Finding New Friends in Old Age
INTERESTING STUFF – 16 September 2017

And Chemo Begins

Chemotherapybags

On Wednesday, my first chemotherapy session took place and I was happy to have a friend do the driving and stay with me because I was more apprehensive than I had been going into surgery three months ago.

Part of the reason, I think, as I told you recently, is that I read the stacks of material the chemo staff gave me (a whole binder of information, and enormous Powerpoint deck and a variety of other printed matter) three times while making and organizing notes to myself because there is so much to remember.

[NOTE: Before I go any further, I must remind readers that what I am telling you is my experience and mine alone. If you are facing chemotherapy, your experience will be different for more reasons than I can count. So take this as only a general overview that might or might not be useful to you.]

THE FIRST CHEMO SESSION
In a pleasant room with lots of windows, I was settled into a lounge chair. My first visitor was the RN who numbed the port that was surgically placed in my upper chest about three weeks ago, then drew blood for immediate testing.

Twenty minutes later, he returned with the chemo infusion bags and set me up. I'm lucky, mine takes only about an hour. And what an hour! I had expected to spend the time chatting with Joseph. But nooooo. I have a lot of team members.

After the RN, the nurse practitioner, who will oversee my chemo treatment during the six-month duration, came by. We had a chat about my treatment and then, because he had studied medicine at NYU in New York, we talked about our neighborhood there. He misses it too.

Almost as soon as he left, the social worker showed up. She's concerned about my emotional and mental wellbeing and I did my best to reassure her. But I'm glad she's there just in case.

Then there was the nutritionist whom I already know. We talk a lot because I dislike my extremely limited diet so much I'm always pressing her to allow more and different foods.

My next visitor was the pharmacist who went over my current drugs with me and added three more so I am making a new chart for myself or I'll never keep up.

By then the infusion was finished and I was free to leave.

REACTION TO FIRST CHEMO SESSION
Apprehension had been growing over several days leading up to the first chemo and by the time Joseph arrived to pick me up, I was in a terrible state. But then he showed me the teeshirt he was wearing and I started feeling better right away:

CancerTeeshirt

And guess what? He had one for me too.

I can't wear it for chemo treatments because it prevents the nurse from getting to my infusion port, but I wore it when I picked up the new medications and the pharmacist commented. He liked it.

By the time my first chemo was finished, I was in a great mood. It helped to have a friend with me and the attention from all MY team members whom I will see each week is as terrific as my surgical team was in the most important way: they make me feel safe.

Every one of them is knowledgeable, concerned, helpful, caring, warm and patient with me. I will get through this to a large extent because of them.

HOW MY LIFE IS DIFFERENT NOW
As it turns out, the chemo infusion is easy compared to what I must do every day for these next six months - most of it is meant, as much as possible, to help reduce the incidence of the nearly two dozen possible side effects:

Rinse mouth with baking soda/salt solution four times a day to try to forestall mouth and tongue sores

Rub a special lotion on feet and hands four times a time to try to forestall hand-and-foot syndrome

Use only luke warm water for baths, showers, hand-washing dishes (winter is coming, folks; this is hard to face)

Wash hands constantly (luke warm water) including each time after touching the cat

Use gloves to clean litter box

Wash fruits and vegetables extra carefully

Stay away from people with colds, coughs and fevers

There's more but you've got the idea. It's not that any of it is hard to do; it's that it's so time consuming along with the need to be constantly checking the clock and keeping track of the schedule. One thing or another is due to be done about every two hours.

But there is no choice for me. All the anxiety and apprehension before the first infusion was directly related to the side effects I had been reading about and I'll go to almost any length to do what I can to avoid them.

So far, there have been no signs of side effects but chemo effect is cumulative so I doubt I'll get through this scott free.

Eventually there will be side effects. But nobody can say which ones, how severe or if they will happen at all. If I'm lucky and I've been diligent with the prevention measures, maybe it will be light.

The best news is that with all the wonderful OHSU people and Joseph being with me, I won't dread my visits to the chemo unit again. Good thing, since this goes on almost every week until March 2018.

Comments

It's so good of you to share your experiences. I know what you say doesn't apply to all, but still it is very interesting to read and good to have the knowledge of one (lovely) person's experience.
thanks
Marcia

I agree, very brave of you to share your experiences; but also very informative for the rest of us who may yet have to face what you're facing now. Anyway, best of luck and . . . it's good to have a fiend.

Thinking of you and keeping fingers (and toes) crossed. Hugs. Claude

Ah yes, the schedule and the clock. What happened to my life? Finally I placed schedule and meds on a tray so everything is in one place. Then I set the timer on my phone and put it on top. Now my mind and eyes were free from the stress of clock watching. Tray can transfer it all from room to room if needed.
Thank you for every post. Health care people are the greatest.

Bless you and your "village", Ronni. I think of you often and I am sending strength, love, and wellness.

