very Arthur Christmas style, it was fun. There was absolutely no way she would not know this was a bicycle by the way we wrapped it, we even did the ribbon to her bed room, so much fun. My husband would remind me that the next infusion was the last one each time he saw the fun or the smile fade while we were wrapping it. He could see every time I would think about it. It was palpable.
We got the girls something they wanted, something they need, something to wear and something to read, and some fun stuffed stockings. We took turns opening presents, it was great, special and all about Christmas. Except when that feeling would come. My husband would squeeze my hand and smile when he caught my eye. The message was clear, the next one is the last one.
Finally the day arrived. I went to get my blood drawn and played Switch with my youngest as we waited for the results and the appointment with the doctor. My husband and I went in and she said it all looked good and congratulated me since this would be the last one. The tension from my shoulders evaporated. I was afraid that she was going to tell me my blood work was such that I couldn’t get it that day- prolonging the dread or that I was going need additional infusions- again prolonging the dread. Neither of those happened. I was so relieved. I could truly feel all of the tension draining away.
I knew this was going to be the worst one, with the new baseline being the third one. I did all of the things that I knew would help–hydrate, take claritin, bring my frozen water bottles, comfort pillow and many other things. This was the last one.
The topical numbing medicine did its job and the port worked just fine. The steroids are a rush, too bad they do bad things to your bones. The infusion went off without a hitch, nothing untoward happened at all. Played Switch, Mario Party is a lot of fun. We watched another part of the same movie trying to finish it since we weren’t coming back, still don’t know how it ended. When the lady with the drinks and snacks came by I asked for ginger ale and nutter butters as a special treat for this special occasion. It took a little less than three hours. Then it was over.
As we packed our stuff up the nurses kind of hung out, which was weird. They normally put an auto-dosing-blinking-thing somewhere on me and said goodbye. This time they lingered. We walked toward the exit to see the intake ladies and other nurses and the phlebotomist standing by a bell next to the door. They were making a line to celebrate my last infusion by ringing a bell. I rang it pretty hard being all hopped up on steroids and they gave me a little one to take home, I am much more gentle with that one. It was such a sweet and meaningful little ceremony. Then it, too, was over.
This was a very exciting day, all the the dread leading up to the fourth infusion was over, the fourth infusion itself was over, infusions in general were over. I was a little worried about the dog days approaching, but I said out loud they they will be the last ones. It wasn’t a mantra, that was a fact and it was exciting.
I went to sleep easily that night despite the steroids and woke up the next day without the dread. Even though I knew what was coming, not exactly how bad, or for exactly how long I knew it was going to be the last time for all of it.
The time between the third and fourth treatments was over and a great relief took the place of the dread. The build up was terrible, the fear that there might be more or that it might not happen on time was as close to unbearable as it could have gotten. It was over and the relief was amazing. I rode that feeling for as long as I could and was grateful for every minute of it.