It's Wednesday - chemo day. On this day I start my fifth chemo, Abraxane. I drive my usual route through the city, park in my favorite area of the hospital parking lot, grab my iPad and purse and make my way to the building entrance. The afternoon light is slightly golden and the day, after a bout of rain, is warm, moist, and spring-like. Hopeful. I see wet blossoms on the small trees struggling to survive in the asphalt meadow of the parking lot, and I realize, as I open the glass doors littered with small drops, that I have been coming here weekly for nearly two and a half years.
By now I'm a pro at this chemo thing. I take the wheezing elevator to the 3rd floor, walk directly to the sign-in sheet, write my name, greet the receptionist, and sit. I have long stopped noticing the mottled gray/blue carpet, the machine carved wood sign that warns about the wait, the hospice and wig brochures, or the yellow and black check pattern of the waiting room chairs. I know one or two have lost their padding, and I avoid those without thought. I pull my iPad out and start my kindle app to read. The wait might be 10 minutes, or it might be 45; by now I'm beaten into submission, or perhaps I've finally learned patience. I no longer care about time. I'm here, I have nowhere else to be.
They'll get to me.
When my name is called, I walk directly to the scale and step on. I wear heavy clothes because I'm always cold and why wouldn't I be? In jacket, sweater, boots and jeans I weigh 95. Losing weight again, but nobody comments. They take my weight, I know, merely to calculate my dose of medicine. I hop off the scale and go back into the infusion room without being told, where the oval ring of recliners sit waiting, like hunched bears.
Sometimes now, I find one that is farthest away from people. I read more than talk these days. The chatter of the rookies about their newly lost hair, their uncertainty, their doctors - it has become tedious. But the room is open and people sit just feet from each other so it's hard not to be drawn in. There are donated paintings on the walls - seascapes and still-lifes, painted in oils by somebody who watched too much Bob Ross on TV. There are homey, 1970s-colored hand-made afghans and quilts on the back of each chair and a pillow with a paper case on each seat; chemo poles aside each one. The shelves on the walls have wigs and ball caps, free for the taking but too ugly to want. The one window shows the sky, the tops of trees, the edge of the parking garage. To the left is the hospital. I've seen budding trees and rain, sunsets and shimmering heat through those windows, season after season.
It's hard to believe this shabby, comfortable infusion room is where I have spent every Wednesday for two and a half years. And, it's likely where I'll spend every Wednesday until I have no more Wednesdays left to spend.
If only days were like coin. If you could save them up, not spend them, gather them to use when you need them. I think of days I wasted. Threw my coins into something foolish, thinking there was an endless supply. I wish I could have them back.
I know the drill. Today's nurse puts in her special needle, and I turn my head to the right automatically, otherwise the blood doesn't flow properly out of my port. Once the flow begins, I watch the bubbly maroon liquid stream into the tube and then ready myself for the metallic taste of the heparin flush. This chemo, Abraxane, requires an IV anti-nausea drug and 10 mgs of decadron. I watch her place the bags on the pole - bags with my name and the time on it and a large syringe taped to one. She will inject that into the bag at a time known only to her. The assistant drops a fluttering sheet with bloodwork results onto my lap. My marrow is doing its job now - next week, I know will be different. I tell my nurse, and really the entire room since no privacy is available, that for the past two days my stomach has been acting up, the pain has gotten much stronger, my bowels are not normal. I'm worried about the return of c-diff. I wonder if I will need something stronger than compezine for nausea. She promises to call a prescription for Zofran in for me if I need it, and turns on the flow.
I know all the nurses: their children's names, their problems, how they feel about their jobs. One once admitted she doesn't want this to be happening to me. I admit that I don't either.
Drip. Drip. How many drips have flowed into my system over the past two and a half years?
I get my chemo, I go dry, I'm unplugged, and I leave, driving through darkened streets to my family. This chemo is no different than any other. I am weaker than I used to be but I tolerate it well. I have some nausea but it's controlled with Ativan and Compezine and is gone in two days. Ominously, my hands and feet tingle and I know l-glutamine may help me with that; I have used it successfully in the past. But, it must be dissolved it in a glass of water and the thought is now repugnant, me with no appetite. I know I can't get that in my stomach this week.
Next week, I will for sure. I promise myself.
My head also has that feeling you get before you are going to lose your hair. It took ten days last time, now the feeling has happened in two. It's as if I've slept on dirty, knotted hair for too long, and ants are crawling on my scalp. I even washed my hair, just to be certain it wasn't actually dirty. Nope, even freshly scrubbed the feeling is there. The follicles are rebelling, gathering reserves and preparing to jump out of my head. I'll be bald soon.
Carboplatin. Taxotere. Taxol. Navelbine. Abraxane. Herceptin and Zometa. Drip. Drip. Drip.
It's Wednesday. It's chemo day.