You are a blessing.

Ronni,

It sounds like it went well. Get lots of rest. Love the T-shirt. The best T-shirt I ever saw for those of us in the breast club was, "No, they're not real. My real ones tried to kill me."

love from the old neighborhood,

Joyce

I think of you so often, Ronni and wish you the best of everything.
How fortunate you are to have such caring and competent people going on this voyage of chemotherapy with you..
I am also holding your hand, my dear friend..

I never miss reading a post but rarely comment. I just wanted to let you know I'm here and glad you're writing about all this for what might be in my own future. You are often in my thoughts and always in my heart. :-)

Well, here you go again, another big change! Thank you for sharing with us. I'm so glad that you have a wonderful, understanding, supportive team. And you have my sympathy........wash your hands every time you pat the cat!!!! Oi vey.

Ronnie, I bet a tailor could make you a nice little flap in that shirt so you could wear it during treatments. Holding you in the Light.

My courageous friend, I love you! Always holding good thoughts for you!

To think that one of the best things about retirement was having freedom from time schedules...now This! I wish you all the strength it will take to carry you through these next months.

Many thanks for keeping us informed. Know that we are all with you on your 'journey'.

Thinking about you every day. I appreciate the information and your generous sharing of your feelings and information. You are a warrior. Many hugs Ronni.

The T-shirt is a masterpiece. Is it available for purchase or did he have it silk screened just for you? You have many loving friends and he is one of them.

I'm glad the first session of chemo went well and hope that you will sail through this just fine.

I do not envy you having such a dreadful schedule to follow. Especially having to wash your hands every time you pet Ollie. Just remember that every day that passes is one day closer to the end and a full recovery.

Thank you for continuing to share your experience with us. You are our inspiration.

Darlene...
Joseph found it online. Did you read Joyce's comment above about the teeshirt she saw when she was being treated for breast cancer? I'll repeat it here:

"The best T-shirt I ever saw for those of us in the breast club was, 'No, they're not real. My real ones tried to kill me.'"

Gave me a good laugh.

I would embroider a window on that shirt so it could be opened for treatment. With a love wee button.

Thanks for your brave heart. Our hearts are with you.

XO
WWW

Big hugs of courage to you across the miles. My father passed from this in 1995 so stay strong and enjoy each day to the fullest. Sue

I, too, was so relieved that the chemo treatments themselves amounted to little more than sitting in a big lounger, chatting, snoozing, watching TV, or eating. Fluffy pillows. And the best part, the pre-warmed blankets the nurses provided.

Thank you for sharing this. My sister went through chemo a few years ago, but never shared any of the experience which to me made it even scarier,.

Glad you made it through another milestone on the way to your recovery. It is odd that so often our anxiety before a "procedure " is way worse than the actual event itself.

You've got a lot of guts (almost used another expression but it's only for men) Ronni. I'm rooting for ya.

When my daughter, who is fine now, had chemo, it was the same thing--a cheery room, a wonderful chemo nurse, and all the rest of it.
Glad to read that this was not unusual. Carry on, Woman. May the chemo proceed smoothly!

We had a friend who ran five miles a day while on chemo. I hope yours is in that school. All the best, for sure.

When my husband when through chemo his only reaction was tiredness but there
are so many kinds of chemo, and each one of us has our own chemistry and thus, our own reactions. Hoping that all goes smoothly. The anxiety will feed. We always fear the unknown - the nurses and other staff were super kind people and that helps so much.

That was supposed to be "the anxiety will fade".

I was dreading this day for you as I know how apprehensive you were. I'm so glad it turned out more pleasant than you anticipated. I've never had Chemo but I did take my niece and often sat with her while she was receiving Chemo. Glad it's just a once a week thing. Gives you enough time in between to rest. I got my fingers crossed for you that this will be an easy journey.
Love and Light

First--those tea shirts are the greatest!! Your taking us on your journey is wonderful . Just the word cancer can be sooo scary. When my dear hubby was receiving chemo I could stay for a bit. I remember he and the lady that sat next to him became close friends, sharing all that goes on. Yes , I've found all that deal with cancer patients to be wonderful people with big hearts. Alas he's gone now , but we had years after his cemo

As an aside,I was given 2 to 10 years at the most to live . I'm past the 10, feel great. May your outcome be even better!,,


it is good for you to write and share
I do not comment often
but always read, prayers go up daily.

When we go through times like this
seems angels appear.
What has happened and is happening to me now
with something minor in comparison to to you.

I'm glad the initial experience wasn't as bad as you had anticipated. I would have been totally dissembled.

Let's see--we have 3 longhaired kitties that require petting several times daily. I'd be washing my hands almost nonstop. I fear that I would fail at being a "professional patient"--or even semi-professional--despite the pretty serious consequences attendant thereto.

Love the "real breasts" observation.

