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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

This is my chemo. There are many like it but this one is mine

My first chemo is preceded by a preparatory meeting with Katina, the RN.

Katina is efficient in that nurse way,  and detailed in her explanation of chemotherapy. A pharmacy student in her early 30's sits in. My chemo cocktail is broken down and each drug, its potential benefits and side effects, is discussed. 

There are lots of potential side effects, ranging from minor to life-ending.  The big ones are diarrhea and hair loss. Others include nausea, vomiting, weight gain, weight loss, nail damage, organ damage (especially heart).  Some may be irreversible. The list is massive and terrifying.

I am 46. There is no history of breast cancer in my family. I quit smoking 25 years ago. All this seems hilarious. I crack jokes about my soon to be non-existent breasts and sex life. About how I need to stock up on adult diapers and does that mean I'll be getting diaper rash too?  Soon we are laughing like old friends sharing secrets.  Katina wraps it up by handing me a stack of documents relating to chemo.

The pharmacy student walks me to the elevators and we are alone, waiting for the car.  She says she wants to tell me something. She knows that I am really scared shitless under the bravado and to keep it up. Because she felt the same way when her abusive husband used to kick her ass and tell her she was stupid.  How she never thought she would survive leaving him and only did by force of will, scared shitless herself. She graduates soon and says she will remember me.  Her last piece of advice is to take my anti-nausea meds before I feel sick, and hydrate. She pats me on the back and tells me I will be okay.