Thursday, March 25, 2010

Snippets from the Penultimate Chemo

I had my second to last taxol infusion yesterday. Remember, I still have herceptin for a year, but it's the Taxol that is hard on me and I'm ready to be done.

As I got out of my car and walked through the parking lot I noticed two 20-something girls facing away from me, and I admired their ability to wear cute tanks. It was in the low-70s but I'm wearing long-sleeved shirts, sweaters, jackets, scarves and boots still. I get cold. My bones ache, and I'm leaning on my car to catch my breath and gather strength before the long walk to the hospital entrance. (40 feet)

One of the girls turned around and sized me up. She had sores all over her face that I recognized as being the clear signs of methamphetamine use. She says, "Hi, we were wondering if you had any spare money?"

That pissed me off. This tweaker chick was looking at somebody who obviously had cancer; who was fighting for her life. I was struggling to even breathe, and yet she decided I was a good candidate to help her poison herself and throw away her life.

I gathered what little breath I had left, made a wave gesture encompassing me and the hospital and said, "Do I LOOK like somebody who has spare money to hand out right now?"

To her credit, she looked a little embarrassed and said, "Oh, sorry" and walked away.

Like The Carcinista wrote about yesterday, I encountered somebody endangering their life just as I am doing everything to keep mine. As I commented though, I realize they can't understand, so I didn't bother to make the comparison to the tweaker. Maybe that girl will wake up in ten years with her teeth and youth gone, those sores now deep pits, her brain destroyed, having hurt everybody she ever met, and decide to change. Maybe she won't. Maybe she'll live her whole life chasing the next high.

The one thing I know is you can't teach anybody anything - addicts will use, alcoholics will drink, smokers will smoke - they never think anything bad will happen to them. Until, it does.

Sadly, even then many don't change. And, I'm not the one to try to get them to. But, I am also not enabling them.

I don't have patience for elevators. I take the stairs. Even if you've never met me before, you will recognize me next to an elevator. I'm the one punching the button 20 times and muttering under her breath about how freaking long the elevator is taking.

The place I get my treatment is a doctor's office wing of a hospital. You walk in off the parking lot straight into the stairs. My oncologist is on the third floor. My first visit, I bounded up the flight of stairs to find myself facing an elevator on the second floor. I walked all up and down the hallways trying to find the stairwell - I checked all unmarked doors only to find them locked. To this day, I don't know where that stairwell is, so my habit became to take the stairs to the second floor and the elevator to the third.

About halfway through treatment, taking one flight of stairs got hard. That's the first sign that chemo was affecting me. Before, I'd run up the stairs, push the elevator button 15 times to get where I was going. Then, I got winded walking up the steps and had only enough energy to push the button three or four times. At that time, I vowed no matter what happened, I was walking up those steps. And, it has gotten more difficult. Yesterday, I took each step deliberately on wobbly spaghetti legs, and paused on the landing to catch my breath. I made it up, but my heart was pounding, my breath was so short I had to rest to catch it, and when I finally made it to the elevator, it took me a few minutes to be able to push the button - one time.

But I did it.

Small victories.


My hemoglobin is low. 9.0. That is likely why I am so breathless. I was told that they would do a blood transfusion if it got below 9.5, but the nurse called the doctor and he said no. I'm to call them if I get worse.

I guess that means I'm to call if I stop breathing entirely. Got it.


The American Cancer Society delivered daffodils to cancer patients in our oncology infusion room. It's a nice thing they do - each spring they give the gift of hope to those facing a life-threatening illness.

Here are mine:

When I got home, I cut off the bottoms and gave them fresh water.

This morning, they look shriveled and dead.

What does it mean when your cancer flowers don't bloom?


  1. I got two orchids from my company when I was diagnosed with breast cancer at 43. One died about a year later, and the next about 5 years after that. I thought my life was tied up with those flowers. But then a few months ago a kind lady from church gave me a fake orchid and said this one will never die, and neither will you when you go to heaven. It was very sweet. I know what you mean about those dead flowers. Don't lose hope!

  2. Nice story about the church lady! Those flowers never did bloom but I think there is no deeper meaning than they were dried out. :)


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