Love to you brave friend

Prayi g for you.

Love the shirt. Joyce W.'s t-shirt story was a good one too! What an abundance of kind and thoughtful people you have taking this walk with you.

I empathize with you about all the demands placed on your time, but mostly for the lukewarm water in winter. That one might be the biggest challenge to my compliance. An occasional book in a hot bath is one of the few things that gets me through the winter doldrums.

Do you have a calendar where you're marking off each visit? I always found that to be a big help whenever I or someone in my family was going through a time-limited event that we were eager to see come to an end. Reminding myself that time would pass and there would be an end to whatever it was, and then drawing a line through each passing day, or visit, or however I was marking it, seemed to give me a sense of hope and accomplishment. Occasionally, I come across a calendar or other item I have kept where I have done this. It's interesting to reflect and find myself thinking something like, "Wow -- that was five years ago?"

May you, more quickly than you might imagine, find yourself looking back on all this, and reflecting on the time that's passed, with astonishment and relief.

Glad you got that first infusion under your belt (...or under your shirt, to be more anatomically correct!). May all of the sessions be equally 'easy' and, above all, may the chemo do its job and give you lots more quality time! I love your new photo and finally got the chance to watch your interview. Wonderful (despite the 'lag time') to see and hear you!

Am pleased to read all has gone so well for you considering.... -- especially that you feel comforted by staff and have support before, throughout and after your Chemo treatments. Positive wishes coming your way always.

Since your diagnosis, I’ve stopped myself before commenting on your current professional patient career and hope it's limited duration position. Can’t believe we still haven’t met in person and I believe this is not a good time for our first meet and greet. I’ll have more time after the lst of the year as I retire December 22nd. If you’re up for it and all the planets align, I could come up visit then and help with a ride, errands or just sit and pet your cat? In the meantime, you rock and are dancing into your treatment and recovery gracefully. Loved the interview! Peace and comfort to you. xox

Ronni, you are about to witness a million acts of kindness during your chemo treatments.

Your treatment team will work their magic.

You will meet chemo patients of all ages, all backgrounds.

You will hear their stories.

You will not be alone.

Your blog contributors are here for the duration.

Gentle hugs, my friend.

Your Montreal Fan in Dublin

P.S. Joseph is a sweetheart.

Your team sounds like the sort of people who reaffirm our faith in the goodness of others. I know they're strongly encouraged to be kind and considerate, but they wouldn't likely be in that business if they disagreed.

Tom Sightings typo left me chuckling. 'Yes!' I thought, 'anyone dealing with cancer could benefit from a fiend or two in their corner.'

Yes, Ronni, I did see Joyce's comment and I laughed, too. Sometimes laughter about a terrible time is the only thing to do and it keeps us from crying.

I am sending that to a friend who had a mastectomy after breast cancer.

Thank you for this beautifully transparent window into a sometimes mysterious and often scary procedure.

Of course my thoughts and best wishes are with you on your journey.

Kudos galore to you, to your medical team and to your many wonderful readers. I was anxious about your First Day of Chemo (knew it started this week but wasn't sure when) and am so so grateful for Joseph's presence. The unknown can make us so uncertain.
March 2018 does seem a long way away but, as we all know, the dates in the future always arrive faster than we thought they would. FC BIG time that the side effects are minimal and very temporary.
I liked Genie's suggestion about the tray and phone timers, have been "swishling" with baking soda after taking my morning meds for several years now, got used to washing my hands after cuddling with my precious kitty (precaution because of allergic asthma) .... we do adapt. Especially if we just do and stop "thinking".
In bocca al lupo, cara Ronni!

Ronni, thank you for demystifying what it's like to deal with chemo. I also like Genie's suggestion of the tray and phone timers -- it will free you from always watching the clock. Also, perhaps you're already doing this, but consider keeping a little daily journal where you write down any symptoms you experience or, better yet, just "feeling good!" for that day. That way you'll have a concise record of your experience in case you need it for your doctor visits, won't have to rely on memory and won't have to think back over the week for each visit. You are one brave and generous lady!

As you said, everyone is different. One thing that was an emotional boost was knowing I was going to lose my hair, and having a wig ready for it. I had gone to a doctor recommended wig maker before chemo; he evaluate my hair as brown with 10% grey and then ordered it. Hair began to come out (first evident on the pillow) and rather than spread hair all over the house, I bent over the tub and pulled all the loose hair out. then to the wig guy. He styled it and off I went. No one was the wiser and I felt more in control. - Mike

Nutritional needs. If you can tell us what foods you should avoid, perhaps the group can suggest easy dishes to prepare. I recall my doctor wanted me to keep my red cells elevated and ordered regular applications of almost rare steak and liver . And maybe the group can suggest ways to save you time. - Mike

Rooting for you !Thank you for sharing your journey!May it go by quick!Prayers and hugs through this journey!

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